In an October 17, 2018 article by Tara Schatz, she explains the benefits of Loose-Leash Walking. Keep in mind that your voice, YOU, are the greatest reward to your dog. As you continue to practice-practice-practice, you will be building that bond of trust and friendship that will make your daily walk a glorious event!
The most important step in teaching your dog to walk by your side is to NEVER let him pull ahead. This is a commitment that should always occur whenever he is on a leash. Pulling ahead should no longer give your dog what he is desiring. If he does manage to pull ahead toward his goal, you will be reinforcing the negative behavior that you are trying to change.
TIP: It’s a good idea to practice walking with your dog when you are in a relaxed and pleasant mood. Dogs can feel tension and anxiety through the leash, and if you are frustrated or angry, your dog will sense this and may not respond well. Practice these lessons when you are able to focus and provide positive reinforcement.
We suggest using rewards to reinforce positive pet behaviors. Rewards can vary and are dependent on the response of your dog. If your canine is highly motivated by treats, keep an ample supply in your pocket to reward good behavior at the right moment. Another positive reinforcement is to allow your dog to move towards a desirable item such as a toy. Don’t forget; the best reward is you! Offer your pooch plenty of praise for a job well done.
Here are Tara’s Steps to practice Loose-Leash Walking:
Step 1: Find a quiet place to practice with few distractions. Do not choose a busy park or street where you know there will be people, other dogs, or tantalizing smells. Clip on your dog’s leash and wait for him to check in with you. If he immediately begins pulling, wait him out. Do not begin working until you are connected.
Step 2: Take a step forward. If your dog pulls on the leash, immediately stop moving. If your dog continues to pull, remain still and wait. Eventually, he will turn and look at you. Say “yes” and reward him with several treats and praise. If he does not turn and look at you, say his name and reward him for checking in.
Step 3: Reward your dog with treats and praise every time the leash is loose and your dog is not pulling. It will feel like you’re getting nowhere, but you are teaching a very valuable skill. In fact, there is no reason to walk in a straight line at this point. Changing direction and the speed of your pace will keep your dog focused on you.
Step 4: Once your dog can manage a few steps without pulling, begin increasing the duration between rewards. He will begin to understand what you are looking for, and you can reward him for walking ten steps without pulling. Before long, he will understand that walking by your side is both fun and rewarding.
Join us next time to understand how important reading your dog’s behavior can aid in discovering what motivates him!