11 steps on how to walk your dog on a lead
Walk your dog on lead & stay in control
1Be aware of your energy and body language while walking your dog.
Pre Walk Check list
- Are you communicating a cool, calm canine state of mind?
- Is your body language sending the message: ‘I am a confident pack leader that is in control’?
Keep your head up (focus on the view in front of you, not at the ground or your dog), keep your shoulders relaxed, back and down.
Think positive thoughts and picture your dog walking calmly by your side, glancing up at you occasionally, looking for your guidance. Your talk is limited, constant chatter is of no benefit to your dog. You and your dog are enjoying the sights and smells around you.
2 Check the position of your dog’s collar.
Is it at the top of his neck?
Why, your dog’s strongest pulling power is located around the lower part of its neck, near the shoulders. By placing the collar or harness here, you are already starting from a point of weakness or point of strength for your dog.
Your walk will never be satisfying, for you or your dog, if your equipment doesn’t make it possible.
If your dog, be them of the small or large breed type, wears a harness for your daily walks and you are finding you have limited control, it’s time to change your lead set up.
Using a slip rope lead (or similar), position it on the upper neck, along the jaw line. This is the most sensitive, responsive area. If you’re having trouble using your current collar and lead set up, seek further advice and support from a dog behaviourist or quality dog trainer.
3 Keep the dog lead short, but not tight.
Once you have sort advice about your lead and/or collar, you now need to consider what you are communicating to your dog. Short but relaxed, particularly at the start of the walk.
Never short and TIGHT for longer than a quick tug correction. A tight lead will only feed any pulling behaviour or let your dog know that you are not confident to lead the walk.
Retractable-leads, or other longer leads, make it more difficult for you to send clear expectations and messages to your dog.
4 Keep your lead arm relaxed Have you considered the position of your arm that is holding the lead?
Is it relaxed and in a natural, position by your side? Try it without the dog on the lead. Where is your arm most comfortable? What are you going to do with any part of the lead that is hanging? Do you hold your lead with both hands with the lead across your body – why, what message might this be sending to your dog?
With a single hand holding the lead, your other hand is free to correct your dog if needed or to praise him with a pat or food treat.
Please try not to use your free hand for your mobile – switch the world off and enjoy some focused, quality time with your dog.
5 Rewarding desired lead behaviour Make sure you are rewarding the lead manners you want.
If your dog is pulling on the lead and a quick tug correction has had little impact, stop. Stand still, calmly check the position of the collar and gently shorten the lead.
Make sure there is no tension in the lead and keep positive. When your dog has settled, be it in a sit or stand position by your side, with a relaxed lead arm, step forward.
If he rushes to get in front of you and continues the pulling behaviour, repeat the process, Yes it takes time and patience but, the sooner you persevere and you and your dog see/feel the desired behaviour, the more calm and enjoyable your walks will become. If this behaviour is left un-addressed, it will only get worse.
6 Look for and address what your dog’s body language
It is telling you have worked positively with your dog on the walk, he behaves when asked but …. when he sees other people or dogs coming toward you, he becomes very animated, growls aggressively, and pulls on the lead.
What can you do?
How do you respond to this – do you watch what your dog’s body language is telling you and catch the behaviour BEFORE it escalated?
Do you unintentionally feed the behaviour – dogs coming, quick he’s going to react badly, I better tighten his lead and let him sense that I have no confidence in him and that this is going to go very badly?
Do you turn and run to find the farthest place away from any other dogs? What are all these behaviours teaching your dog? Have you addressed and worked on your dog’s reaction away from this intense walking scenario or do you keep walking into it daily and reinforcing your dog’s behaviour? A
good place to start is with your way of thinking. If you continually replay and picture nothing but the negative experiences, that will be what occurs. You need to secure the picture of what you want it to look, feel like and then aim for it with small steps and daily practise.
No anger, no frustration, no anxiety, just confidence
Picture yourself being confident and leading your dog. No anger, no frustration, no anxiety, just confidence. When making corrections, keep clam, do not be overzealous on the lead or keep it tight.
