One of the things I get asked a lot is how to walk our dogs without them pulling us everywhere.
This isn’t just larger breeds that can cause us problems as small dogs “get away with more”!
Older dogs can be helped with a number of tools from Halti collars, figure of 8 lead walking, special collars and harnesses. But when we have a pup or young dog these tools aren’t always the best option.
The following of my blog is a letter I wrote to someone who got their dog in the first lockdown and had no chance to go to training classes or other socialisation places.
It is some ideas to help them with the lead walk.
I hope it helps you too if you are struggling in these difficult times with a new dog.
It is such a tricky year to train our dogs or find someone to do so with all that’s going on.
I’m sorry I can’t meet up with you during lockdown too.
I watched your little videos you sent me and can offer you some advice to maybe help.
So the first thing to realise is, it’s not your fault you got a puppy and lockdown came along giving you no chance of going to classes or doing much yourselves, and she grew up into her “teenage years” without much guidance but she is still a credit to you. When she has been out with me on the long line, she is sociable and happy and has a lot of fun, so lockdown hasn’t formed an antisocial pet.
-Young Luna uses a figure of 8 Halti style lead for control.
The first thing I picked up on with your videos is how your pup is allowed to do what she likes, chewing the lead, walking where she likes and sniffing all the time whilst hearing little giggles from you, making it a game for her!!
She needs, as all dogs do, a leader. A loving leader who can show her the way to behave.
When we laugh and go along with unwanted behaviour, to the dog it is reinforcing that their actions are doing what you want them to do, when in reality its the opposite.
Because we don’t speak the same language, dogs rely on body language and sound to show them the way.
It’s the same when a dog is naughty or put into an unsociable situation, we tend to stroke them or pick them up and reassure them that it is all ok. The trouble with doing that is it sends them the signal that if they behave wrongly, they get a fuss, this then fuels unwanted behaviours.
So with that in mind, the next time you go out on a lead walk with her, start to take charge in a positive but assertive way.
Use the lead on her collar rather than a harness for now(I think you do anyway). Harnesses make dogs pull as they go over the shoulders putting them into a natural pulling position. The lead on the collar creates more control for you. If you hear them making a choking noise, the collar is too far down on the neck, it needs to sit as high behind the ears as possible and when you correct her you pull up rather than to the side, this will bring her head up and be more responsive to you. She won’t like this at the start as it’s been a long time with no leadership or direction.
Try not to sweet talk her too much on the walk but have really tasty tiny treats to reward her with a “good girl” ONLY when she is doing what you want and well.
At the front door before you leave the house, make sure you are the first one out the door and not an excited pup pulling you through the door frame!! This starts to set the standard of what you expect. Make the whole situation calm, no high pitched talking or noises to get her more excited than she will already be.
When you start to walk with her, remember you are the leader, she HAS to go where you are going. Have the lead in your hand down at your side with enough lead for her to have a small amount of slack.
Then walk with a purpose. Picture in your mind a strong leader hero and adopt their persona letting that energy drive the walk.
Get a decent speed up, hold your head and body high with confidence and don’t let your arm leave your side, she will have no other thing to do but walk at the pace you have set and not let her stop to sniff, keep moving. You can decide where and when you want her to stop for her “pee mail” check or toilet. Try not to have headphones in or using your mobile phone as the walk is the time when you bond with your dog.
She is still a young girl, so do short 15 minute quick walks and then let her relax somewhere.
If you are focused on the walk and lead her well, the lead chewing and attention seeking will go away and because she is working harder for you, she will become tired too.
If she does pull ahead change direction quickly leaving her confused and looking to you to where you are going. Just turn and say “with me”. When she starts to heal and walk well, give her a “good girl” and a treat, but don’t relax and stop walking.
Remember you are allowed to tell her off!! A sharp “no” or Ugh Ugh! In a strict tone can set the tone for her to look and understand you mean business. But a soft “good girl” goes a long way too but only at the right time.
It is your choice as to where you want her to walk, either at your side or out front, but remember if she is out front she will become the leader of the walk and start to call the shots!
The whole idea on a walk is that you are far more interesting than other things your pup will see. As I said before you can use treats to re-enforce this or a favourite “walk” toy, not something she has access to all the time.
Practice at home with “look at me” or “watch me” command and as soon as she looks at you reward her.
I use a whistle often because the dogs can hear it over outside noise.
I train the dog that the 2 peeps on the whistle means a reward if they look at me or even come to me. I do this at home, in the car, on walks, everywhere at the beginning, because once they have learnt the whistle means reward, the walk becomes more focused and helpful to control our pups.
There are tools you can use when she is older, but I hope with the right determination and repeated training she will become a good girl to walk on the lead.
When you start the walk you will find she is full of energy, training may be easier when her energy has come down a little, so adopt the fast quick walk so all she can do is move forward with you.
Try not to use a flexi lead as the dogs know what these are and will expect to be able to walk away from you telling their mind they can go ahead.. If you don’t let her off normally, take the flexi lead with you and connect it on at the park so she gets the impression of freedom and “off lead”. But go back onto the walking lead after the park to walk home.
So to summarise:
Get Her on her lead without excitement at home. You go out the door first.
Use a 3 or 4ft lead and have your arm by your side with a little slack on the lead and connected to her collar.
If she chews the lead, don’t laugh at her, give her a sharp “ugh Ugh” and change direction, giving her something to think about.
Don’t let them lunge at traffic, watch their body language as a vehicle approaches and act before they do with a gentle tug or a vocal “no”, reward when they don’t lunge with high praise.
You choose when she can stop to sniff on the walk, not every post or bush. Walk her on the side away from the walls etc..
Keep a good speed up so she moves with you, if she starts to pull, change direction, keep her looking to you for leadership.
Use a whistle. Train her to know what it is and use it with rewards everywhere, as soon as she responds to the whistle, give her praise and reward.
Consistent training will pay off, don’t give up.
Remember love comes in many forms, Training her the right way is love, discipline is love, being her leader is love.
Hold the lead across your body to balance you if she pulls, the collar to lead and your left hand is down by your side, then the next part of the lead goes into your right hand, this will centre you, so you don’t get pulled off balance.
I hope some of this information helps the people who haven’t been able to get to training.
Until next time...