Leash walking is one of the most common problems we’re asked about on a daily basis, usually while a parent is being dragged in the front door by an excited Camper. Leash walking is the most important skill you and your dog can work on to have a happy, healthy relationship. It’s not as hard as it sounds, nor is it a deep underlying issue of a dog being “dominant”. Let’s look at some of the problems and solutions regarding leash walking.
Dragging Doesn’t Equal Dominance
Just because your dog is dragging you on a walk does NOT mean he’s trying to be “dominant” or be the boss of you, etc. The truth of the mater is, he’s just being a dog. He has four legs, you have two and his nose is telling him where to go faster than you can keep up. Being on a leash isn’t a natural state for an animal, they want to be free to follow their senses and explore as they were designed to do.
The Leash Wasn’t Meant for “Crank and Yank”
Although your dog is probably stronger than you, the leash is a mechanism to keep them safe, not to “crank and yank” them in the direction you want to go. Creating a struggle with your dog while on the leash only makes the situation more dangerous and frustrating. Let’s face it…does he really go the direction you want when you yank on the leash and collar? No, he continues going where he wants regardless of whether he’s gagging and choking himself or not.
Now that we’ve solved those myths, let’s talk about how to get the loose leash walk we’re all dreaming of!
Going No Where Fast
Your first leash walking exercise is going to be non-destinational. It’s better to just get that in your head now before you think you’re actually going to make it out of your neighborhood. Why am I saying you aren’t going to get anywhere? Because you aren’t going to give your dog what it wants! (I’ll give you a moment to get over your gasp and let the shock and horror sink in).
Your dog pulls because he wants to go in the direction he’s pulling, so instead of going that way, go the opposite. This teaches your dog that if he pulls, he doesn’t get what he wants, he gets the opposite. That’s quite frustrating for a canine with a mind of his own but it doesn’t take long for them to catch the concept that pulling gets them nowhere!
Red Light/Green Light
Remember the old play yard game red light/green light? Well now it’s an awesome game to play with your dog to teach them loose leash walking. A tight leash means red light which means no movement. A loose leash means green light, which means movement. Again…another walk you’re going no where fast but well worth the initial aggravation for a lifetime payout.
Tools of the Trade
Safety should always be a priority for a dog walk, your safety and your dogs safety. There are “tools” of the trade that will give you the confidence you may be lacking to control your dog on a leash and make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.
- An Easy Walk Harness: these harnesses are the bomb-diggity. That’s the official term for how awesome they are. Easy to put on, secure and a huge help for hard to walk dogs. The leash clips in the front of the harness, at the chest, so you’re controlling the power center of the dog, not tugging on their neck. The harness is designed to turn your dog around if they are pulling, think of it as a “going no where fast” harness.
- A Martingale Collar: A Martingale collar used as a non-slip is a great choice for dogs who like to play the “I’m-going-to-slip-out-of-my-collar-and-go-running-through-the-neighborhood” game.
- A Leash with Traffic Handle-A 6′ nylon leash is perfect for loose leash walking, leashes with a traffic handle give you an extra option to shorten the leash in a quick fashion. They’re great for training leash walking or for dogs who are reactive on the leash and need to be close to the parent. It’s a ready made handle for those tight situations.
Regardless of what kind of dog you have, loose leash walking makes for a much more enjoyable experience for you and your dog than being dragged down the street! It can also help reduce leash reactivity and dangers like being dragged down by your dog.