We often receives inquiries from pet owners about how to stop their dogs from pulling on their leash during walks. It’s a common problem that can make walks frustrating, stressful, and even dangerous. But the good news is that it’s a trainable behavior, and with some patience and consistency, you can enjoy leisurely walks with your furry friend. In this post, we’ll explore different techniques for training good walking behavior, how to do sensitivity training for things that might make dogs lunge, and a timeline with how many hours it may take to get your dog to walk well on a leash.
Start with a Good Foundation
It’s essential to start enforcing good walking behavior from the very beginning. Whether your starting with a puppy, or an older dog each has their benefits to training. Puppies have a higher drive, energy level, and sponge like brain to learn quickly, however they have shorter attention spans and that extra energy can sometimes be counter effective. Older dogs have to break any habits they have developed and they are usually heavier, making them more exhausting when they pull, however an older dog’s attention span is usually longer and their sense of drive is well established, so once you find out what motivates them, getting them to train can be easier. When walking your dog on a leash, you must use a properly fitting harness that doesn’t choke, strain, or pull. Dogs feel discomfort and pain if they’re wearing an ill-fitting harness. Start by selecting a flat, no-pull harness that remains snugly fit around your dog’s body. Loose and ill-fitting harnesses will lead to poor walking behavior and frustration on both sides. If you need help fitting a harness, stop in to Braxton’s and one of our associates can help fit the one you have or a new one for you.
Dogs love to win rewards, and they learn things quickly when there’re good prizes on the line. Use treats, toys, or words of praise to reinforce good walking behavior. Dogs who do well on walks deserve the choice to stop and sniff things, receive a wag or two, or win another reward so that they’ll be regularly motivated to keep up good behavior. If you find your pet not motivated with the treats you have selected, we suggest a “high drive” treat such as freeze-dried organ meat such as lamb lung or beef liver which is a nutrient dense, smelly snack that should grab their attention. If your dog doesn’t seem to be treat motivated, developing a toy drive can help establish a motivation. We love this video from Nate Schoemers channel on Youtube which teaches you how to train ball drive in your dog. The video accurately depicts the frustrations of training, but with patience and time you can build your dogs motivation to train.
Consistency is key when reinforcing positive behavior in dogs. Every time your dog does something positive, such as walking by your side and not pulling you into the street, immediately praise or reward them. Dogs learn from consistent reactions. Similarly, when your furry friend pulls you around on walks, don’t yell or punish them but use positive reinforcement techniques to steer their behavior back into the right way. Two commands to have in your arsenal is “heel” and “leave it”. “Heel” will be your command to keep them by your side and “leave it” will be for their distractions such as small animals, other dogs, people, etc.
Sometimes dogs can be sensitive to various stimuli such as other dogs, smells, sounds, small animals and people. It’s essential to teach them how to be calm and control their impulses when their triggers are nearby. Start exposing them to various stimuli gradually and reward good behavior like walking by your side and noticing rather than lunging towards them. Using high traffic areas can be a great way to expose your pet to their triggers. Build up to your dogs tolerances. If they easily get over stimulated, start with a low traffic park or walkway and work your way up.
Timeline and Patience
Some dogs learn quickly, others take longer. Start conditioning your furry friend to good walking behavior early so that they don’t have the chance to develop bad behaviors. Consider how long you’d like good walking behavior to last on walks then create a plan and timeline accordingly. Remember, dog training requires patience, and it can take dogs anywhere from three weeks to a few months to get conditioned in good walking behavior. If you have a problem you would like to correct as quickly as possible we suggest cutting out something you do for yourself an hour a day to make time for training. If you work with your dog for an hour a day 7 days a week, most behaviors can be learn (or removed) in a three week timeline. Consistency and patience is key! Consistency amongst family members can be the hardest thing about training. We see a lot of couples that will share the walk responsibility and one will be consistent with training and the other more relaxed. Being a united front will help you stick to the 3 week timeline. Below is an example of what your training journey can look like. Times and training places are up to your discretion, but a healthy balance of walking and sensitivity training is key.
In conclusion, getting your furry friend to walk at your side can be challenging, but it’s not an impossible feat. Remember to start with proper fittings for your dog’s harness, offer rewards, reinforce positive behavior, and use sensitivity training when necessary. Regular practice and patience are also necessary to help your dog develop good walking behavior. With continued effort, you’ll have a well-trained walking partner that you can walk with with ease and pleasure.