In order to master leash training you need to understand why you walk your dog in the first place. Is it for exercise for yourself, for them, or for both of you? Do you just want to tire them out? Obligation as a dog owner? Is it so you can spend time together and build a relationship? Do you want to let them explore the world outside of your home and yard? Then, check out this video on the dog’s nose!
A dog’s innate response to pressure on them, like that from the leash, is to go in the opposite direction, known as opposition reflex. So if you pull on your dog to get him where you want, he will pull in the opposite direction. He will possibly learn that we get where we want to go by pulling on the leash to get there. That is how you end up with leash training frustration for both of you. The point is to set your dog up for success!
Puppies do need special consideration for their growing joints. Sarah Stremming has a great article called Just Walk (pg 43) in the Growing Up FDSA e-Book that I highly recommend. There are other great articles in this e-book as well! They are geared towards sports dogs, but even pet dogs will benefit from the mindset and training!
For puppies, a decompression walk, as mentioned in Sara’s article, is best while lead training around the home for just a few minutes a couple of times a day will get them ready for longer walks when their body is ready. Some dogs will not do well when you immediately put on a long line, so you must first train the long line.
For any dog, you will start leash training in a low distraction environment like inside your home. Low distraction means no kids running around, people coming in and out of the house, big commotion, etc. Once they are successful, you can add indoor distractions or go to a low-distraction outdoor location like the backyard when neighbors might be inside.
As your dog ages, the walk is ideally a mix of exercises and letting your dog explore the world, a decompression walk. Tension-free from both of you! Keep in mind if your dog is only exercising, they increase their stamina requiring more and more exercise to become “tired.”
Your mindset also has to be one that you are ok with following your dog so that he can explore, but also have limits and ways to move him along. For example, a “let’s go,” or a nose touch can aid in helping your dog move along from distractions if necessary. These are all things to be taught indoors first!
Collars are hard on the neck, a sensitive part of the dog’s body.
NO HARNESS CAN FIX WALKING ISSUES
Harnesses that promise to do so restrict range of motion, and when you take your dog for a walk, you want them to have full range of motion so that they can extend and move their body as intended. Y-shaped harnesses where the front sits at the chest bone is ideal! For dogs that get very stressed with a harness going over their head, I suggest one that clips around the neck and chest like the PetSafe 3-in-1.
The Sophisticated Dog & Lili Chin have a great illustration of how to get started!
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