Teaching a dog to walk nicely on a leash is an essential skill for any pet owner. Not only does it make walks more enjoyable, but it also ensures the safety of both the dog and the owner. However, it can be a challenging task for some dog owners, especially those with more energetic or stubborn breeds. In this blog, we’ll discuss some tips and techniques that can help you teach your dog to walk nicely on a leash.
- Start with the right equipment
Before you start leash training your dog, make sure you have the right equipment. You will need a leash that is the appropriate length for your dog’s size and strength, and a collar that fits properly. Collars should not be loose enough to slip over the dogs head; we like using slip leads in our training programs. You should also have an efficient way to carry high value food rewards on you, such as a dog training vest, a food pouch, or a fanny pack.
- Start training early
It’s important to start training your dog to walk nicely on a leash as early as possible. The best way to prevent pulling on the leash is not to allow it in the first place! We do not recommend taking puppies on “walks” until they’ve learned how to heel properly, but if you skipped that step or have an older dog who is prone to pulling, it’s not too late to commit to changing the behavior!
- Use positive reinforcement
Take food with you on each and every training walk you go on with your dog. When your dog does something you want them to do, reward them with a piece of food that they find highly motivating. While we understand most dog owners don’t want to walk around with hot dogs in their pockets forever, it is really important that your dog finds value in sticking with you. You are competing for their attention with squirrels, other dogs, people, bicycles… your dog may love you, but they’ll love you even more if you pay them for choosing to focus!
- Start in low distraction areas
Before you take your dog anywhere with a lot of people, dogs and smells, start training them in areas far away from heavy distraction. Our goal is to help make the dog successful and have a lot of solid repetitions before increasing the difficulty! Remember the 3D’s in dog training… distance, distraction, duration. You will want to be able to control the environment as much as possible so that neither you or your dog feel overwhelmed or lose focus. Being far away from the craziness of the “Real World” allows you to focus on your handling, your dogs behavior, and their position in relation to your body. Heel is a position and by knowing where you want your dog to be and helping them maintain that position, you’ll be on your way to upping distractions in no time.
- Change directions regularly
When working with your dog on leash walking, it is important that they understand it is their job to pay attention to you, stay on a loose leash, and follow your direction. If your dog wants to go left, go right! If they are getting ahead of you, turn in the opposite direction. You should not allow any forward motion unless your dog is right next to you on a loose leash. Varying your rate of speed and your direction helps keep your dog focused and on task.
Consistency is key when it comes to dog training. Teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash takes time, patience, and LOTS of consistency. If you allow your dog to pull you on leash sometimes, but then get frustrated when they pull you, you can’t blame the dog! Teaching a dog to walk in heel position is a difficult tasks, but with the right approach and “seeing the little details” you can help your dog become a well-behaved and enjoyable walking companion. If you need a hand, Dog Dynamix is here to help.