There are the pullers.
There are the laggers.
There are the dogs who bark at any and every moving object in sight.
The list goes on…
Behavioral issues in dogs can have a huge impact on your daily activities and your time spent together.
If it seems like you and your pup are always walking to the beat of different drums, don’t worry! We’re here to share several tips and tricks you can start using right away to make walks with your fur baby more enjoyable.
Disclaimer: This article isn’t intended for you to learn how to ditch using a professional dog walking service, but instead equip you with the necessary tools so that the next time you have the free time to be able to treat your pup to his/her favorite activity, it’s not a completely dreaded experience!
Always Make Sure You Have The Right Equipment
Let’s be honest…
Proper leash training all begins with having the proper equipment. It’s possible that your dog doesn’t have behavioral issues, but may instead just be wearing the wrong collar, harness, and/or leash.
Similarly, having proper knowledge of the different collars, harnesses and leashes is a dog-parent MUST when it comes to the topic of leash training.
Plus, once you’ve got a grip on at least the very basics, the endless options available for purchase in the dog walking aisle at your local pet store won’t feel so intimidating.
Common Problems & Their Solutions
1) Leash pulling
Try a front-clip harness or a gentle leader. Both of these options will enhance communication with your pup because they allow the leash to be attached closer to the dog’s head. A front-clip harness is a good starting point. This harness has a D-ring at the front, near the dog’s chest. Each time you must tug on the leash, should your dog start misbehaving, you will redirect your pup’s body to face you. This effectively communicates to your pup that any misbehaving will result in their entire body being turned around towards you.
If the front-clip harness doesn’t do the job, try a gentle leader. This option will offer more control because the leash clips directly underneath the dog’s chin. Just like with the front-clip harness, it allows you to communicate a similar message to your pup- that if they misbehave, their body will be redirected to facing you. Similarly, your pup will feel less inclined to continue pulling, knowing the consequences.
Reward desired behavior. Every time your pup walks with you, instead of pulling you along, reward them with a treat, a pet, and/or a ‘good job!’. Positive reinforcement helps them recognize that a loose-leash walk is a better walk for you both.
You could also take this one step further. When your pup starts pulling on the leash, just stop and standstill. Do not start walking again until they themselves stop pulling and the leash is slack. We call this ‘being a tree’. Depending on what motivates your dog, it would be wise of you to reward them for when they listen and do stop pulling (we recommend training treats!). Basically, your goal is to show your dog that unless they cooperate with you, they will not get to continue on their walk.
Do NOT use a retractable leash. If your dog likes to pull, a retractable leash will weaken your control and your overall connection with them on walks. Instead, we recommend a flat lead. This leash is simple, easy-to-use, and helps maintain good communication with your pup by keeping them close to you and secure during walks. No more frantic pulling on your retractable leash- a flat lead will put you back in control!
2) Reluctance or stopping on walks
Be outwardly excited from the get-go. If you know your dog is likely to lose energy or stop a lot on walks, it’s important to emphasize that walks are FUN! As soon as you walk out of the door, put a pep in your step and begin to talk excitedly to your pup about how fun the walk is going to be! If your dog sees you excited, happy, and unafraid, they will tap into your energy levels and act accordingly. As we like to put it: Be the leader your dog needs you to be!
Reward progress with treats and toys. We recommend bringing training treats and/or toys on the walk so that when your pup starts to show reluctance, you can bring out their special toy or treat and use it to encourage them to keep walking. Just like how dogs who pull on the leash need a reward to reel them back in, reluctant walkers also benefit from positive reinforcement. The use of treats and toys to encourage good leash behavior can calm down excited dogs and motivate reluctant, fearful ones. It’s the same concept, just implemented in different circumstances.
Change the scenery. If your dog stops short during a walk, try changing directions or crossing the street. Sometimes a different route is all that’s needed! If your pup is still reluctant, try walking in a new area, such as a different street in your neighborhood or a local dog-friendly park.
Walk with a FURiend. Does your pup have a BFF (best furry friend) that they feel comfortable with? Try coordinating a walk with them! If they see their friend having fun on walks, your pup will likely want to do the same!
Here at Hands N Paws, we walk most of our furry clients solo (for safety reasons); however, this may be a good way for dog parents to socialize their fur babies and show them that walks are good and fun!
3) Lunging at dogs, squirrels, and/or anything and everything that moves
Encourage check-ins. Lunging is a difficult problem to fix completely, but you can definitely reduce how often it happens by replacing it with a default, good behavior. On walks, reward your dog with a treat and a ‘good job!’ every time they look back at you/’check-in’. Practice this in a quiet area first. Once your pup has learned that showing curiosity towards you (looking back and ‘checking in’) is a desired behavior, reward them by graduating them back to their normal walking route.
Continue to reward your dog for ‘checking-in’. Get excited for your pup when they successfully avoid a distraction. Make their environment fun and happy by implementing lots of positive reinforcement. Rewarding ‘check-ins’ and calm behavior help keep your pup relaxed in potentially stressful situations. Instead of lunging at distractions, your pup will instead look at you for comfort and support, further enriching your bond. It’s a win-win!
Try a front-clip harness or a gentle leader. As explained in the leash-pulling section, both of these options offer a greater owner-to-dog connection and work to give you more control over your dog while on walks. Using these tools consistently will teach your dog to ‘check-in’ with you when they are around distractions and to respond accordingly and appropriately to your leash movements.
4) Walking two dogs at once
Teach leash manners individually. Walking two dogs at the same time can be hard if things are lacking in the good-leash-behavior department. Proper training and teaching dogs leash manners individually set a foundation of good behavior, which will make walks, solo or with FURiends, easier. Two dogs may be ready to walk together once they are each comfortable walking on a leash individually- neither of them pulls ahead or lag behind, they are each generally calm around distractions, etc. The goal is for your pups to behave just as well on a walk together as they do on solo walks! Typically, two dogs with good leash manners will walk side-by-side most of the time and keep a slack leash.
Make sure they get along. This one may seem a bit obvious, but make sure that the dogs you are walking are friendly with each other before heading out. This usually is not a problem if the dogs come from the same household; but if you just added a new puppy to the family or are planning on walking a neighbor’s/friend’s pup with yours, make sure the dogs have bonded and are friendly enough with each other prior to walking together.
At Hands N Paws, we do not walk dogs from different households together because there is always a risk that the dogs may not get along or they may not be on the same page training-wise. Should we proceed to provide clients with “pack walks”, we would most definitely follow the aforementioned tips before walking two dogs from different households together.
Get a leash coupler. A leash coupler allows you to walk two dogs while using just one leash. The coupler will typically clip on to each dog’s harness or collar and have a ring in the middle for you to clip your leash to (remember, a flat lead is best!). The coupler will restrict some of the movement between your dogs since they will essentially be stuck together; however, we have a few clients here at Hands N Paws who use couplers and absolutely love them! We personally love leash couplers because it prevents leashes from getting tangled and thus enables boundaries to be communicated more clearly and effectively to the dogs being walked.
When In Doubt, Contact A Local Dog Trainer!
We know that walking your dog can be stressful sometimes, especially if you have a dog that walks YOU when it should be the other way around! That’s why it’s important that you’re using the appropriate equipment to combat your struggles, reward good behavior, and consistently encourage your pup to do and be his/her best!
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and still have a lack of control over your fur baby, it could be in you and your pup’s best interest to hire a professional dog trainer. A professional can definitely be a great resource in guiding you through obedience issues, agility training, and anything else you may need help with. At the end of the day, their goal is to enrich the bond between you and your fur baby.
We hope that our tips and techniques help you out! If they do, make sure to tell us about it in the comments below!