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Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Easy does it

One of the great satisfactions of having a dog is enjoying the companionship on walks. However, if the dog walks you instead of you walking the dog, the result may be frustration for you both!

Rules for the road

First, NEVER allow your dog to pull or tug on the leash. As soon as the leash is no longer loose, STOP in your tracks. Do not continue the walk until the dog returns some slack to the lead. Initially, this approach takes patience and does not make for a very good walk. But, in the long run, you will reap the rewards of a dog that does not turn the walk into a game of tug-of-war!

Pulling on the leash is unsafe for the dog as well as unpleasant for the walker. If  lunging occurs it can frighten other people and dogs who pass by. If the dog only pulls on occasion, one option is to teach the word, "Easy," to mean, stop pulling on the leash. The way this is taught initially is to first say the word, "easy" and then simply turn and walk in a different direction. If the dog begins to pull in that direction, repeat.  Keep turning until the dog is confused about the direction you are going. You can also say "Easy," and then stop walking. The dog learns that no forward progress happens when he or she is pulling on the leash. A head collar/halter is helpful in teaching leash-walking rules, especially for dogs that are particularly boisterous.
You want the dog to realize that it is in the dog's best interest to keep a loose leash because a tight leash means the walk stops.

As soon as there is any amount of slack in the lead, praise the dog. Begin to walk again and continue to praise him or her as long as there is slack in the lead - which means the dog is not pulling on the leash. As you praise the dog, gradually let longer and longer periods go by between the praise. If he or she begins to pull again, then simply give the Instruction, "Easy" as a reminder. Soon the dog should understand that "easy" means to ease-up on the lead. You want the dog to realize that it is in the dog's best interest to keep a loose leash.

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