Leash Training Your Dog
Leash training your dog is an excellent way for you to strengthen the fact that you are the one in charge without resorting to having to prove it. You want to be able to walk your dog on a loose leash. Being able to walk your dog on a loose leash means that you and your dog can both enjoy the walk. Also, if the leash is tight, you will have a much harder time controlling your dog (unless you are the one that is making the leash tight; in which case you’re going to have a much harder time both enjoying the walk, and leash training your dog). This is an extremely important part of dog obedience training.
Dogs are experts at reading body language. So, you need to use your body to communicate with your dog that you are the one in charge while you walk your dog. Hold the thought in your mind that you are the leader, and hold your body the way a natural leader would hold her/his body. This is not about proving to your dog that you are in charge. This is about you knowing that you are in charge, and communicating that attitude to your dog. As part of your attitude, you also want to think of your dog as just an extension of your arm; wherever you go. any part of your arm also must go.
With your dog on your left side, take hold of the loop end of the leash with your right hand. Have some slack in the leash so that there is some hanging down below the dog’s neck. Grab the leash loosely with your left hand, so that the slack is maintained. A loose grip is essential in leash training as it allows you to stay relaxed, and gives you more freedom to make adjustments as you walk. You should be able to swing your arms naturally while walking your dog. This will reduce both your mental and physical stress levels, allowing you to enjoy the walk. And, the more you are relaxed about the walk, the more relaxed your dog can be, allowing it to enjoy walking your dog, while still being under your control.
It is important to keep your dog’s attention on you during leash training. By changing the direction of travel when your dog is not expecting it, you will teach your dog to pay better and better attention to you. Changing direction is also the best way to stop a dog from pulling. If your dog is unaccustomed to walking on a leash, it will probably immediately start out faster than you, and start to pull. This is where your timing becomes critical. As soon as your dog starts to get out ahead of you, and before it gets to the end of the leash, quickly back up or turn around. Timed correctly, your dog will get no chance to pull, your arms will stay relaxed, and your dog, as an extension of your arm, will be pulled into a different direction with little effort on your part. Continue to change directions every time your dog is about to pull, and it will soon learn that pulling is not an effective way to get where it wants to go.
You need to reinforce your dog for walking on a loose leash, and you need to do it a lot. This is how
I reinforce dogs during leash training:
If the dog is walking on a loose leash, and not trying to get ahead, but not really paying attention to me, I praise it heavily. I might even reach out and pat it on the shoulder. I do everything that I can to let it know that it is doing well. I do the same if the dog checks in with me by looking at me, even if it is out ahead a little farther than I would like, or off a little too far to the side. However, my objective in leash training is to have the dog mainly walking next to me, and to be checking in with me frequently. So, as soon as the dog is next to me, and it looks up at me at the same time, I tell it “Yes,” and pop it a treat, I also often give the dog a pat on the shoulder while giving it the treat. I want to make it feel that walking next to me, and paying attention to me, is the best thing ever.
Practice leash training your dog in your house, backyard, or garage, repeatedly before taking it out on a real walk. This will give your dog a chance to learn how to walk correctly on a leash without the distractions that it will encounter on a walk. Remember that learning will happen best if both you and your dog are focused on the lesson. Have a conversation with your dog, while you walk, to keep it focused on you. And, walk your dog without the distractions of cell phones and mp3 players. You need to keep your attention on your dog, not on something that is separated from you.
Leash training your dog will go a long way in teaching your dog that you are in charge. Soon, you will be able to really enjoy your walks knowing that your dog is going to walk nicely. You will then be able to notice all of the wonderful things going on in the world around you. Have fun!
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