Loose Lead Walking

Along with good food, attention and play, regular exercise is essential for your dog’s mental and physical well being. Your dog needs at least one walk a day to maintain fitness and keep him mentally stimulated. Our dogs spend their lives within the confines of our home and garden – to them an un-stimulating environment. If we don’t allow them the opportunity to escape their four walls – they are likely to suffer from cabin fever! Many behavioural problems like excessive barking and digging improve without intervention once the dog starts to receive adequate exercise. Your behaviourist, trainer and vet have probably all been nagging you about exercising your dog but I do understand that it is no fun to be dragged down the road, having your arm pulled out of it’s socket!  With a bit of work, you can easily teach your dog not to pull on the lead, making walks a pleasure. (Then you’ll have no excuse for not taking your dog out daily!) There are a few options available to you to stop your dog pulling on the lead.
  •  Option one is to get your dog booked in for some obedience classes. Here he will learn to walk at heel – and in so doing – not pull on the lead.
  • Option two is to invest in a good “no-pull” body harness like a Walkrite. This is not to be confused with a regular body harness available at the pet shop which promotes pulling  – hence it’s use whenever effective pulling is required like on sled dogs and cart horses. The Walkrite looks similar to a regular harness but has 2 straps, which are attached to the front of a purpose made soft collar. The straps go under your dogs front legs and run though rings at the back of the collar, attaching to your lead on his back. The straps tighten as your dog pulls making pulling uncomfortable.
  •  Option three is to purchase a head collar or “Halti” which works on the same principal as a horse halter (i.e. where the head goes, the body will follow). The head collar is also a good bet if your dog lunges when on the lead. You’ll find the head collar discourages pulling as your dog in unable to put his full strength into the pull. They take a bit of getting used to for you AND your dog but once you have both got over the shock – they are great! When using a head collar you will not need to rely on correction to keep your dog with you.
  Along with whichever option you feel is right for your dog it would be worthwhile to put some time into teaching your dog to walk on a loose lead. Here’s how… This takes some discipline, not for the dog but for you! You must commit to never following your dog when he is pulling on the lead, not ever. Dogs pull on the lead because they want to get somewhere, when we follow them; we are rewarding the pulling. What the dog needs to learn is that the “accelerator” to move forward is a loose lead and the “break” is a tight one! Attach a soft lead to your dog’s collar, head collar or harness. Take a step forward, if the lead remains loose; keep walking, if it tightens, immediately stand still. Do not jerk the lead or speak to your dog, just stand there. Wait until the lead loosens, this might take a while depending on your dog’s temperament. As soon as you feel the lead slacken, step forward again. If the lead tightens, stand still again. Keep moving only while the lead is slack, stopping immediately when the lead tightens. Your first walk might be a total of 2 metres. That’s fine. It’s 2 metres of no pulling! Continue this exercise daily. Finish off each session with a treat or a game with your dog (on the lead). Remember no correction, no shouting and no jerking on the lead. Stand like a statue while your dog makes up his own mind not to pull. Take your dog out for a training session at least once a day. Don’t worry if you don’t actually get anywhere. To the corner and back will do. The end result will be a dog who can be walked anywhere easily on the lead. He might lose out on exercise for a week or two while he learns the new rules but he’ll benefit in the long run.  While working on this programme it is essential that you are 100% consistent. Your dog will soon learn that he holds the key to making walks happen.  Happy Walking

2 Responses to “Loose Lead Walking”

  • Ron Dell says:

    Pls tell me where I can purchase a Mikki Walkrite anti-pull harness for a medium sized dog (cocker spaniel).
    The Takealot site list the product but says it is not currently available to order.
    Your suggestion to use one is the answer to our issues. WE are grateful for the suggestion. However we alpear to be a bit stymied in getting the silly thing.
    Hope you can help.

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