Does your pup hate his/her leash? Are walks becoming painful as the excitement to sniff that pole or chase that sneaky cat across the street are causing your pup to yank the leash? Many first time dog owners (even veteran dog owners) struggle with how best to keep their pup controlled while on leash. Below are some tips that have worked for us or others as we searched out the best ways to make "walkie time" enjoyable for both our pups and us.
- Positive Association: Introducing your pup to his/her leash or harness is important. Let your pup practice wearing his harness and/or leash inside and associate that wearing with play or treat time. Let your pup know that the weird thing you’re putting on him isn’t scary and that it’s associated with fun time.
- Patterns Are Key: Always put your pup on leash before going out. Knowing the routine of putting the leash or harness on before going out gets your pup used to what’s needed before he/she can hit the park or go pee. We also like to leave the leash in the same place, so our pup not only knows going out requires a leash, but also knows where to sit to wait to be leashed up!
- Who’s Leading Who: It’s fine to let your buddy take the lead… sniff that yellow snow, find the perfect stick to show off to you. What’s important, though, is to show that pulling is not okay. We recommend standing still; don’t yank on the leash, don’t yell like a crazy person (your pup will just be confused/scared). Standing still in one place and refusing to move until your pup comes back to you let’s your pup know that you’re controlling the walk and that the pulling doesn’t mean moving forward
- We’ve Got A LUNGER: Certain hyper pups like to lunge at that lawn mower, or guy in blue putting papers in your mailbox. Lunging can become extremely annoying and painful, but your pup doesn’t understand why. Maybe he/she thinks they’re protecting you, maybe the innate “alpha dog” is coming out in full force. We recommend that you be more proactive: (1) when you see a lunging trigger approaching, try to redirect your pup’s attention with a treat, or a scratch on his favorite lower-back spot, (2) introduce your pup with the target in a friendly way. Break the negative association if at all possible (“hey, that mailman isn’t so bad after all!), and (3) reward for good behavior with a little treat.
- BARK! BARK! BARK!: Barking can be a tough one. Certain people or other dogs may take barking as a sign of aggression, even though your buddy just wants to PLAY! Barking and lunging are probably the most common pain-points for owners with leashed dogs. Often times the barking is a result of under stimulated dogs (e.g., not getting enough exercise and/or socializing time). While it’s not always easiest to give your pup his daily dose of exercise, particularly for city dwellers, understanding that your pup needs an adequate amount of exercise time may help mitigate those grumpy yells. Use a similar method as when your pup is about to lunge, be proactive. Distract your pup with a treat and or happy back rub.
While treats are recommended for many parts of training, over time the dependence on the rewards will fade and your buddy will just be happy to go grab his leash and hit the trails with you. I hope these tips are helpful. Let us know what you think! And before you head out the door for a new adventure, check out our repurposed climbing rope leashes, collars and training leashes!