Are you tired of getting dragged along by your dog on walks? Are you in search of ways to reign (pun intended) your canine companion into a little more control? Well, you’ve found the right place. We understand the perils of dog walking.
Dogs are natural explorers, and one of the reasons they love to go on walks (it’s my dog’s favorite thing in the world) is because they get to wander around in the open air. This is a good chance of environment exposure for them from the comparatively stuffy and congested home environment. But your dog’s adventures come at a price that you have to pay. If your dog sets its eye on something it found on a sniff and explore mission, it will forget that you are on the other end of the leash and chase its target.
If you’re all too familiar with these issues and want to teach your dog not to pull, there is a solution: Loose leash walking.
What is loose-leash walking, and why should you do it?
Loose leash walking is as simple as the name. It’s a practice to teach your dog not to pull on the leash. You might pass off leash-pulling behavior as a harmless and bearable thing your dog does, but it is pretty dangerous. The danger of your dog developing a leash pulling habit extends to both you and your dog!
There are several different types of walking strategies and techniques. One of them is formal heel walking which involves training your dog to walk right beside you. Unlike formal heel walking, loose leash walking is one where the leash is loose, and your dog isn’t pulling on it.
The first danger depends on your walk track. Do you take your dog to the park when going for a walk? Or do you walk around your neighborhood block? Do you walk on a hectic day? What you are looking for is the traffic on the road because that determines the risk your dog runs of getting into an accident. You might think that your dog is always in your control, but you never know when it spots a squirrel in the trees and decides to charge forward. You’d be surprised to know how many accidents happen this way.
The following reason is your health, specifically how your shoulders and arms fare through all this. Whenever your dog tugs at the leash and your hand gets jerked forward, you are risking muscle and joint pain in the future.
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Use techniques of positive feedback
In the infamous Pavlov’s dog experiment, Pavlov (a scientist) would ring a bell and feed his dogs. Over time, the dogs associated this bell’s sound with food, so whenever Pavlov would ring the bell, the dogs would expect food.
This experiment shows how dogs, like many animals, associate reward with certain behaviors. This type of positive reinforcement also works with training good behavior in dogs. What you’ll need is a pack of high-grade quality treats that your dog loves and a whole lot of praise and compliments. Positive reinforcement is always a better way to teach your dog anything, and any dog trainer would agree!
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Step-by-Step Loose Leash Training Guide
Loose leash training for dog walking is not relatively as easy as you might think. You don’t want to pull on the leash too much and focus on being a gentle leader. But you’re in luck because we have an easy and step-by-step guide to training your dog on the ways of loose leash dog walking!
1. Start from your house.
To begin the training process, you need to start inside your home. The main reason for this is to keep your dog safe from running into an accident, but it also helps minimize distractions. This segways into an essential factor to keep in mind when training indoors: Cut out the distractions. You want to practice in a part of your house that is mostly dull, and there aren’t many things that will catch your dog’s attention.
Once you’ve identified a distraction-free spot, the next step is to get the training started. First off, you want to get your hands on a non-retractable leash. This needs to be roughly 6 feet long. Once you have your dog on a leash, start walking with your dog around the house. Whenever you sense that your dog is moving too fast and the leash tightens up, freeze right there. And we mean this! Don’t flinch, lean, or even pull at the leash. Instead, simply stop in your tracks and pretend to be an immovable object. This will signal to your dog that something isn’t right and cause it to change movement. Please wait for your dog to recognize this, and once it steps back and loosens the leash, start praising it for good behavior. It would also help to have a treat in your hand to reward your dog.
All you need to do now is rinse and repeat his strategy till you are confident your dog has mastered the technique.
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2. Advance to outside
Once you know that your dog has achieved loose leash walking in the comforts of your house, it’s time to up the difficulty level and brings it outside. The main difference between your home and the outside setting is that there are many more distractions for your dog.
This will be the real test of its patience and obedience. Whether it’s a nearby car, a motorcycle, another dog, or just something your dog has sniffed, you will notice much more pulling. This might come as a surprise to you, considering how your dog was doing so well indoors, but this is completely normal.
The remedy to this resurfacing habit is simple: Repeat the walk and stop strategy we talked about earlier. We understand how this could be a bit awkward to do in public, but it’s something you will have to soldier through. Eventually, however, the reward will be worth it. You’ll finally be able to start walking an easy walk with your best bud!
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3. Treat your dog for checking in.
Dogs are naturally free spirits, but they are also very loyal. Once you’ve made it clear that their tugging and pulling is something undesirable to you, they will do something we call a check-in. A check-in is quite literally when your dog looks back at you to “check-in” on how you are doing on the walk. This is a behavior you want to reward your dog for. This is especially true with positive reinforcement techniques like treats and praises.
Other tricks you can utilize to encourage and entertain this behavior is to sing a song, hum a tune, or make bird noises to attract your dog’s attention.
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4. Tire your pup out for training sessions
Training your dog is not always an easy thing. While dogs are naturally energetic, there are some breeds like Labrador retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Australian Shepherds, and Jack Russels that are just far more active. So the best way to train your dog, and we promise you don’t need training classes, is to train it when it is tired. When dogs get tired, they are less prone to distractions. Even if something interesting catches your dog’s attention, it will be too tiring to bother and engage. This way, your dog will be more receptive to what you have to say. You will have a much more focused and receptive dog.