Pet loose-lead walking
Pet loose-lead walking is very different from the “Heeling” done in dog obedience and Schutzhund classes and requires equally different training methods. A pet dog, walking informally with his owner or family on an outing, does not need to walk close to or slightly behind whoever is handling him. The dog should also enjoy the walk but not be pulling and making the walk unpleasant for the family. The nearest a pet dog gets to proper heeling is when he accompanies his master across a traffic intersection. Then he must be close to him and pay attention.
The vast majority of pet owners attend puppy socialising or puppy training classes from about 6 weeks to 6 months. Thereafter they gradually drift into a home routine that has little or no structure that applies to the dogs. Their children have to attend school for many years but they do not think it’s necessary to train their dogs any further. Perhaps some dogs still have to sit and wait for their food each evening. That’s about all the training they get.
However, most dog owners are very conscientious about taking their dogs for their daily walk – something they do not want to miss even if the walk is not all that pleasant for them. Suddenly they demand structure from their dogs. They insist that the dog walks on their left side and there is no pulling – with little success. With an absence of consistent structure or rules in the house the poor dog has nothing to follow through on what will help him to suddenly obey his master.
To a dog, going out of the property is like going on a “hunt” but now it’s not a dog pack he is in but a human pack. The dog wants to give direction to the hunt and moves swiftly ahead and the only reason that he is pulling on the leash is because his owner is not fast enough.
Walking on a loose leash requires more leash pressure than usual. But owners are inconsistent – allowing the dog to pull for 5 minutes and then they suddenly want to correct him. They are also not dog trainers; they walk and chat with their friends and generally do not apply loose-lead walking rules. In any case, walking is exercise for humans. Running and play is exercise for dogs.
I walk with my dog and the leash goes tight. The dog knows it is tighter because he can feel it. I stop and apply firm leash pressure to get him to back up and only when he gets next to me does the walk continue. Mostly the dog has to turn around and go back to the waiting owner. This is not a nice way to enjoy a walk – to stop/ start every few steps and the dog will also hate the interruptions.
Backup training for loose-leash walking
Backup training is best started indoors or in a place without distractions. Do backup exercises with the two of you walking backwards next to a wall. Start with very short distances and use leash pressure to get your dog to easily walk backwards with you. Keep the leash at dog’s head height otherwise he will want to sit and not walk backwards.
Repeat many times until your dog readily moves backwards at the slightest leash pressure.
“Easy” “Slowly” “Wait”
Next, start walking forwards and stop as soon as he moves slightly ahead say, “Easy” (or words of your choice) and apply leash pressure to get him to stop and apply more pressure to get him to walk backwards to be beside you again. Now the dog must do backups on his own. Repeat a number of times before allowing him to go further ahead before stopping him.
When you walk again and the leash goes tight, say “Easy” and stop. The dog backs up and you walk again. Soon the dog begins to understand the voice command; “Easy” and the leash pressure that follows the cue word become connected.
“Easy” is a cue word to enable the dog to avoid the leash pressure by stopping to pull when he hears that word. If he stops and backs up or slows down he does not get a correction but if he does not – he gets one. The leash “tells” him that when it gets tight – “I must not pull.”
When you walk with your dog you want him to be relaxed and enjoy the outing with you. Using a longer line you can even allow him to walk almost a full body length ahead of you because he can still see you and you can warn him with “Easy.”
Dogs and wolves are part scavenger- and also strong pack animals. This means that in hunts they have the need to be aware of their position between several of their pack members. This has led to the dogs /wolves eye setup providing them with an exceptional field of view.
Dogs eyes are more ‘spread out’ than humans. Their field of vision covers an area of around 260 degrees compared to humans that can see a maximum of 180 degrees to the sides. This means that your dog can still see you even when he is a body length ahead of you. That is why,- with the “easy” technique you can have a relaxed pet, loose-lead, walking routine.
I find that although Memphis is walking slightly ahead of me, off-lead, he will automatically slow down or stop when I stop or slow down to stay in close contact with me because he can still see me.
Fighting against your dog on a walk is no fun for either of you. Teaching your dog the rules and applying the technique of loose-leash walking will allow both of you to get the most enjoyment from your regular Walkies!