Teaching a dog how to behave on a walk is very much like teaching them manners in the house. You have to set rules and boundaries that you enforce calmly and consistently each and every walk. The most important rule is where your dog is placed during the walk. If your dog pulls or is out in front then you area follower and can’t make rules for him. Keeping your dog next to or behind you makes him a follower, so you can set rules like no aggression.
There are a number of different collars and tools that are designed to help the human better control the dog. Most of them work to some degree and I have my favorites but leash control comes down to a couple of basic rules that work on every dog. If the rules are not followed I can assure you that every walk you take with your dog is reinforcing their leadership position. That makes you a follower and dogs don’t listen to followers.
Leash aggression comes from the above mentioned lack of control mixed with a weak emotion like nervousness, tension or excitement. If your dog is walking in front of you and another dog approaches it is his job to make a safety decision about the other dog. Is it safe? Is it dangerous? Now add a touch of human tension as you pull back on the leash to tell your dog “leave that dog alone,” and what you really said was “That dog is making me nervous, so do something.” Now he sees it as dangerous because he thinks you see it as dangerous. He listens to your request and barks at the dog in an attempt to chase him away. Since you don’t want your dog barking at other dogs you now try to “control” him by yanking on the leash, while adding “no” “no” “quiet” “sit” “sit” “no.” Your freak out only reinforces to your dog that other dogs make you out of control. Don’t worry mom, your dog thinks, I will keep all those scary dogs away from us. This is how we inadvertently train our dogs to be leash aggressive!
How to Walk your Dog
~Leash control starts the second you touch the leash. If your dog normally gets excited when the leash comes out you need to wait until they are calm before you put the leash on. Don't add to the excitement with your voice by asking them if they want to go on a walk. They do. You may even want to take the leashes out, set them down and go do something for a minute or two to let them calm down before hooking them up.
~If your walk starts at a doorway it's vital that you go out the door first. If you put your dog in a sit and they are zoned on something outside, that does not count. I want the dog relaxed and I only want them to walk across the doorway after you have walked through, and they follow slowly and calmly. If they rush through you need to start over.
~Don't worry about how far you will be going. If you only have 45 minutes and it takes 40 minutes to properly get out the door then there are 5 minutes left to work on the walk. The discipline involved in a new process like this is burning large amounts of mental energy so they are getting a workout that will make them tired.
~Now that you are outside you need to get yourself ready for a relaxed, controlled walk. Take a few deep breaths, shake out any tension in your hands, arms and shoulders and picture what you want. You want to lead your dog so project that in your mind. Hold your head high, pull your shoulders back and begin. A good tip is to look at the tree tops or clouds to keep your head high. Makes you look confident.
~Most likely your dog will rush out in front of you if that is what they normally do. What I want you to do, is take a step and stop. Don't yank on the leash or do anything else. All you need to do is take a step, stop, and the dog will get to the end of the leash and self correct. Now guide her back to your side, wait until she is calm, lift your head, shake out any tension, take another step and repeat.
~If you only take one step and then put her where you want her and repeat this she will start to figure out exactly what you want her to do. You must be patient and consistent for this to work.
~As she starts to figure things out and she stays by your side you can start walking and taking more steps. This is her reward for following. If her collar moves past your leg I want you to give a slight correction or snap of the leash that is perpendicular to her body or straight up. Never pull back. If she falls back behind you great, she understands. If she continues out in front you need to stop, guide her back, get her calm and continue.
~For every 15-20 minutes on the walk you should give them 5 minutes of free time for going to the bathroom and sniffing around. Its a thank you for following.
~When you return home you should pick up their water bowl, empty it out, fill it with fresh water and place it down in front of them. You are now a provider. If the water is there when they get home they just think it appears. Water is an important resource to a dog, let them know you supply it.
Teaching your dog how to properly walk with you takes time but the payoff is huge. Walks become relaxing, enjoyable and a bonding experience you will look forward to each day. The pack must journey so get out and walk your dog(s).