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How to Properly Walk Your Dog
Walking your dog – it’s so simple a mime could do it, right? Invisible dogs are easy to walk. They never pull at their leashes, and they don’t have breed-specific issues with leash walking. Unfortunately, though, most real dogs today don’t get the amount of walks they need. We live in such a busy society that dogs don’t get what they instinctually crave, namely, mental and physical stimulation. Here are some tips for walking your real, flesh-and-blood dog properly.
Create good habits early – If you’re getting your dog as a puppy, start positive leash-walking habits early. As soon as a vet clears your pup to walk on a leash, start leash training. Dogs need a well-fitting collar or harness with an ID tag. Some dogs will resist wearing a collar, but it could just be a matter of getting used to wearing it. Pair putting on the collar with treats. Take the collar off. Put it back on and give treats. Do this several times until your dog looks forward to seeing the collar come out. Make sure the collar is not too tight or too loose (not choking the dog but fitting snugly to put 2 fingers underneath). If your dog is particularly sensitive about the collar, save the dangling tags for later, when he is used the plain collar first. Once your dog is used to the collar, begin leash training.
Train yourself to train your dog – Know how to leash train so that you can properly take the lead. Find a safe environment to walk your dog without a lot of distractions. Start INDOORS. Set yourself up for success, by starting in a hallway or a boring room. Let your dog lead you for a few minutes/seconds and when you lose slack in the leash, pause and wait for your dog to “check in” by returning to your side and looking at you. Click and treat, by holding the treat right at your side. If your dog tends to pull the leash a lot, pause and change directions. When there is slack in the leash, you can train your dog by using a clicker. Click and reward with small training treats for keeping slack in the leash. Expect to only take 2 or 3 steps at a time and reinforcing frequently
Don’t jerk your dog’s leash as a counter-action to pulling – If you jerk the leash as a reaction to pulling, you can injure your dog’s neck. If you walk with the leash constantly taut, your dog will think that the way to move is to pull the leash. This is why we do not recommend retractable leads, as they teach the dog to walk with constant tension. If you allow the leash to go slack before proceeding, this will teach your dog how to walk on the leash the right way.
Walk your dog for a variety of reasons – If it’s pouring down rain, a short walk for elimination may suffice. If it’s a gorgeous spring day, take your pup out for a longer, brisk walk for exercise. Shoot for having a walk daily, no matter how long or short. Walking daily reinforces good leash walking habits, gives your dog a proper amount of exercise and mental stimulation and is healthy for you, as well. Take your dog on training walks from time to time to refresh leash manners. Your dog will want to sniff things on his walk. Instead of never allowing him this opportunity, give him the chance to sniff things as a reinforcement for walking politely for a few steps. This will be more satisfying and enjoyable for both of you.
Walking your dog consistently will lead to a happier, healthier, better-behaved pup. As a happy side-effect, it will also help you get the cardio you need to be healthier and happier, as well as improve your bond with your dog.
If you have questions about leash training, how to properly walk your dog or other training issues, schedule your pup for a training session today. We can help you properly teach your dog how to walk on a leash and more.
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Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.
Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.
She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.