Monday, May 16, 2011

The Considerate Canine Proper Walking

Lowcountry Dog Magazine

Zander and Neha - easy walk harness attaches at the front


The Problem
: How do I get my 3 year old Cocker Spaniel to stop pulling on the leash? She pulls my arm off if we go to the beach with all the birds! I wish I could take her more.

The Solution:

Walking calmly on leash is a learned behavior, it certainly isn’t natural for a dog to walk slowly, in a straight line, especially when there is something as interesting as birds to chase.

The very first step in teaching your dog to walk politely on leash, not pulling, is to make a commitment that she never goes forward while pulling. Each time you allow her to pull you forward towards her goal, she is being rewarded for a behavior that you find unacceptable.

You may want to consider using different equipment while teaching her to walk on a loose leash. Front clip body harnesses such as the Sensation Harness or Easy Walk are simple to use, just put the harness on and off you go. Head halters, like Gentle Leaders, are also a good choice, but they require a period of adjustment and some leash skills on your part.

Since she has a history of pulling while heading to the beach and birds, begin working on this new skill in a less exciting environment: inside your house, back yard or on walks around the neighborhood. Teaching her to walk on a loose leash does not mean giving her more leash, it means that she walks with you, at your pace, in the direction that you choose.

Choose the side you prefer for her to walk on; traditionally it is the left side, but it doesn’t matter as long as you are consistent. Hold the leash in a relaxed manner, below your waist, with relaxed arms and shoulders. The clasp of the leash should hang loosely from the dogs collar not extended straight from your hand to the dogs neck.

There are several methods that we use to teach the dog where they should be. All of them require that you pay attention, letting your dog know when she right and when she is about to make a mistake, before the leash is tight.

Red light - green light

As she starts to move out in front of you, simply say oops and stand still. Wait until she looks back or moves toward you, say yes and move forward. This may not be the best method for a dog who is easily distracted. As you patiently wait for her to focus on you, she may well become interested in something else.

Walk in the opposite direction

When you pup starts to tighten the leash, say oops, turn around and stride off in the opposite direction. You have the leash, so the dog has to follow you. Please be sure that you are not jerking the dog off of her feet when you turn around. Saying oops lets her know she is making a mistake and alerts her that something is happening. Walk several feet until she is back at your side and paying attention to you.

Back up

This is my personal favorite. As in the other methods, you will quickly alert her that she is making a mistake and begin to walk backwards. Again, she will have to follow. Continue to step backwards until she is at your side, reward her with a yes, maybe a treat, and start to walk forward again. The advantage of this method is she will end up being in the correct position by following your lead.

Our tendency is to correct our dogs, pointing out what they are doing wrong. But they also need feedback when they get it right. Be liberal with rewards, give her tasty treats and lots of praise for being in the “right” place.

Happy training and many great trips to the beach.

If you have a question for Cindy Carter of Mindful Manners Dog Training, email your question to leah@lowcountrydog.com using the subject line: The Considerate Canine.

Cindy Carter has been training dogs in the Charleston area for the past 4 years, the last year as owner of Mindful Manners Dog Training. Cindy is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, CGC evaluator for the AKC, and member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She has written articles for local publications and been featured in several publications focusing on local business owners.

As the owner of two dogs with “issues” she is uniquely qualified to help owners develop and implement management and training plans. She brings commitment and empathy to owners struggling to help their dogs have better lives.

For more information about our training programs visit us at www.mindfulmanners.net

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