Have you ever felt the frustration of trying to take your furry friend for a nice relaxing walk only to come home with a sore shoulder from the constant pulling? While we all know that teaching your dog proper leash manners is important, we need to take a step back and look at leash walking from their perspective.
The first thing to keep in mind is that dogs instinctively oppose restraint. If something is pressing against their neck they just naturally want to pull away from it. Over time most dogs will learn to accept the feeling of the collar on their neck with proper training but some dogs will prefer a head halter or harness for their walking.
Another reason for pulling is simply excitement. Going outside can be overwhelming for a dog’s senses. There are new sights and smells all over and they just want to explore them all as fast as they can. Walking with the owner is often slow and boring for a dog. They want to wander left to right and smell all of the exciting things just off the sidewalk while we want them to follow along in a straight line.
So what are some things you can do to minimize the pulling?
• Start with the basics-Enroll your dog in a basic obedience class. Be sure that everyone in the family that plans on walking your dog is available to go to the class. This ensures that all family members are consistent with the training so your dog does not get confused. You may even want to look into private lessons to really focus on just leash walking if your dog is struggling with this task.
• Switch your type of collar-As discussed before, some dogs will respond better to walking when the pressure is taken off of the neck. Ask your veterinarian or trainer about head halters and harnesses that might provide a more comfortable restraint for your dog.
• Exercise before a walk-This may sound a little funny, after all, aren’t you going on a walk for exercise? The truth is that playing a little fetch or practicing some basic commands prior to going for a walk can help them to focus better while out for a walk.
• Keep your walking sessions short-If you try to take your untrained dog for a 3 mile walk right away, everyone will end up frustrated. Just like other training, leash walking sessions should be short and fun filled with lots of positive reinforcement and treats.
With practice and patience, leash walking can be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your dog. It will make you both want to get out for some recommended exercise.