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

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Leash Training

Easy Walk Harness
Instruction Guide


Gentle Leader Fitting and Introduction

Collars vs. Head Halter to Control Pulling on Leash

Loose Leash Walking Phasing out Gentle Leader

Working with On-Leash Aggression

 



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Learning to Walk on a Loose Leash

This-a-way, that-a-way, all the way home

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

You want the dog to realize that it's in his or her own best interest to keep a loose leash because a tight leash means the walk stops.

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.

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.

Slow poke

Dogs who lag behind and refuse to walk on the leash have probably had some kind of bad experience such as being jerked while on leash or they may simply not understand how it works. For dogs who lag behind, try following the dog at first and praising any movement he or she makes in any direction while on the lead. If the dog will not move whatsoever, then, without pulling on the leash, crouch down and act happy, slap your knees, and try to get the dog to come to you. If the dog does, praise the dog while he or she is moving along and still wearing the leash. Give a dog cookie (i.e., food reward) as an additional reward for coming.

Once the dog is able to do the above, back up to the length of the leash and call the dog again. If he or she lies down or will not come, walk past the dog excitedly in the other direction, calling him or her as you pass by. The goal is to get the dog to come to you while wearing the leash but never dragging the dog by his or her neck. If the dog comes, instead of crouching down again, call the dog to you while standing and back up as he or she is approaching you. This is done to stimulate the dog's natural "chase instinct." Then, after a few feet, stop backing up and praise the dog as he or she comes to you (since the dog is now walking while wearing the leash). Attempt to make gradual progress until the dog is easily walking on the lead. In addition, it may be helpful to have the dog wear the leash inside the house (while supervised) so that he or she gets used to the feel of it.

Dogs love to "sniff and pee" on a walk; but it can impede progress and make the walk no fun for the human. If no sniffing is allowed, then it makes it no fun for the dog. Sniffing is an important sense used by the dog to explore the environment. Allow for a moderate amount of sniffing and urinating. Consider setting a limit of 4 to 6 "specials" of sniffing and urinating during a block or for the whole walk. After the "specials" have been used up, if the dog tries to stop, the walker simply keeps walking. It is best to use a phrase like, "Let's go!" or "Leave it," as you keep moving.  Praise the dog as he or she begins to pick up the pace!

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