Teaching Your Dog to Walk Beside You
One thing that dog owners complain most about is the fact that their dog is dragging them down the street when they go for a walk. It’s not only uncomfortable but it can actually be dangerous. People get hurt arms and shoulders and can be knocked to the ground.
Now if you have a 3 pound Chihuahua you might think this article probably doesn’t apply to you but that's not true. Even though your little chihuahua or shih tzu or pug won't probably cause you injury, they should still be taught to walk beside you. They can be injured and also it's not good for their neck or throat to be pulling depending on what type of collar you are using
However, if you have a larger dog that is dragging you and making your walks uncomfortable then this article is not only for you but it's a must read.
This is what you don't want...(and take note of the chain also...no, no, no)
Let’s start off by saying you need to start training your dog when it’s young and teach it to walk at your side on a loose leash. If you allow your dog to be out in front of you and pulling you down the street when it’s young it will want to keep doing that same thing as it gets older. So teaching your dog the right way to walk on leash from the beginning is very important.
But don't worry. If you have an older dog who has not been taught to walk without pulling it's not too late.
Let’s start off by talking about your leash. If you have a retractable leash, get rid of it. They aren't safe and they don't provide the ultimate control you need when out on a walk with your dog. And if for some reason you have a leash that's made of chain, definitely get rid of it.
Leather leashes are great. Once it's broken in, it's nice and soft on your hands.
Also, it's best to use a harness when walking your dog. A harness allows you to attach the leash to your dogs back instead of on the ring on a traditional collar. When using a traditional collar you run the risk of choking your dog if they do in fact pull.
What I like best is a gentle leader collar. You use a regular collar around your dogs neck and you add the gentle leader harness/collar. The way it works is a strap fits comfortably around your dogs nose (muzzle style but it's not a muzzle). You connect it around the neck up high, right behind the ears and you want it to be snug. (no more than one finger fitting under the gentle leader collar). The tighter you have it, (without hurting your dog), the more comfortable the nose strap feels for your dog.
There is a strap that hangs under the chin with a ring. You attached your leash to the ring on the gentle leader harness and your dog's collar.
Now you're all set to go on your walk.
How does the gentle leader work, you might be asking?
As you are walking your dog, you keep the leash loose. If your dog moves too fast, or just doesn't stay beside you, a gentle tug on the leash will correct him. When you give the leash a gentle tug towards you, you effectively and gently pull your dogs head in your direction.
This ends up slowing your dogs course of action as his attention has now been brought back to you. Also, a dog can't walk forward if his nose is facing sideways.
My handsome dog friend, Frisbee is a 55-pound pitbull, shepherd mix. He's super strong and it was difficult for me to walk him. I started with a collar not knowing any better and switched to a harness. The harness helped and my husband still uses the harness but I was still having problems walking him and being in control.
I found that immediately, and yes I mean immediately, when I started using the gentle leader harness, I had total control on the walk. Frisbee started walking right next to me right away. I might have had to give a little correction once or twice but that's it.
I also like that while it's not a muzzle, I can pull up on the leash hard and it will tighten the strap around his nose if I needed to that. For those who don't know, Frisbee has fear aggression so he can be unpredictable. I certainly wouldn't count on the gentle leader harness to act as a muzzle but at least it's something.
If you want to read Frisbee's whole story which is quite interesting you can find it in a series of blog posts here on this site (there were 8 chapters in all)
Gentle leaders can be used on small dogs also if you've tried everything and nothing is working. They won't work on dogs with short noses, like pugs, because you won't be able to attach the loop around it's nose. For a pug type dog I would suggest a regular harness and diligent training.
What do I mean by diligent training?
When you are walking a dog that you are unable to use a gentle leader harness on or just prefer not to use it, a good way to keep your dog at a pace you want and walking beside you is to stop frequently and make them sit. Reward them for doing so, and then give them a command to release them from the sit. This will slow their pace. Also, you can keep some treats in a closed fist hanging by your side and your dog will follow behind your fist just waiting to be reward with the yummy treat. Just stop, make them sit and give them a treat.
Keep repeating this as often as it takes to get your dog to follow your lead and not the other way around. Also, as you are doing this, choose a work, like heal or whatever you want and keep saying it out loud ever few seconds while your dog is walking the way you want. This will reinforce the command.
Also, make sure you stop frequently and offer treats for good behavior frequently.
If all else fails, hire a trainer to help. Being able to take your dog on a walk you both enjoy is priceless.
So let’s talk about where and how your dog should be walking. Your dog should be walking on your left-hand side and its legs should roughly lined up with your legs and there should be a small amount of slack in the leash so that it’s not pulling you. A dog that walks in front of his master is a dog who thinks he’s in charge. In order for you to be the alpha and the pack leader your dog should be walking on your side and not pulling.
So how do you keep your dog from pulling? There are a bunch of different apparatus including special collars and harnesses that are supposed to keep your dog from pulling. However I say to heck with those contraptions and teach your dog to walk nicely at your side.
Working with a good obedience trainer is an easy way to teach your dog to walk without pulling. So give your trainer a call and get him out there to help you train your dog to walk on a nice loose leash.