Do not use the dog’s name, but rather a sound or another word like, Hey! or Atttt or Leave it! using a low, calm tone. Whilst you are walking, notice what it feel like on the lead when your dog is in a calm, dog-walking state.
Once this is established, you will not need to watch your dogs as your reactions will become instinctual. Next time you are walking, watch your dog.
What does his body do (look for signs) when he THINKS about getting excited? Once you know this, this is the time to get your dogs attention, draw his focus on to you and away from the passing dog (treats or toy).
Hold his attention and praise when the desired behaviour occurs. If this is not yet possible, give a quick firm tug on the lead, up and to the side, to interrupt and distract him off his current thinking.
For larger dogs that get over-excited, you can use your free hand to click or prod, or use the side of your foot to gently tap his behind. This is not a kick but a redirect.
Your timing must be spot on – BEFORE – he is already excited or it will be harder to bring under control. Watch your dog’s eyes; do they focus on the oncoming dog? Distract him before he locks on.
Watch when his ears become alert, watch his tail go up. Correct as soon as his body language tells you the thoughts that are crossing his mind, and before the dog reacts. You have to match your reaction with the intensity of your dog’s behaviour.
If you over-react, it will not be effective. If your intensity is under the level of his intensity, it will not work.
An effective technique is to use your body to step in front of your dog -blocking him.
If you are not confident with what this looks like or worried about how your dog may react, please seek the advice and support of a good dog behaviourist. When faced with an oncoming dog, try to keep walking forward.
Do not stop or try and have a conversation with the person or object. Keep walking and keep your dogs attention on you. Make sure your correction is a confident tug not a frantic yank and tightening of the lead.
The more you pass things by walking forward, correcting your dog less frequently, the less your dog will react. Be clear, definite and convincing.
Let your dog know what the correct dog behaviour/expectations are. Remember the positive image you have of what your walk will look like and don’t be swayed from this the minute you are faced with the situation that you USE TO fear and dread.
7 Film your dog walk A very good way for you to literally see what is happening is to film you walking your dog.
Ask a family member or friend to film you. Watching the footage helps to make you aware of what is really happening, to see and identify any of problem areas that can be addressed on the next walk.
What do you notice about your dog’s body language?
Is your body language calm and relaxed?
What does your reaction look like when your dog misbehaves?
Are you pulling on the lead creating more tension?
These are the types of behaviours to look for while you watch your film back. If filming isn’t possible, invite another to walk with you and ask them to feedback what they see or notice.
8 Enlist the help of balanced dog’s.
A very effective way of overcoming unwanted canine behaviours is to seek support from other balanced canines. If your dog shies away, barks or lunges at other dogs that are in the distance, approaching or passing you on your walk, replicate this activity in a more controlled situation – with another dog that you know is non-reactive and balanced. You can practice the desired behaviour, remaining calm and correcting your dog appropriately in a more constructive environment, knowing that the other dog is not going to do anything.
This will challenge your dog’s current thinking and gradually change meeting other dogs into a positive experience. This will need daily rehearsal across a few weeks. Once established its time to walk out, remembering the techniques and calm state you and your dog have been in practising. You should feel better able to react and correct any unwanted behaviour appropriately and with confidence.
If your first outing after practising with the non-reactive known dog doesn’t going as you would have like, repeat the process and then try again. If the behaviour still persists, it’s time enlist the help of Canine Coaching
9 Practice the walk!
Unfortunately, once we have had a negative experience on our walks, the natural tendency is to either become the awn and dark night dog walker’ or to avoid walking your dog altogether. This is no good for either of you. You are becoming more fearful and your dog is starting to store up unused energy. You and your dog will remain the same if you don’t go out there and do the walk.
Start small, once around the block then gradually add to it. You and your dog will start to enjoy it. Again, enlist the support of family or friends – could they join you on your walks? Celebrate every success along the way. Learn from what has gone wrong’ on the not-so-good walks, but don’t inflate them or focus in on them. It takes time, patience and calm control. When it clicks, you’ve done it! You and your dog have mastered the walk!
