I keep seeing debates on various pages about loose lead walking. Arguments about equipment, arguments about techniques, its enough to confuse or scare anyone!
For what its worth, here is Jackador’s Monday Musings on having your dog walk nicely on a lead.
So most people think of Loose lead walking (lets just call it LLW from here on in so I don’t have to keep typing loose lead walking J ) as an outdoor exercise. We wait until our pup has had its jabs and then off we go exploring the outside world as much as possible allowing them to sniff and greet everyone and everything and yet at the same time expecting them to walk nicely amongst these new awesome experiences. Isnt this a case of mixed messages?
Hmmmm so lets think of this another way. If I want to teach my dog to recall I wouldn’t go to the big park at the busiest time where the children are all playing, the skateboarders are hanging out, countless dogs are being walked or running after the balls flung for them and expecting my pup to recall? I would start in the house at the quietest time. Short recalls of a few foot! Yet we put our pup on its brand new collar and lead and take them out into the big wide world to learn to walk nicely?
As soon as you are out with your pup they are already overexcited or in no frame of mind to learn so they are already pulling from the off! The collar and lead then become the predictor of an exciting event putting them in that same frame of mind again where they aren’t calm enough to learn.
At Jackador we take an approach where we are coming at things from a few different angles, LLW is part of a bigger picture, a part of helping your pup learn self control and calmness ;
Before even setting foot outside, commence training indoors at home.
- From as early as possible get your pup used to the lead/harness/collar going on and off so it doesn’t become a big deal at walk time as this will just add to the excitement and anticipation.
- If its safe to do so, have the lead on and dragging for short periods of time and reward your pup with a tasty treat and some verbal praise when they are by you. Practice with you holding the lead as well, if the lead is loose and the pup is by you- reward!
- Head out into the garden and do the same, on and off lead, reward your pup any time they walk by you.
- Sit and chill with your pup, again reward calm behaviours and reward them being next to you.
- When you do venture outside, keep a distance from other people and dogs to allow your pup to better focus. Reward them for staying with you, giving you their focus. The reality is that whilst we want dogs to socialise, we often get carried away with wanting them to experience everyone and everything with little control. Give them the message from the outset that staying with you is more rewarding then lunging or pulling to get to the other thing.
- Remember puppies have short attention spans. 5 minute training sessions are enough to begin with.
- Introduce a ‘release cue’ for those times where you are stopping training and allowing interactions.
- Gradually build up the degree of distractions.
We do recommend a well fitted harness with front and rear D rings. We often hear people complain that harnesses are designed to make dogs pull. WRONG! There are some harnesses designed for that purpose but it’s a lack of appropriate training and a lack of impulse control that makes dogs pull. Having said that if I am working with a dog that’s a puller, I would much rather have them in a decent harness as it is much less damaging to their windpipe, thyroid, spinal vertebra and eyes than a collar.
With a harness with front and rear clips you can give your dog a clear distinction between training (working) mode and play time for them to sniff and mooch. If you look at assistance dogs and the coats they wear, the coat gives them the signal that they are working. By having a double ended training lead you can use a clip on each D ring to signify training and both clips on the back to signify non LLW training. If you really want to use a collar, you can use a collar for training times and a harness for training breaks so at least you are minimising any damage the pulling is causing.
Remember pups in particular have very short attention spans so expecting them to be able to do long periods of training is just setting them up to fail and us up to be frustrated. Having a work/play system gives you an out when you or they need a break or when the unexpected (sudden big distractions etc) happens.
For dogs, one of the biggest things about their walks is not the walking part! Allowing them to sniff, meander, explore, run are huge. Having the release cue and play signal are ideal for this. Remember to practice recall though (or if need be have your pup on a long line).
Set up your pup to succeed and set up a life long unbreakable bond for you and your dog.