Walking your dog every day is essential to their health. Your pooch is always bound to savour every precious second of their much-anticipated walkies, but sometimes the daily plod can feel more like a chore than a pleasure. The best way to make your dog walking time pleasurable for both of you is to ensure you’re doing it correctly. It’s not just the amount of walking that matters, but the quality too. A few simple steps to stop your pooch from pulling on its lead can make a world of difference to your enjoyment, especially if your pet is a large and strong breed.
Some people say that pulling on the lead is simply a sign of enthusiasm and shouldn’t be discouraged. What it really means is that the only control you have over your pet is by physically restraining them. You’re not walking them, they’re walking you. This, of course, gives off all the wrong signals to your pooch. By allowing them to be in charge of your dog walking sessions, you’re effectively making them the boss, when it should be you instead. This not only makes walking more stressful, but can make it harder to control your dog when they encounter other animals or receive attention from strangers.
As with all forms of dog training, it’s best to teach your pup the correct way to walk as early as you can. On the other hand, even if you’ve been allowing them to drag you around for years it’s still not too late to teach them. First, you’ll need to teach your dog to sit correctly. This is one of the most common behaviour commands that you’ve hopefully already taught them. If your dog is still a puppy, however, we have a handy guide to help you along the way. Once you’ve mastered the sit manoeuvre, it’s time they learned to heel. The most important aspect of this training is rewarding positive behaviour, not punishing bad.
You’ll need some treats for this. If you’re training your dog from scratch, you’ll want to start off by rewarding them just for walking with you. Don’t pull on the lead to make them walk as you’ll be teaching them bad habits that they may well imitate. Instead, use the treat as a lure to make them walk in time beside you. Don’t tease them with it too much, though–you’ll actually have to give them some treats to keep their motivation up. Once they’ve mastered the act of walking with you it’s time they learned to walk to heel.
If they pull on the lead, you need to stand still and call them over to you to sit. As such, it’s best to do this training when you’re not in a hurry to go anywhere. You need to be consistent: every time they pull, you stand still and call them over. What you’re doing is teaching them that pulling on the lead means they end up standing still. When they’re walking beside you without any pressure on the lead, say “heel” and give them a treat and they’ll soon understand the verbal command. If they’re dragging behind you, don’t pull or tug them along–after all, you don’t like it when they do it to you. Encourage them with praise and even lure them with treats and make sure you’re walking somewhere calm where they feel comfortable.