I know, at this point you’re probably wondering how much really goes into teaching a dog to walk on a leash without pulling, right?
All I can say is some dogs are natural born walkers, and some need more help learning. Simon and Rosee fall into the latter category here, and even then they both respond to techniques differently. The most important thing is to find what works for your own dog. However, sometimes you have to go through what doesn’t work to find what does, which is how I have come to know of so many tips.
Again, my disclaimer: The tips I will present, explain, and discuss throughout this series of posts are ones that I’ve gathered from training books I’ve read, training classes I’ve attended with Simon and Rosee, and from trainers I’ve talked to. I want to be clear that I am not a dog trainer in any way, shape or form, and my knowledge of dog training comes from the aforementioned sources while training my own dogs. I can assure you however, that all these tips have been tried and tested by everyone here at Play Hard, Bark Often.
Tip #7: Try a shorter leash. The length of a dog’s leash may not seem all that significant. However, if the goal is to have your dog walk next to you without pulling then trying a shortened leash may be a good idea. To be honest, I had never considered trying a shorter leash. Of course, while walking with either Rosee or Simon I would try and shorten the leash they were on by looping some of the excess. Yet, it never seemed to work as I would get frustrated with their pulling or holding so much of the leash and eventually let it go and just hold on to the leash handle. It was only when me and Monica had ordered Rosee her Ilusion collar that realization hit. You see, when you order an Ilusion collar it also comes with an accompanying leash.
The leash length varies depending on what size of collar is ordered. For instance, Rosee has a large and the leash is about a foot long.
Simon has a medium size collar and the leash is a little longer than Rosee’s and not quite as wide. (Personally, I don’t like the leash that came with Simon’s Ilusion collar and do not use it because it’s not wide enough and difficult for me to hold on to.)
Really, it was a “Eureka” moment because the first time I put Rosee’s Ilusion collar on with the shorter leash it all became clear. I found that with a shorter leash not only could I keep her next to me, but I was much more consistent in my efforts. I couldn’t backslide and let go of the excess leash as I had before when things became too much. In turn, I was much less stressed and could focus more on Rosee instead of on keeping the leash a certain length. Now, practically, I know it may not be so easy to find a short leash at a regular pet store. Still, it can be worth looking for one on the internet if you’re working on your dog walking next to you without pulling and not just loosely on a leash.
Tip #8: Try a longer leash. For some dogs a shorter leash might be all that’s needed to get them to walk beside you without pulling. For other dogs, such as those similar to Simon, more work and a whole lotta patience might be required. Simon, you see, is a “horse of a different color” (figuratively, of course). He can pick up tricks like shake, roll over, high five, etc. in a day, but learning to walk without pulling has not come as easily. It’s not that he doesn’t know how to do it either. It’s just that he’s not usually consistently successful at it. Now, I’ve done my best to keep myself consistent in feeling and technique when I walk him, which has helped a lot. (Think Cesar here) Unlike Rosee though, using a shorter leash has never worked well for Simon. He’s a dog that has needed to learn to walk next to me by himself. I mentioned in the beginning of Part 2 that I’m not necessarily too strict about leash length with Simon. I use a standard length leash to walk him and for most of the walk I give him the whole length of it. Originally, I decided to change my tactics with Simon because I was getting nowhere otherwise. Then I visited positively.com and read that dogs typically walk faster than us slow humans and for them to learn to walk next to you can be very difficult. It’s certainly not impossible, but sometimes their walking ahead of us isn’t about dominance or over excitement. Sometimes it’s just because we walk too slow. The suggested training technique I found was to give your dog the full length of the leash and any time they walk next to you you give them a treat. This teaches them that good things happen when they stay beside you and eventually they’ll learn not to pull while staying closer. I like to also use the turnaround method if Simon starts to pull too much. Overall, I love this method for Simon because I don’t get frustrated and he has actually learned to walk calmly beside me. Also I like to use this method when I put Simon on a really long (10-15 ft.) leash. He can go out and roam (safely), but then when he comes next to me and watches me for direction he gets a treat.
Tip #9: Strap on a backpack. Lastly, a useful tool can be a doggie backpack. Backpacks are typically available at almost any pet store and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Although, the basic principle of a backpack remains the same. It goes over a dog’s back, clips around their neck and underneath their stomach, and has a pocket on each side. Originally, Simon got a backpack when he was a puppy, but still old enough to venture outside, because we had hoped it would help slow him down. Personally, to weigh the backpack down I like to use bags of rice because rice conforms better to Simon and isn’t as oddly shaped as bottles of water. Unfortunately, the backpack never quite worked out for Simon. It did help him slow down, but it never really taught him to walk without pulling as he would still pull if he wasn’t wearing it. Also, we overestimated his size when he was a puppy and now the backpack is a little too big for him. (He didn’t grow into it like we thought.) For this reason it never seems to sit quite right on him. Still, it’s a nice tool to have around when we go down the street to a nearby park and we work on training because I can pack his extra-long leash, treats, and (for hot, hot days) bottles of water and collapsible bowls.