Everyday for the last few weeks I have been watching this guy walk down the street with his dog as they pass my house. I am fairly certain the dog is a German Shepard Cross, so lets say that he is on the small side of large as far as size goes. He is not a young dog, and would definitely be over 2 years old.
As I am watching this man and his dog I notice 2 things, that the dog is pulling and that the man is pulling also. In fact every 2 to 3 steps this dog is getting a correction, heavy enough to move the dog back half a step. Step, step, yank, step, step, yank, step, step, yank. Neither of them look to be having the best time.
In training, we are looking for progress - either increasing a behaviour that we want to see or decreasing a behaviour that we don't want to see - so when I see people interacting with their dog like this guy across the street, there is only one question I want to ask - "so how is that working out for you?"
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, so I wonder how many other people walk along with their dog in this fashion of almost robotic pulling and yanking - regardless of the lack of change in their dogs behaviour? The dog is still pulling, so what is it that the owner is trying to achieve and why don't they notice that`what they are doing just isn't working?
There is no doubt that a dog pulling on a lead is a dog owners pet peeve, we all would like to go on a walk with our dog, and for our arms to be safely in their sockets when we arrive back home. What we need to do as dog owners is firstly recognise that there is only one party on the lead that has an inkling of what a leash walk is suppose to look like (that is the 2 legged party not the 4 legged party by the way), and that to see a change in the behaviour of your dog we need to focus on what we do want not what we don't want.
This means instead of starting your training saying "I don't want my dog to pull on the lead", say what you want in a way that gives you a viable target (this means what you want not what you don't want). In this case - "I want my dog to walk politely on the lead". So now we have that goal in mind we can paint a picture of what that looks like in our head.
The lead should hang in a "j" shape, we should feel relaxed across the shoulders and the dog should have an element of attentiveness - this means regardless of whether the dog is ahead or next to you, every now and then they should look at you to ensure that you are still there.
To make this picture a reality takes training - very few dogs walk politely on a lead without some work first, for both the owner and the dog. Here are some tips to make your walk with your dog a breeze:
1. If your dog is pulling stop walking immediately, wait for the dog to slacken the lead and start walking again - you can turn around and go in the opposite direction or keep going straight, but the act of stopping gives your dog feed back that this tension stops the walk.
2. Begin to reward your dog with food for checking in with you.
3. Start walking training in your back-yard, once you are comfortable and successful move to the front yard and practice there - before increasing your range.
4. Take your time to get walking right, be consistent, reward good behaviour and you will have your dog walking politely in a few short weeks. Practising walking in a small space for 30 mins is just as good as going for a 30 minute walk, and will be better in the long run.
5. If your dog is excited before you leave, they are not going to relax during the walk. For these dogs we practice hanging out and relaxing before going for a walk.
Going for a walk with your dog should be pleasurable for both of you - if it isn't, start focusing on polite walking on lead, it just might change your dog for the better.