10 Regularly attend a Social Dog Walk!
Another way for you and your dog to socialise and experience positive dog situations is to regularly attend organised social dog walks. Pack Walk 26th May 2012 Have you mastered the walk? Or are you and your dog having some problems you’d like some support with? Contact Canine Coaching and chat through some possible solutions and bespoke support options. Now that you have established a good on-lead walking partnership with your dog, it’s time to have a go at some lose lead walking. Loose lead walking is: being able to walk your dog on a loose lead, with him sniffing and enjoying his walk, without pulling or leading you. He doesn’t have to be next to you or behind you in the heel position. It’s about you and him calmly walking together without any tension on the lead (from either you or your dog). Again, it is something that may take some time and you will need to work on it daily. Don’t think it will never happen or my dog could never be like that. If you are fixed in that mind set, it won’t happen – picture what you want and enjoy working with your dog and making it happen! Tips for how to achieve a loose lead walk with your canine friend Whilst on your daily lead walk, look for opportunities where the lead is loose. You want your dog to the feel and experience the pleasure of a tension-free loose lead. Any time this occurs naturally, reward (treat, pat etc.) and praise him. Any time your dog is standing quietly with a loose lead, treat and praise for the loose lead. If the lead tightens at any time, call your dog’s name. When he turns and moves toward you, loosening the lead, treat and praise him. You are teaching him that a loose lead equals lots of reward and praise. He is learning that a loose lead is more comfortable for both of you. If you have a back garden or a fenced area, this would be an ideal starting place where there are minimal distractions. Before starting any training'(especially if you have a young or high energy dog) make sure your dog has had some exercise, a chance to burn off some of his stored up energy by walking him or playing fetch. Eventually, a few weeks after you have practised daily, the moment your dog feels a little tension on the lead, he will automatically stop, or hesitate, adjusting his pace, and look at you.
If your dog doesn’t look at you when you stop, gently apply some pressure to the lead and step backwards. This is not a forceful tug but an encouraging ‘lead’ with clear expectations. When he looks at you, praise/treat and get moving in a forward direction, keeping the lead loose. Repeating this process PATIENTLY is the only way to work with your dog until it he has complete understanding of what you are expecting. Gradually you can develop longer eye contact, and the dog coming in to you automatically. The first time it happens, you will feel the ultimate joy and pay-off’ for your commitment and effort – it’s an amazing feeling so stick with it. Timely rewarding: when starting to work on a new behaviour with your dog, in the beginning you want to reward for any ‘near behaviour’; a small step toward the ultimate behaviour.
Once the desired behaviour is becoming more consistent and automatic, then start to reduce the number of treats and move to your usual, more natural, praise/reward process. You can also draw out the time between when the behaviour occurs and when it gets rewarded. Again, watch for your dog’s body language and behaviours. If he is not getting it, pull out and do a different activity with him then try again. You don’t want to get to the point where you are frustrated either. Remember: always finish any activity, be it your walk, a game, some training etc., on a positive note. This is the key to building a continuous, positive relationship with your dog – the ending of one session is the foundation and beginning of the next.
