gowalkeaze


Collars, Leashes & Harnesses, Part III in a Series or How To Stop Your Dog From Pulling on the Leash

The point of this blog and my webstore is to educate you about how to make spending time with your dog more enjoyable so that you can get out with them and enjoy life! I don’t want you to go for a walk, then come home and be sore for two days, and think “Ugh, that was horrible, not worth it, I’m never going out again with that dog!” People and dogs both need exercise!

Even though it sometimes seems impossible, you can get your dog to stop pulling when you walk. As with all things “dog”, the younger they are when you teach them, the faster they learn it. But it is possible to teach old dogs new tricks. (Hmmm, maybe I’ll start a 2nd blog about how to train from when you first bring a puppy home…What do you think?)

I had neck surgery and carpal tunnel surgery this past winter (11/2011 & 2/2012), this picture was taken in May 2012. Am I crazy walking 90lb Ranger and 65lb Rosie together on a leash with a coupler? Maybe – but I knew that they wouldn’t pull me, and yes I cheated with a pinch collar just in case. But they didn’t pull, so they never got pinched! Now that I’m more confident in my own rebuilt strength, I walk both of them without the pinch.

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I know that pinch collars are a touchy, controversial subject in the dog training world. It’s not my job to judge what people do to control their dogs. I am trying to help people to understand how dogs think, how to let your dog be a partner in your healing, and to find some methods to let you work with your dog without giving you undue pain. So my perspective is this… Yes, pinch collars are meant to be a training tool and the dog should be weaned off of them as quickly as possible. Some dogs are gentle souls and never need them, others never seem to understand the whole leash concept. I’ve owned dogs on both ends of the spectrum. The other factor that comes into play is the strength and physical capabilities of the dog owner vs the strength and training of the dog. I had 2 German Shepherds that I bought when I was fully capable of handling them. When they were 1yr and 1 1/2 yr old is when I had my surgeries that were completely unexpected. They weren’t fully trained yet. Should I have given them back, or found tools to help me keep them? Believe me when I tell you that if you feel that you always need a pinch collar, I won’t judge you, sometimes it is the best choice!

So here is the “trick” to teaching your dog to stop pulling on the leash. Choose a leash that is comfortable in your hands, and feels good when you hold it. (That will be the subject of an upcoming blog when I’m done taking all of the educational pictures!) This is especially important if you have arthritis in your hands like I do.

Know your dog and what makes them respond. Are they thrilled just to hear you say “Good Job!”, or do they need a treat, or a chance to bite on their favorite toy? Whatever it is that works for you & your best friend, take it along when you go out, also bring a lot of patience.

The first part of this has nothing to do with walking. It’s all about developing attention.Your dog must know that he needs to always know where you are and what you are doing. He needs to understand that no matter what other exciting things are out there in the world, you are the bearer of the best things, and that he should stick with you. This exercise you can do from a park bench. If you are not strong enough (yet!) to hold your dog for a long period of time, tie the leash to the bench. Keep an eye on your dog, (you remembered your treat, toy or kind words – right?), every time he looks at you say. “Good Look!” or “Good Watch!”, treat him and then let him go back to watching the people or squirrels, or whatever is fascinating to him. Pretty soon, (it may take a few trips to the park, but what is so bad about that?) he will learn to look at you every so often, just to check in. When that is solid you can move to the next step, the actual walking part.

When you first try  to get your dog to walk without pulling, if at all possible, go to a place, or at a time when things are fairly calm, and your dog won’t be too distracted. This is just an extension of the exercise above, so fewer distractions means that you get more attention. You have to be sneaky and fake your dog out, they’re smart!

When you walk your dog, watch them very carefully. When they get almost to the end of the line, but before they start to pull – STOP in your tracks. Your dog will get a little tug. They may: 1. walk back over to you, 2. look at you in surprise, or 3. try to pull you. Any reaction is ok. If you get the 1st reaction, it will be fairly easy to teach your dog to stop pulling on the leash. Tell him how good he is and reward him, then start to walk again. Repeat, over and over! If you get the 2nd response, call her over to you, tell her she’s a good dog, reward her and start to walk again. Repeat over and over! If you get the 3rd reaction, your life will be a bit more difficult, but there is hope! It’s all up to you, and you can do it! DO NOT let your dog pull you forward. If you are not strong enough to do this, try to find someone to help you. They hold they leash, you get to give the rewards! Eventually your dog will look back to you. Tell her “Good Look!”, reward her and when there is no tension on the leash walk again. Repeat over and over… (Reminds me of the awful joke from 3rd or 4th grade: Pete & Repeat are on a boat, Pete jumps out. Who is left? Repeat. Pete & Repeat are on a boat, Pete jumps out, who is left…?) Keep the first few tries at this short, or you will both get tired and frustrated – keep it fun and upbeat.

If you are feeling really good, or are fortunate enough to have recovered from whatever illness slowed you down, or have a friend or family member to help, there is another more difficult exercise that also reinforces this. Take a very thin leash and put some rocks, pylons or other markers in a straight row, about 2 feet apart. Keep the dog close, and move very quickly around the obstacles. You can also just walk in a random fashion, changing directions quickly. The idea is that the dog has to stay with you and pay attention to you in order to move forward. This is difficult and can be tiring at first. Don’t try it if you’re not up to it. It’s like putting the extra trim on a nice car. It looks good, and finishes things off, but not completely necessary if you can’t afford it.

Eventually your dog will understand that pulling means stopping, being near you on a loose leash means being allowed to walk. As the two of you turn this into a more solid behavior, try walking in busier places or at busier times of day. Eventually it will gel, and both you and your dog will be happier! More walks = more exercise =  a healthier you + a calmer dog in the house – it’s all good! Patience and consistency are the keys – you can learn them. If I did, anyone can! Sometimes it’s easy, others it is not, but the time and effort are always worth it.

Go have fun – enjoy your dog!

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