Doggy Dan’s Ultimate Guide to Leash Training
Providing dogs with routine daily exercise is an incredibly important part of caring for a canine.
Because excess energy can quickly lead to your dog turning to naughty behaviors like chewing furniture and getting into the rubbish bin.
This is even true for all dogs–including well trained dogs. And poor obedience due to a lack of exercise is no fun for anyone.
Here’s the bottom line…
Your dog doesn’t have street smarts, so he can’t take himself on a walk alone. He also doesn’t have thumbs so going out back for a game of “chase the ball” isn’t possible.
That means it’s up to you to provide an outlet for your pup before he decides to release his built up energy on tearing your new sofa in half.
Thankfully, all most dog’s need to get rid of the “ants in their pants” is a nice walk around the block each day.
Yet, while a lap or two around a neighbor to burn your dog’s excess energy seems simple, I’ve come in contact with far too many people who avoid walking their dog like the plague.
It’s not that these people don’t want to walk their dog. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
The biggest reason people don’t take the time to walk their dogs is because they feel as though they can’t safely walk their dogs.
Between pulling on the leash, dog aggression, and poor leash manners I now exactly the challenges people–perhaps even you–may face on a daily basis.
The bad news…challenging leash behavior is a problem many dog owners struggle with on a daily basis.
The good news…every dog, no matter his problem, can overcome his challenges with bad leash manners.
The best news…I’ve put together the guide to leash training below that addresses common dog walking behavior problems and provides you with solutions to make a walk around you block and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog.
Let’s start with the basics…
How to Walk a Dog
Walking the walk…
Walks are one of the most exciting things in many dog’s lives. So, it is understandable to expect a bit of excitement when they see you grab the lead.
But, a walk is actually so much more than a stroll along the road, and to staying in control of the whole process is an extremely important part of managing your dog’s overall behaviour.
It may sound a bit over the top to be so serious about such a fun activity for both the dog and owner but, as usual, a few simple things can make so such difference to your dog’s obedience level.
You’re in charge…
Or at least you should be.
How to walk a dog is really up to you.
The reward of off leash should come after some structure. So, don’t let your dog decide when the walk is to take place because you need to stay in control from the very start in the dog’s mind.
Put his collar on and your walking shoes, then perhaps just relax for a few minutes until your dog is calm, then attach the leash making sure the dog’s excitement has practically disappeared, before heading out.
Become a Jedi master of chill…
Try your best to not hype up your pooch with promises of ‘walkies, walkies’ (yes I know it’s the highlight of your day!).
Starting the walk with a calm attitude will again lead to a far more enjoyable experience in the long run.
Many of us have our dogs running the show from the word go, dragging us out the door, and charging down the driveway. By this point your friend at the other end of the leash has made all the decisions, all the while taking no notice of you.
Dogs are so logical and very clever at understanding who is deciding what happens and when. So, if they are bringing you their lead and pushing you out the door, then they are in charge.
But, if you choose when it’s time to go out, and only put their lead on when they are relaxed and chilled, they soon figure out that that’s how walks will actually begin.
Make sure it ends well…
Finishing the walk is also an important part of the process. It should always end calmly and positively. The walk isn’t always an instant fix – with some dogs it’s something that you have to chip away at but with time.
But, if you walk the dog calmly from the start they will simply understand that this is how it has to be and they will stop pulling you around the block.
Keeping these tips in mind when you prepare for a walk is a good place to start. To read get a few more tips, I encourage you to read the blog I originally wrote on this topic.
Once you’ve got the basics covered, it’s important to think about the things that you might encounter while on a walk, such as another dog.
If your dog is friendly, there’s no harm in allowing him to meet a new friend while you’re out walking. After all, dogs are a very social creatures and most enjoy interacting with other canines.
You do, however, have to be careful about how you introduce your pup to a strange dog. If rushed, a friendly introduction can quickly turn into a nightmare .
Here’s what I recommend…
How to Introduce Dogs on a Walk Correctly
So often, greeting another dog on a lead becomes a total disaster, with both owners apologising for their dog’s behaviour and neither dog enjoying the experience.
Neither owner is sure what the correct meet and greet procedure is, or the what the right thing to say is, and we become too involved in what should be a purely dog affair.
So I have put this video together so that you have a few key pointers up your sleeve for next time you.
Watch the video now…
I’ve also got 5 important tips that I’ve written out for you. Check them out on my How to introduce dogs on a walk correctly blog.
Now this brings us to the million dollar question… “What if my dog becomes too excited or aggressive during a greeting?
Here’s my answer…
Excited And Aggressive Dog Greetings
There are 3 main solutions to manage an aggressive or excited dog greeting…
- Walk away – if your dog is way too excited
- Let them meet – if your dog is calmer than usual and not being aggressive
- Calm your dog down, then make a decision – this is where the training comes in!
It may sound a bit obvious but having those three options clear in your mind will give you some immediate direction as you approach a dog. Knowing what your options are helps you to select the right one which in turn will help you to achieve your goal.
The real key to success is knowing how to calm your dog down. To help give you a better understanding of how to do that, I’ve put together a podcast for you where I talk about….
- Practical tools and techniques – some of the methods that I use everyday for calming your dog down that are especially useful on the walk and at the park
- How being the pack leader at home will result in a completely different dog at the park (calmer!)