To summarise: Dog pulls You stop Dog looks at you, praise and treat. If dog doesn’t look at you, back up gently. Praise and treat when dog begins looks at you. Reward consistently for near behaviours – any time your dog gives you attention. Dog comes towards you, further loosen the lead, praise and treat. Continue enjoying your walk, repeating the above steps the moment there is any tension on the lead. Once you have a well-trained dog able to walk keeping the lead loose, you will always need to be ready to react to a short lead position with the changing circumstances of your daily walks. Anyone who just walks along with even a well-trained dog keeping the lead tight is telling the dog a tight lead is wanted. This is definitely not the message you want to be giving. The reason dogs can learn to walk on a loose lead, in one to two weeks, is that it really wasn’t a dog problem in the first place. Once we learn how to handle the lead correctly, the dog is happy, more comfortable and wanting to walk in partnership with you. Puppies can learn this skill right after they learn to walk on a lead…… unfortunately, it takes humans a little while longer! Now that you have established a good on and off lead walking partnership with your dog, it’s time to have a go at some off-lead walking. Are you and your canine friend ready to off-lead walk? Try this: ask your dog to walk behind you (to the heel) off the lead. If your dog is ready to heel next to without the need for a lead to guide him, you and your dog a ready to explore off-lead walking. A truly happy, balanced canine will walk beside you without being asked. If this is not yet possible, keep working on and secure the lead and loose lead walk and gradually introduce off-lead walking. One way to get started with off-lead walking is to use a twelve to fifteen-foot lead (not a retractable lead. This is a lightweight piece of rope which you can buy at pet shops or from hardware and camping stores.). For smaller or toy breeds, you could use a rope or something that is not to heavy for them to drag freely. As with all training, if your dog responds well to treats, have them at the ready. For the initial stages, find an area with minimal distractions. The more activity that is going on around you and your dog, the harder it will be for you and your dog to focus on the new behaviour. You want to create a situation that limits the chances of you becoming frustrated, possibly opting for too many corrections rather than staying calm, treat and praise. As with any training, the less there is going on when you first start learning any new behaviours or desired manners, the better for the dog. Your dog will be encouraged to focus on you.
Now you have the right conditions and tools, place the long lead on your dog and start walking. The long line just trails along behind your dog (he will forget it is there after a while), he will feel that he has complete freedom, but in reality you can catch him whenever you please. Please note that the trailing long line is not used to reel your dog in it’s there as a precautionary measure to stop your dog running away from you. It’s very hard for any dog to outrun you with the trailing lead clipped on (this shouldn’t happen if you are focused and in the right environment). If your dog goes in one direction, you walk in the opposite direction and SAY NOTHING. You need to TURN OFF. You do not want to follow the dog as this puts him in charge of the walk and in charge of you. When you feel the lead go taught, stop and walk toward the dog. If he starts to walk away, silently go in another direction. When you come up to the dog or the dog decides to follow you and gets right where you want him, TURN ON, pay attention to him, give some treats and change direction. If the dog follows you, give lots of attention to him. The moment he starts to walk away, turn off and get boring. If the dog walks up to you or even accidentally hits the spot you want him in (like he is just walking past you), turn on, give treats, talk to him happily and get fun. When he turns away, turn off. If your dog walks away from you, purposefully change direction. If you feel the lead get taught, turn and walk toward the dog. What you are doing is using the dog’s natural desire for fun things to teach him fun and good happens when he is walking next to you. When he walks away, things get boring.He has the length of the lead to decide to walk away or return to you before it gets tight (he self-corrects when he makes the right decision, your turning toward him gives him a chance to make a decision that will get him something good). When you and your dog are good at this, with limited distractions, gradually increase the distractions. Remember, the more distractions, the harder you have to work to be more interesting than the rest of the world. This method can take a lot of time and patience, so be prepared to spend the entire time you’ve allotted for your walk going only a short distance. When teaching and learning new behaviours, always start in a low-distraction environment. When you increase the level of distraction, be prepared for the performance to backslide a little- this is completely normal. Keep trying at that level of distraction. If your dog’s response doesn’t improve, try lowering the distraction level. The dog learns that when he is near you, good things happen.
