Whole Dog Journal Tips August 26, 2014

(Training The Best Dog Ever #1) Leash Walking: “Be a Tree” - the First Steps Together

The point of this training session – which should last no longer than five minutes – is to get your dog used to walking on the leash the way you want him to. I recommend that you use a six-foot leash and come prepared with lots of treats.

1. FOCUS FIRST. Before you take your first steps together, make sure that your dog is focused on you. Then hold a treat in your left hand and lure your dog in the direction you want to walk. If you have a small dog, get ready to bend down a lot. Start walking forward, allowing a lot of slack in the leash.

2. “BE A TREE”. When your dog starts to pull, stop walking, hold the leash tight to your chest, and stand still and firm, like a tree.

3. MARK AND REWARD. The moment he looks at you, say “good” and lure him toward you with the treat as you take two steps backward. Praise him, touch his collar, and reward him with the treat. Your timing needs to be precise, so watch for that moment when he looks at you, even if only an instant at first, because that’s when his attention is returning to you.

If your dog doesn’t look at you, break down the lesson and reward his tiny improvements. If he continues to lean forward against the leash without trying to take a step, look for the moment when he slackens the leash and praise that. If he still doesn’t give you attention, make a slight sound to attract him. If that still doesn’t work, silently “reel yourself in” to your dog (don’t pull him toward you, but go hand-over-hand up the leash as if you were pulling yourself up a rope), and then lure him to start walking in the opposite direction. If he looks at you as you reel yourself in, praise, stop reeling, and lure. Remember that this isn’t a walk for distance or heeling; it’s a five-minute walking exercise to teach you how to hold a leash and to manage pulling. Be patient.

For more tips and advice to train your dog, purchase Training the Best Dog Ever from The Whole Dog Journal.