My Dog Doesn’t Walk Well on a Lead!! Part 1.

But My Dog Doesn’t Walk Well on a Lead!!
For many people teaching their dog to walk on a lead without pulling is the biggest training problem they face as pet owners.
From the dog’s perspective of course, you are the problem – “why bother taking me for a walk if you are going to stop me investigating the world of scent that beckons me” – after all, your dog’s nose is his eyes to the world. So what we need is a happy compromise whereby your shoulders are not yanked from their sockets and your dog is still able to do some environmental exploration. Here are some strategies that will help you.
1. Use a longer lead.
For a pleasure walk, I like to offer my dog the full length of a two metre lead. The deal is, you can have that length to do with as you please, I will not shorten it or pull against it, however if you pull against it we will stop. It is very important to establish this principle that a lead should be soft and light, not taut like a water ski rope. Dog’s have an opposition reflex so the more you pull one way the more they will pull the other. Give your dog a full length of lead, and work hard not to shorten it. For some dogs this extra length alone reduces pulling considerably as it allows your dog to move from side to side, smell the trees and cock his leg without pulling you off the footpath.
2. Establish a Reward Zone
Teach your dog that there are rewards for hanging somewhere around the vicinity of your left leg (or right if you prefer). The easiest way to do this is to walk briskly, clockwise around a 20 meter circle holding only the end of your lead in your right hand. Have a few treats ready in your left hand, but do not be tempted to put your hand in front of the dog’s face as a lure – the hand should only come down when you deliver a treat. Working in a circle helps you to focus on what your dog is doing without worrying about where you are going, running into trees or turning. When your dog is in the vicinity of your left leg say ‘Yes!’ and deliver a treat down your leg to your dog. You want your dog to learn there is a ‘reward zone’ around your left leg where good things fall from the sky . If your dog moves too far ahead, stop, call him back and again reward from your left knee. You want the dog to know there are good things at your end of the lead not just out in front where the good smells are.
3. Turn & Steady
When your dog pulls ahead of you say ‘steady’ and do an about turn moving the opposite direction. The Turn & Steady game achieves four things:
1. It stops your dog from constantly being in front and leading the way.
2. It causes the dog to pass the ‘Reward Zone ‘ (your left leg) providing an opportunity to reward
3. It your dog won’t take treats out on a walk, it still prevents your dog from always leading the way.
4. It allows you to walk your dog for as long as you like without having to stop even if you don’t actually go very far.
Repeat until your dog realizes that you’re the one dictating the direction of the walk. Adding the word ‘steady’ before each turn will teach your dog there is no point in charging ahead as you are about to change direction. Eventually ‘steady’ can be used as a general cue to ‘slow down’.

Article courtesy of Karin Bridge, partner of Get S.M.A.R.T. Dog Training, Sydney
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