Learning how to teach your dog to do a Loose Leash Walk is probably one of the most difficult skills you and your dog must learn how to achieve together.
Notice I say together, because when you walk your dog you should be working together…as a team. Focused on each other, attentive to one another and both enjoying the journey.
Also, you’ll notice I use the term Loose Leash Walking. This is basically your daily walk. A nice, relaxing stroll where your dog isn’t dragging you everywhere, reactive to everything and you become what I affectionately like to call a “joystick walker”- pulling and resisting every move with a yank and a pull. Many times you will hear the term “Heel” which is more of a performance obedience position where the dog is in perfect alignment with your left leg, staring up at you the entire time you are moving together. While competitive “Heeling” is an impressive skill, we must all learn to crawl before we can walk, and so the Loose Leash Walk is an extremely important foundation for future skills.
With all that said, teaching walking skills requires a large amount of patience and structure on your part, and let’s face it, in dog training these are sometimes not our best virtues. We want results fast and we want to be able to put in as little effort as possible, but there are no short cuts to perfecting this skill. It will require consistent practice, a patient calculated approach and a high rate of reinforcement when you begin training.
So what does all that mean?
- Well, it means be wary of trainers in your area that promise quick fixes and deadlines to a perfect walking dog. In the end, YOUR consistent daily walks will set the timeline for your success.
2. Be wary of trainers who’s idea of teaching a dog to walk nicely on a leash is to yank, choke, pull, or check them constantly. A high rate of positive punishment has never proven a dog to have better focus on you. A skill that is imperative with great walking skills. Rather, most dog’s will avoid contact all together and some dog’s will focus on the handler, only out of fear or intimidation of what the repercussions are. Now, do you really want to teach your dog with intimidation tactics? This is not going to be beneficial for you down the road.
3. Beware of trainers who’s 1st tool when you come in to learn walking skills is to throw a choke, pinch, shock or other type of correctional collar on your dog’s neck. Any scientifically educated trainer knows if a dog is putting an extreme amount of stress on their neck on a daily walk, you get the pressure off of their neck, whether it be by a body harness of some type or a head collar. You DO NOT put a bulky piece of metal on that will injure the dog’s neck even faster! Duh, no brainer right? But here’s the problem… your supposedly educated dog trainer told you to get it, so if the professional tells you this is what you need you go for it. Let me assure you, this is not a professional and follow your intuition. It should lead you down the right path. Oh, and if they try and put a correctional collar on your 10 lb little terrier mix…do not pass go, do not collect $200, just run!
I live with several breeds of dogs in my house and all had extremely different walking needs. Of course my prancing little Chinese Crested didn’t have the same needs as my English Bulldog, who was similar to trying to walk a spinning bowling ball in the beginning, or my Siberian Huskies who of course all loved to run and jump and believed walking gave new meaning of “going for a drag” when I first adopted them. Believe it or not, I had 3 different trainers in my city tell me you couldn’t teach a husky how to Heel and wouldn’t even walk them without suggesting a choke or pinch collar! So ridiculous and so misguided. It was all I could do to not laugh those comments in the face, but I felt a lot better when I took one of my huskies off leash and walked them away in perfect heel position in the middle of a busy pet store one day.
So beyond all the negativity I just brought to the table, the walking commands can be one of the most fullfilling and enjoyable commands to share with your dog. I love walking with my dogs and being in sync in motion with them. How many people can say that? Well, you defnitely could! You just need to learn a new skill set to help you on your way to a more bonded walk with your dog. So if you’ve had run-ins like I have with some of the trainers mentioned above, just know that there is another way. A way to teach an animal, any animal, without pain, force or fear.
I hope you all will join us for our next Walking 101 Workshop. It could be the start to a whole new relationship between you and your dog 🙂