Have you ever heard the Mark Twain quote that “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog”? This quote is so true, especially for small dogs! Even though my family adopted a mixed breed dog that weighed all of eight pounds soaking wet, walking him on a leash was a nightmare.
Honestly, you’d have thought he was a Great Dane judging by the way he tried leading us through the park. Each time we snapped the leash to his collar, the little pug-nosed pooch would lunge forward wheezing with the effort of dragging us along. One brief moment of distraction resulted in his jerking the leash out of the hand that held it freeing him to run off across the park where he’d cause chaos for sports teams, bark at food truck vendors, or just dart precariously close to traffic on the busy street that ran parallel to the parking area.
It was quite clear that our dog was in need of some manners. Social graces for dogs who walk on leashes aren’t just good manners, though. It’s also safer – not to mention legal, if your community is like mine and is willing to enforce the leash law. Whether you are using a halter or a collar for your dog, leash training is easier than you’d think and an essential part of dog ownership. Here are some tips for successfully teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash, regardless of the setting.
- Accessorize Appropriately – Many puppies don’t wear a collar until their new owners put one on them for the first time. Give your dog time to get used to the idea of wearing a collar or halter before introducing the leash for a full-fledged walk outside. If your dog is a large breed that pulls, use something like the over-the-mouth halter or some other restraint that discourages pulling without harming your dog.
- Positive reinforcement – This cannot be stressed enough – food is the most effective treat you can use in reinforcing your dog to repeat positive behavior. When your dog walks alongside you, ignores distractions like cats, other dogs, or people, and resists jumping up, reward him with a treat. What worked best for our dog was small liver-flavored bites about the size of a breath mint.
- Start Small and Build Up – At first, you might only be able to walk to the end of the driveway and back and that’s fine. No dog should be expected to tolerate wearing a collar or halter attached to a leash for a full walk its first time out. Even if you have a sport dog fence to contain your dog in the backyard, that’s the perfect place to begin leash training.
- Replace Edibles with Affection – Once your dog gets the hang of a command, only reward with food every other time, and then every third time, and then intermittently until he’s performing the command (such as heel, sit, or stay) while out walking on a leash without needing more than a few gentle words of encouragement from his human.
- Work Up to Full Crowds – Once you graduate from the backyard or driveway to successfully walking around the block, try visiting the park on a day when you know it’s not crowded. Once you’ve mastered that, visit on a day when it has a moderate amount of humans with their dogs. Eventually you can build up to taking your dog into a full throng of people with or without their own pets and know your dog will practice perfect leash etiquette.
When to Call in the Professionals
Sometimes you follow every rule in the book and it still doesn’t work. When you get to this point, then it’s time to seek professional advice. While you probably won’t have to resort to anything as extreme as hiring the Dog Whisperer, you could probably benefit from attending a few basic obedience classes with your pooch. Sometimes, your dog just needs to see other dogs doing it before he gets the hint.
Obedience classes can also be a way to build trust between you and your dog. It will teach you the most effective way to give commands, and encourage your pet to obey them. When done properly with rules and guidelines that are followed consistently on every single trip out the door, your dog can achieve leash etiquette that will be the talk of the town.
About the Author:
Freelancer Sophie Evans is also a wife and a mother of two human children and one canine who she affectionately calls her “fur-baby”. Because it weighs less than ten pounds, the dog often travels with her family whether she’s using the car to get a latte at the Starbucks drive-up window or taking an evening stroll around the block. Her family spends a lot of time in the backyard, which is why they checked reviews on pet containment systems featured on www.doggyfence.com before buying a wireless fence to contain their own pooch. A huge fan of Disneyland, Sophie’s favorite Disney cartoons are the ones that feature dogs including 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp.