Is walking your dog still a battle? We have some tips for dog training.
Taking your dog for a walk should be an enjoyable experience for both you and your dog. When you can walk together as a team and enjoy the surroundings together, it’s a treat for both of you. But when “dog walking” is really your dog walking you, it becomes a stressful chore that you don’t look forward to. The good news is that it just takes a little practice and a few training tips to make hikes, long walks, and running errands with your dog a lot more fun.
Our “Lucky 7” Dog Walking Tips
1. Use a short leash – I stick to 4-6 foot leashes for my dogs, Maggie and Rossi. A long leash (10-15 foot) just gets in the way and places your dog too far away when giving commands. And retractable leashes? We don’t recommend those either. Retractables provide limited control and can also be quite dangerous when you’re near traffic or walking in a busy area. They can be convenient when you’re in a big field, on an empty beach or for quick potty breaks in the yard, but we don’t recommend them for everyday dog walking.
2. Work on a heel command – Go back to the basics and work on a heel behavior in your home. To teach a dog to heel, stand next to a wall or step and guide your dog with a treat next to you. By being next to a step or wall your pet is more likely to stay close to you, lessening the gap between the two of you. Do this over and over, saying heel while guiding them into place, and rewarding them when they are standing next to you.
If you find your dog is staying next to you but is walking forward, try placing a step in front of you, this will prevent your dog from stepping forward. Some great places to practice this are in a hallway, at the start of a staircase, next to a couch or on a training platform such as a Klimb.
Once your dog begins to understand the heel command, try these:
- Start rewarding them with a treat less when asking for a heel.
- Practice taking one step forward and repeating the heel command, encouraging your dog to stay by your side with each step. Move slowly adding more and more steps while giving the heel command.
- With your dog in a heel, have a friend of family member calmly walk by and see if your dog stays.
3. Practice indoors – On walks there are so many things for our dogs to see and sniff. Because of these distractions, start by practicing short walks with “heel” in your home, before going outside. Be sure to reward to good calm moments, this will help you and your pup succeed when out in the neighborhood.
4. Adjust your expectations – Getting your leash-puller to sit and stay with all the distractions of the outdoors can be a real challenge, so try to be patient. You’re probably not going to correct the pulling your first time out in the neighborhood, but you will see improvement. Just stay committed to practicing your training commands (sit, stay, heel) while you’re out on your walk and bring a few treats to reward their behavior when they succeed. Try taking more frequent, shorter walks down the block to start, and, as they succeed, lengthen your walks and graduate longer hikes or trips to the coffee or pet store.
5. Invest in a no-pull harness – If you’ve taught a ‘heel’ and worked on your leash skills, but it still isn’t getting better, it’s time to consider a no-pull harness. I’m a fan of the Balance Harness from Blue-9 pet products. The Balance Harness doesn’t restrict your dog’s movement, and all the straps are adjustable so you can ensure a perfect fit. A good no-pull harness allows you to clips the leash to the front, which helps redirect their movement when they begin to pull. Some no-pull harnesses restrict movement which can lead to joint/muscle issues over time, so be careful when buying one.
6. Communicate that you are “in training” – Try to choose a quiet time in the neighborhood when you’re starting your dog walking training, in order to minimize distractions. If someone wants to greet you with their dog, particularly if their dog is high energy, kindly let them know that you are working on training and now isn’t the best time. However, this is a great time to work on ‘stay’ while the other dog passes. And those treats will come in handy!
7. Make time for walking – If you’re stressed and in a hurry during your walk, your dog will sense your stress and it will be hard for them to relax and focus. So, set aside 30 minutes, put your phone in your pocket or leave it at home, and just focus on the two of you wandering the neighborhood. Mix it up. Try a new direction or take your dog to the park or on a hike. You will both find a change of scenery refreshing every now and then.
If you put in some time at home and then reinforce the behavior during your practice walks, you will see a difference. Depending on the dog, it may take time. But with the right equipment, and positive attitude, your dog can be a great leash walker. Still have dog walking questions? Message us on social media @goifetch. Spring is the perfect time to start enjoying your walks. Good luck!