Who’s Walking Who?

Greg Winters, Owner, Personal Dog Training Inc.

Do you find yourself avoiding taking your dog out for a walk because you are unable to stop their constant pulling?  Do you hold the leash in a death grip as you brace yourself for the ensuing tug of war through your neighborhood? Do you worry that your dog may knock you over or break free during your walk?
Learning how to achieve a relaxed, controlled walking experience with your dog will not only alleviate stress for you, it will also provide significant benefits for your dog and your relationship with them. Teaching your dog to walk at you side in a controlled fashion is important not because it “looks good”, but because it helps you direct and drain your dog’s physical and mental energy. This allows you to establish clear social dynamics and develop effective communication with your pet. Walking your dog in a controlled manner is the single best way to strengthen your bond with them. Deep levels of trust are established when you can fulfill a dogs instinctual need to do work, communicate clearly what is expected and show them they can rely on your leadership. Helping your dog to relate to the world through your direction and leadership is a huge benefit of controlled walking. Mastering the walk is a key starting point for addressing any and all other behavior problems a dog may have.

It is common for people to struggle when trying to get their dog to learn and respond in new ways. Hands on coaching with a qualified dog trainer is the most effective way to address and resolve your issues. Below are three different approaches, commonly utilized by dog trainers, to teach dogs how to walk in a controlled manner that is free of pulling.

Approach one is the lure and walk. This approach is a great way to introduce controlled walking to your dog. Start with your dog standing at your side and the leash looped on your wrist. Hold several treats in your closed hand on the same side as you have the leash. Activate your dog’s nose by placing your treat filled, closed hand just in front of their nose, say “let’s go” or “come on” and walk in your intended direction. Every so often, provide a treat and praise them for walking along at your pace. Over time you will be able to provide treats less frequently and still keep their attention.
Approach two is the change of direction method. This approach is extremely useful in helping to drain some initial energy and teach your dog that leading is not much fun. Hold the leash at the end allowing for a long leash. When your dog first starts to get ahead simply turn away from them 180 degrees and move in the opposite direction without hesitation. This will provide your dog with a self-correction when they get in front of you. Soon you should notice that your dog is starting to pay attention to you, follow and walk at your side.

The third approach is the correct and continue. This method is very useful if executed properly and can be effective in most situations. Allow the leash to be just long enough for the dog to walk comfortably at your side. When your dog first pulls ahead, causing tension, provide a quick pop correction followed by immediate relaxation of the leash. This type of correction works like a tap on the shoulder, redirecting your dog’s focus back to you and establishing a clear communication of what is expected. The dog will come to understand that when they pull on the leash a correction will occur. If your timing and consistency are on cue your dog will respond accordingly.

Your dog should not dictate when you stop, start or change directions. There is no need for excessive sniffing or bathroom breaks. Allowing this type of behavior during your walk will affect your ability to have your dog consistently follow your lead. Remember, this is your walk and your dog is your sidekick. Good luck and happy walking!