- The trick of calming an over excited dog and what you are trying to achieve when you are training them to be calm. (this is a very subtle point but is crucial for success and often overlooked.)
Take a listen!
If you’ve tried everything I’ve recommend so far without any success, don’t worry. The first thing I want you to know is that leash training takes time. It’s not a skill that every dog picks up with one day of practice.
Second, I have a few more suggestions I want to offer to you to help make your dog walking experience less dangerous that I truly believe will help.
Here we go…
When the walk becomes dangerous…
Taking your dog for a walk is supposed to be one of those pleasant experiences; relaxing, enjoyable and memorable. However for many people it’s memorable for all the wrong reasons!
There’s nothing worse than being dragged down the street, pulled off your feet, arm yanked out of its socket, damaged wrists and a lot of stress.
It can actually be quite frustrating to see other dog owners with their dogs walking nicely beside them off leash!
One lady I worked with told me about her how she had just bought a coffee to enjoy whilst walking her two black Labradors, when they spotted another dog and charged towards it.
She ended up clinging to a lamppost, arms and legs wrapped around it, coffee in one hand and two dogs in the other!
That was the final straw… She called me for help as soon as she made it home.
So, how do you go from this crazy situation where your dog is out of control from the very start to having a nice calm walk?
You have to start right at the beginning.
Before you continue reading, I encourage you to take a listen to the following podcast. Then, continue on to check out a few of the process’s that I recommend…
Taking the top off the dog’s energy first
In maybe 1-in-20 difficult dogs who pull on the lead, I will apply this method of draining some of the dog’s energy before attempting to get them under control. Many of these dogs have not been for a walk for a long time as it’s become too stressful and dangerous for the owners, the dog and the public.
The approach I explain in the podcast is simple but it needs to be done correctly or you’ll get nowhere fast because it’s very subtle, and it’s easy to miss the whole point. Here’s the general idea of what we’re doing.
The Standard Approach
Let me first summarize the standard approach to calming your dog down before the walk.
Usually when we’re training our dogs to stay calm and walk nicely on the leash, we only continue with the walk if your dog is calm. So, we would only progress through the door if your dog has calmed down to a reasonable level.
Then we would only progress down the garden path if your dog is still calm. Simple enough?
To see exactly how to do this and get your walk off to a good start watch this video…
However, with a very small number of dogs, this is never going to happen!
Some dogs are just so super-charged up, due to their age, character, lack of exercise, breed, situation and many other factors, that it’s almost impossible for them to calm down before we take the top off their energy.
Breaking Old Habits and Creating New Ones
This approach looks at taking them for a good run at the park. The clever and very subtle part is how we take advantage of our tired out dog when we return home and immediately put in place some brand new habits!
Breaking old habits and forming new ones, new associations and new ways of behaving is half the battle. Once you get started it’s so much easier to keep improving.
I encourage you to keep my blog post, Leash training – When Your Dog is Too Excited to Walk somewhere where you can easy come back and access it. When you are consistent with the methods I explained from that post, you will find success.
To wrap up my thoughts on leash training, I wanted to talk about a bizarre but common problem I’ve noticed in several dogs I’ve worked with…leash biting/chewing.
How to Stop Your Dog From Chewing the Leash
Before we being, take a quick look at this video of a dog named Ruby.
As you can see, as soon as the lead came out, even in the back garden, little Ruby would go pretty crazy. Pulling and yanking and mouthing and chewing the lead.
She is a small dog but she could still pull pretty strong and was very tenacious. She didn’t give up, even on long walk, she’d keep pulling all the way down the road and across the street. She’d be dragging you here, dragging you there.
And she just wouldn’t stop. Pull, pull, pull. Chew, chew, chew. It was a nightmare.
Let me show you a simple way of correcting this behavior. As always, the key to everything was gaining Ruby’s trust and respect. And, I did that through implementing and putting in place the Five Golden Rules.
Now here’s the little trick that helped me establish more respect on the walk.
One very simple way of getting her to change her behavior was to put a little chain through her collar, so that the first part of her leash is now a chain. But, she still had a soft little fabric collar on.
Now, Ruby was still free to jump up and chew the chain if she wanted to. It was totally her choice. There was no shouting or pulling on the lead from me. We just let her change her behavior of her own free will.
At the start she had a look, thinking “I’ll try and jump up and get the lead.” She had one good jump but couldn’t reach it and then said, “Fine.” It’ was as quick as that. Now, she’s a changed dog. She’s doesn’t bother chewing the chain anymore. She just walks nice and sensibly.
As you can see, very soon she was walking perfectly by my side. Happy to walk behind me, very loose lead and she wasn’t chewing it. And,even on the way back home, still a very loose leash – and remember this is outside – we’re not in the garden anymore.
There are far more distractions, but she was perfect.
I Wish You a Lifetime of Enjoyable Walks
There you have it…a complete guide to help you successfully leash train your dog so you can enjoy calm and relaxing walks with your dog.
I really hope you’ll give my methods a try. As I said before, any type of training–including leash training–takes time. But when you’re persistent, I promise that the hard work will pay off.
For additional tools, tips, and resources on everything from potty training to dog aggression, I invite you to check out the rest of my blog.
~Doggy Dan 🙂