Leash Walking Q&A:

Leash Walking Q&A:

Walking in partnership with your dog. This is an excellent way to describe the paradigm of leash walking. Many times it is a question of doing the appropriate dance steps in concert with the dog. IE: Are you walking fast enough, are you not stopping for intense pulling, are you “working the dog” so the dog is attentive? Are you getting tangled up? As in many dog training context the dog walk is full of distractions, hence why it is many times a challenge. A partnership is intrinsically a more cooperative way to view leash walking as opposed to the militaristic view of old school leash walking.

 How to get a dog to stop pulling on leash, can it be done?  Yes and no. I often counsel people about leash manners and let them know “All dogs pull and dogs pull all the time”. It really does boil down to a matter of degrees of pulling and focusing on the dog. When dogs are on the leash they are prevented from checking out the world at their own pace. Remember dogs are genetically predisposed to investigate things. This need to check things out is especially true of doggie smells and other dogs.  Be patient and define reasonable criteria for your dog. Some people have been given the ridiculous notion that dogs should not smell on a walk! This is ludicrous. Imagine being told you could only look at water when you’re thirsty? Allowing dogs to smell on the walk will provide mental stimulation, which will alleviate stress, and it put you on the dog’s team. Using the smell as a reward is also a built in reward for listening to sit/wait cues and for loose lead behavior. Adjusting your pace with the dogs as well as having solid leash mechanics can be a really big help in the training of leash walking.                    

 1 – Pulling equals stopping. If the dog is out of control pulling at the end of the leash, just stop. Stand still; gently shorten the leash a bit. Leave enough room for the dog to sit comfortably. As soon as the dog looks back or up at you, or sits as long as the leash is slack allow movement forward. I say forward because many dogs that pull will move in any manner of direction to expend energy. This is why the leash needs to be shortened, so the dog cannot go about investigating in a 4 – 6 foot circumference, or whatever length leash they are on.

Make sure you are rewarding the leash manners you want! This movement forward in a calm manner is the reward. So you may have to try the stop start method, which admittedly is sometime arduous, patience is required for this, as is a reasonable amount of pulling.

A dog getting to go check out that smell is a happy dog and in time will equate pulling to stopping and settling down means getting to go on with the walk. (You define your criteria for calm, as all dogs are different due to context, amount of exercise and history with leash walking).

 If your dog is pulling towards people to greet whether they have a dog friend or it is just some people your pooch is friendly with; stop! Ask the dog for a sit or a look or a touch by sticking your hand out as a target. When your dog does the thing you ask, allow the greeting to take place. Use what the dog wants as a reward; it is pulling towards something, so use it to your advantage. Make the greeting contingent upon something. You can build your duration of waiting as your dog becomes better at it. Keep it short and always remind people to stop attention if the dog is of the jump to greet variety.

2- Paying for steps by your side. Many times after a dog has sufficiently sent and received pee mails and so forth the dog relaxes and is consequently walking rather nicely. If the dog is a bit out front on a loose lead call the dogs name and position yourself so the dog is beside you, then treat. Count 4 steps and feed. Repeat for a block or two. Try this each time during the middle part of the walk when your dog is more relaxed or anytime you are getting loose leash behavior.

When your dog starts to turn his attention to you on the 4/5th step move to 6 steps once they get that sequence move to 8 steps then make it random. This feeding for steps or staying next to you increases the behavior of walking next to you.

Use a portion of your dogs’ meal time kibble or some special goodies to really make a strong positive association to lose leash walking by your side. You can start to fade the food for steps or really space the rewards out as you see your dog walking by your side more frequently.

3- Pay for “check in’s”. When your dog looks back and gives you attention on a walk mark it with a marker word such as YES and pay with a food reward. This increases the probability that your dog will check in, i.e.: looks back at you and then the leash goes slack. Also any time you need your dogs’ attention use the cue “look” or “leave it” and “touch” with a hand held out palm facing out as a target. Mark and pay for these behaviors. These attention getters can get you out of jams and refocus your dog!

Do you incorporate heeling? By all means! I believe heal training began with the military and soldiers carrying a gun on one side, so the dog had to be on the opposite side and in times of military formation there had to be no straying from the handler’s side. However companion canines are not in the military. The primary job of dogs on a walk is to fulfill their olfactory senses, so sniffing on a walk is essential. When there are crowds of people or perhaps a jogger coming towards you or you need to get home for an important call, are all examples of times to use the heal position. Any time you need your dog to be by your side for courteous owner behavior, safety or expediting the walk you can use heal. Teaching your dog to follow a food lure or empty hand lure is also a valuable skill for both the dog and the human, as it can really expedite matter in a hurry. Use the follow for food lure method as a way to train a heal. Shorten the lead, have food in the opposite hand and pay for each step – practice this in the backyard or in an open field.

Is LLW attainable for most dogs? Yes, dog training is a mechanical skill based on timing and recognizing your dogs’ behavior accurately. In order to increase the probability for wanted behaviors, reward, to decrease unwanted behaviors implement humane consequences. Pulling equals stopping. Walking by your side equals food. Sit and wait for a second or two equals you will get to go to the tree and smell. It takes patience and it takes practice. Start as a puppy or as soon as you get your new dog, dogs discriminate very well, so the sooner you begin setting up the rules the easier it will be for you and the dog. 

Or is the concept too esoteric? Not at all, loose leash walking or heal is just another behavior you may need along the way as a dog owner. It all depends on criteria and context. The reward history and the consequence history is up to the humans, so the sooner we decide what we are paying for and what we are implementing humane consequences for the sooner we’ll see the consistency in our dogs we desire. This is true of any training. 

What about those dogs who simply stay by their owners side even without a leash? Lucky you! However there are leash laws in place for safety. Proofing a dog to stay in the face of prey, other dogs or people it may want to greet takes very dedicated practice as well as 100% situational awareness and rock solid timing and mechanics, usually reserved for professional dog trainers or above average dog owners. Please obey leash laws and only have your dog off leash in a fenced in dog safe area.

If you have a dog that stays by your side on leash and is happy go lucky about the affair you are blessed. The amount of dog owners dealing with leash manners issues is incalculable! The answer is not to have your dog off leash! That is a risky affair that puts your dog at risk of losing its life, being injured severely or being the cause for a car accident placing the lives of people in jeopardy. Even with a “velcro type dog”, you still may need some training in the areas of attention getting such as a look, leave it or touch. Anything can happen on a dog walk, so be prepared, and be safe and respectful to your community by keeping your dog on leash unless in a safe fenced in area.

 Thanks for asking just good quesions Kelly! My apologies for taking so much time with this!