When he is away, you give him zero attention and look away. He gets nothing. Most dogs love attention and will do what they need to in order to get it. Practice this on long leads and your regular lead (regardless of the leash length, the concept is the same).If your dog starts pulling, turn off, walk in the other direction and turn on only when he is where you want him. Now, once you have established the desired behaviour, it’s time to try it long- lead free. One technique you will need to secure for complete off lead walking is the recall. Yes, there is a wealth of information out there but a good way to get hands on, see it physically happening in the real (eventually with your dog), in a supportive environment and with a trained expert, is to attend weekly Life-Skill Classes. Here is a brief explanation of how to gain a reliable recall with your dog: The recall is probably the most important command you will teach your dog. Having your dog come to you consistently every time you call, regardless of what distractions are around him, could very well be a lifesaving skill. For certain breeds that love to chase or have a strong scent drive the come recall command actually works against their natural instincts. Your dog may believe that following the scent trail of a squirrel or continuing to romp around with other dogs at the park is more appealing than coming back to you. This is your competition if you like! The best way to build a reliable recall is to remain confident, calm, be persistent and practise using lots of praise and treats. Remember: Young puppies love to follow you around and often bound up to you with great delight – use this to your advantage. At this early stage all you need to do is make it clear to your puppy that you are happy to see him each time he comes to you. Make it a very pleasant and rewarding experience, every time. Always call your dog with a happy, enthusiastic voice and a smile on your face. Never grumble or growl your recall command. The dog might think you’re upset and not want to come – would you? NEVER call your dog to you for anything that he would perceive as unpleasant.
Coming to you must always be a very positive and rewarding experience your dog. If coming to you results in something unpleasant, your dog may not want to come to you in the future. Always think in terms of what would be unpleasant in your dog’s eyes. Maybe your dog has responded well to your command in the past but was inadvertently punished for his good behaviour. This could mean that you called him over then immediately locked him in a crate, or roughly plunged him into a soapy bath or clipped his nails.(which he hates!). The next step is to introduce the verbal “come” command so that your dog connects its use with the act of coming to you. Start inside your home with no distractions around, squat down or kneel, then in a welcoming voice say come. You could show the tasty treat you have in your hand to lure your dog over if necessary (the smellier the better!). When your puppy (or older dog) gets to you, immediately praise and reward his effort. Repeat this exercise many times throughout the day to reinforce the connection. ALWAYS be consistent and use the same recall word when you call your dog. Either dogs name, COME or dogs name, HERE.
Example: Rover, come or Spot, here. By using their name first, you get their attention and have a better chance of them coming to you. The name alone is not a recall. Their name is used only to get their attention. Only teach your dog to recall when you have control of the outcome. Either have the dog on a long lead or in an enclosed area where he is safe and you can confidently get him back if he doesn’t come. He MUST come to you EVERY TIME you call him. Be patient and wait – don’t give up. You are in control, not your dog. In the initial stages, when your dog is not on a lead, only call him to you if you are 99.9% sure that he will come to you. If he doesn’t come, you will be teaching him that coming to you is an option. Remember to Praise and TREAT him when he does come to you, every time. For absolutely reliable recalls, ALWAYS greet him when he gets to you with a & quote; GOOD COME, praising and petting and a TREAT. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Make the treats his most favourite. You want him to WANT to come to you. This is not about doing it because I say so & quote;, it’s about doing it because I want you to come every time and I’ll do whatever it takes to get you to want to come every time I call. It’s a safety thing – a lifesaving skill. If possible, get someone else there to help so you can introduce the back and forth game. Position yourself at one side of the room and your helper on the other side. Call your dog over dog’s name come (only once, but you can encourage him over), then reward when he arrives. Next your helper calls him over and rewards him when he arrives. This game is a lot of fun for your dog and teaches him to respect the come command from a person other than yourself. You can extend this exercise into a game of hide and seek by going into a different room to your partner, call your dog and let him find you. Make sure you make it worth his while when he does find you – most dogs, like children, love this game. Now you are confident your dog understands and is responding quickly to your come command, you can practise it in different environments and situations. Put your dog on his lead and head out for your walk. Once some of your dog’s energy has been used, take off his lead and walk. Don’t let your dog wonder aimlessly, keep him close. Call him dog using the same come command and walk backwards, when he comes close to you give him lots of praise/a treat and a pat. Practice this at various stages throughout your normal walk. Don’t forget, it’s about focusing on when he gets it right (not punishing him or becoming frustrated when he gets it wrong – he’s learning – make it positive): always praise your dog’s good work!