Your dog pulling on the lead…is there anything more annoying? Well, yes probably, but when a “nice evening stroll with Monty” requires some preparatory shoulder exercises and a pair of gloves to prevent a friction burn to the hand, your dog’s pulling can feel pretty frustrating!
Dogs pull for lots of different reasons. Perhaps the two most common reasons though are EXCITEMENT and SELF-REWARD.
EXCITEMENT: The outside world is a VERY exciting place for dogs with lots of thing to see, hear and most importantly SMELL, so with all those distractions it can be hard for us humans to compete!
SELF-REWARD: Pulling gets them to where they want to go and much faster than if they are walking at Mum or Dad’s pace!
So today let’s start by looking at the top 4 ways to reduce your dog’s excitement about going on a walk (get your copy of the free cheat sheet below!):
- Fake them out – A lot of excitement happens before we even leave the house. You pick up the lead and Monty is whirling like a dervish, barking or certainly less calm than he was a second ago. So let’s Fake Them Out – go and pick up Monty’s lead, put your shoes on, pick up your keys and then casually go and put all of things back in their places and sit back down. Do this at least 3x more often than an actual walk. Over time this will reduce the excitement associated with getting ready for a walk so Monty is in a calm head-space when you head out
- Mix it up – Do you always walk similar routes? Does Monty’s puling start amping up when he knows you’re just around the corner from the field where he is allowed to run off lead? Mix it up – our dogs get very good at predicting our patterns. Similarly to the “fake out”, dogs learn when we will let them off lead and when a certain route means they’re heading to see their favourite human or doggie friend. Reduce excitement by taking different routes, doing some very short (2 minute walks) and some longer ones. Take them to the off-lead field but alternate between a few mins off lead and few mins on
- Avoid your dog’s triggers – Nobody knows your dog better than you so what makes him excited on a walk? Maybe it’s seeing a cat, another dog or a child? Maybe it’s the noise of traffic or seeing a jogger? Avoid the trigger: we can’t control for everything but if you know what sends your dog’s excitement through the roof try to avoid that thing on your walks whilst your working on loose lead walking. The triggers can be added back in once Monty has the basics!
- Do a 30 second walk – Wait what? Dog’s need their exercise don’t they? Yes, they do but exercise doesn’t always have to be in the form of an hour long run. Do a 30 second walk: If Monty’s a puller, going on a walk means he will practice pulling and then he will pull the next time, and the time after that. If loose lead walking is your aim then set your dog up to succeed! Practice your focus (more on this next time!) on lead in the garden or just outside your house so he doesn’t have chance to pull. Training can be just as tiring as a long walk and there are other forms of mental stimulation that are fantastic for tiring out your dog too (more on this in next week’s post!). If you do want to give him a run then do exactly that – take the car or the bus to an open space and let him practice running rather than pulling
Good luck with your loose lead walking!
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Just as a head’s up: On Wednesday we’ll be looking at part two: the top 4 ways to teach your dogs to self-reward by staying close to you rather than pulling ahead!