Pulling on lead is a subject that is often complained about by dog owners and although people want a dog to walk on a loose lead they don’t know where to start with teaching and we don’t teach the dog how to walk on a loose lead it can result in a lifetime of misery for everyone!
The old fashioned belief is that a dog should walk on the left hand side. This is thanks to showing dogs in the ring. For everyday life, walking on the left isn’t practical. Think about your dog’s delicate neck if we constantly walk them on one side they are crushing one side of their neck as they look up to you which really can’t be good for them. You will find yourself in situations where your dog should really be on your right so it helps if you can teach loose lead on both sides of you so you don’t panic in those situations when you need your dog on a specific side.
I use food as a reinforcer because it’s easy to dispense and most dogs are happy to receive it, they are scavengers after all. However you don’t have to use food, you can use whatever motivates your dog like sniffing, a smiley face, moving forward.
If you are using food you don’t need to work in a carrot – donkey fashion, where you hold the treat on the end of their nose. You can become a food dispenser by drip feeding when they offer you the correct behaviour. Don’t take anything they offer for granted. Watch them and be ready to reward them. If they look at you, reward them. If they walk beside you or on a loose lead, reward them.
For some dogs they are so engrossed in the environment they don’t take note of you on the other end of the lead. You can start by working inside your house on little games and activities to gain focus before migrating outside in the back garden, by the front door with the door closed, by the front door with the door open by a crack and building it up over a course of time so the door is fully open, then building it up so you take a step outside and the dog focus’ on you rather than what is going on around them.
If you are using food just remember it isn’t forever, it’s a reinforcer to help teach your dog what is expected of them when walking on lead, it doesn’t need to be a lifelong tool. If your dog will work for his dinner take that along or reduce the dinner to compensate for the amount of food you have used during your training session.
I appreciate when you walk into a pet shop there are thousands of harnesses, leads and head collars to choose from, so where do you start? I’m a strong believer in harnesses. Think about your dog’s body and how delicate their necks are. A well fitted harness won’t encourage a dog to pull more, you still need to teach them how to walk on a relaxed lead but if they do pull hard it’s taken on their body and not their delicate neck.
I am a stockist of the Perfect Fit Harness from Dog-Games. The harness comes in three pieces to allow a snug and perfect fit for your individual dog. Here’s the link if you would like to know more https://www.dog-games-shop.co.uk/perfect-fit-fleece-dog-harness.html I can carry out harness fittings depending on location so please ask if you are interested.
Some dogs may benefit from a head collar. The Dogmatics are one of the best ones on the market. You do need to introduce these to your dog in a careful way so they are comfortable wearing them. Shoving them on straight away is not only unfair but can also be uncomfortable. If you are thinking of purchasing one please let me know so I can help you put it on correctly.
Many people use flexi leads. They can be useful for recalls but longlines are a safer piece of equipment for that. Flexi leads can be dangerous. If your dog pulls really hard and the handle is yanked out of your hand it can scare your dog especially when the box chases them! Many locks in the flexi leads have been known to break resulting in dogs being run over and being killed in the process. I’ve lost count of the number of horror stories I’ve been told of children’s faces being sliced or hands being cut because the dog has continued to move forward and the person hasn’t been able to stop them. I have also noticed the dogs who are walked on flexi leads tend to pull more because unless you constantly walk them on the shortest setting you never have the same length of lead so when your pup has to walk on a short rigid lead they find this really hard.
Choke Chains are really old fashioned pieces of equipment that rear their ugly head from time to time. The clue really should be in the title…… CHOKE chain! They work on the basis that the dog will stop pulling due to the tightness on their necks but dogs tend to pull more to get through the pain. Think about the neck…..it supplies blood to the brain, it contains the delicate spinal cord, the oesophagus and trachea are located at the front, it contains the lymph nodes, mandibular gland and thyroid gland. So every time the chain is tightened on the neck you are running the risk of damage to these vital parts of the dog’s neck. Not only are they cruel but they are also unnecessary. Slip leads work in the same way, they are just a ‘softer’ version. I’ve known dogs to break their necks whilst pulling on a normal flat collar so please get the pressure off their delicate necks and use a harness.
Clicker training can help when teaching loose lead walking, if you would like to know more please get in touch.
Bumbags or treat bags are really helpful if you are using food as a reinforcer. Wearing a bag frees your hands up and the wonderful thing about them is you can fit so much stuff in there!!!
If you would like to work on your loose lead please get in touch through my website below.