One of the biggest benefits to a proper walk is practicing the leader/follower relationship with your dog. You should always be in front on the walks because whoever is out in front is in charge and the best way to practice this is one step at a time.
Mastering the walk is one of the most important parts of leadership training so take your time, be patient and don’t rush the process. If you are dealing with aggression you must master the walk so I suggest practicing in an area that has no distractions.
One of the things that hinders many of my clients is their state of mind. By the time I arrive they are quite nervous, tense, embarrassed or a bit out of control over their dogs behaviors on a leash. These emotions communicate to the dog that the human is out of control so the dog takes charge.
so take your time and be mindful of how you feel.
Every couple of minutes I want you to stop, take 3-4 deep breaths, shake out your arms, hands and shoulders, lift your head high and continue. A good walk is all about confidence without tension so fake it for a while by keeping your head high and shoulders back - your mind will soon catch up.
Leash Tips to Stop Pulling
- 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. 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.
- Don't add to the excitement with an excited voice by asking them if they want to go on a walk. They do.
- If your walk starts at a doorway it's vital that you go out the door first.
- I practice claiming the space of the doorway by facing the dogs and stepping forwards towards them to get them to back away from the door. Then I wait for them to calm. I don't care if the dog is sitting, standing or laying down - I want the dog relaxed and I only want them to walk across the doorway after you have walked through - then they must follow slowly and calmly. If they rush through you need to start over.
- If you only have 45 minutes and it takes 40 minutes to properly get out the door thats okay. 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, confident walk. Take a few deep breaths, shake out any tension in your hands, arms and shoulders and picture what you want.
- Head up, shoulders back with a short, loose leash.
- Most likely your dog will rush out in front of you if that is what they normally do. Take a step and as the dog moves past your leg you need to give a slight "snap" of the leash that is to the side or straight up (never pull back) and then pause for 1-2 seconds.
- If the dog is out in front you need to take a couple of steps back to get the dog back by your side and repeat the previous step until the dog stays by your side.
- As the dog starts to figure things out and they stay by your side you can start walking and taking more steps. This is their reward for following.
- 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.
Tools for the walk
- The Halti, Holt and Walk n Train are all the same tool sold under different names and they work great for big dogs, strong dogs and aggressive dogs. I do not suggest the Gentle Leader.
- No pull harnesses can work good on smaller dogs and/or dogs who mildly pull. It is not a good tool for reactive or over excitable dogs.
- Bike tow leash is a great tool to ride a bike with dogs. Highly reccommended and can be found at biketowleash.com.
- Dogs must come to you and the tools you use so its okay to use food to create a positive association at first. Hold the tool in one hand and when they come to you and the tool you can let them smell it and then treat them.
- Its not uncommon for dogs to fight the head collars so take your time and only remove the tool when they are calm.
- Try using a back pack to challenge the dog by giving them a job. Fill it with 3-10lbs of sand and unload it at the end of the walk and give some affection. Dogs love to work and if we give them a purpose we can better fulfill their minds. Check out REI.com for good packs.
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).