Are you taking your dog on a walk, or is he taking you? With little time of observation of dogs walking with their pet guardians, one mostly sees the later. There are many reasons why dogs pull on the leash. In fact, I put together a list of 9 reasons that you can check out. On top of those reasons, we add to the pull madness with our humanness. We can’t be anything but human and this can lead to mixed signals to our dogs; just as mixed as a guy saying he’s really interested in what you say as he is completely engrossed in the television show. If you are interested in learning more of how to successfully communicate to your dog on a leash, you can check out this blog.
In order to have polite leash walking, you will need two things: frequent EYE CONTACT and consistent CHECK INS with one another.
The Leash Doesn’t Matter; Eye Contact Does
Gasp! What, Michelle?! Okay, I am going to say this now and retract it later. So really 80% of polite leash walking is you learning to pay attention to your dog, and your dog learning to pay attention to you.
Needed: A cup of a quarter-sized real meat treats in a bait bag. Once your feet and his paws hit the great outdoors, you are competing with squirrels, the wind bringing in beautiful smells, the sound of something down the block, and something shiny to your left. Because of this, a high level reinforcer is needed when you train outside. What does that mean? It means for the typical dog, if you pull out a store bought treat, that’s like your boss offering you a penny for your work. It’s time to pull out the big bucks; I’m talking $50’s and $100’s. When I work outside with a dog, I use real meat.
A clicker. The reason I specifically suggest a clicker for this exercise, is because the eye contact will more than likely be so fast that you will fail to mark it with a word like “yes.” For this exercise, you will also need a leash and, of course, a dog. 😉
Exercise: Start walking with your dog leashed down the driveway. Every time you see your dog look at you (even out of his peripheral) mark it with your clicker and reinforce with meat treat. Watch for micro looks; tiny little eye movements. These looks are so fast that they almost don’t look like a look at first. The “look” behavior will start small, with even a quick flick of his eye toward you (does not have to be at your face/eyes, just you in general). As you continue to work on this exercise, you will gain duration (longer looks).
You want to make your sessions very short, like walking to the end of the drive way and back to the house. Short sessions allow for maximum amount of reinforcement for a particular behavior.
For 30 Minutes, Once a Day
While you are washing dishes, dusting, doing things around the workshop, etc. tether your dog to you. When I did this exercise with my bloodhound I used a carabiner to attach the leash to my jean belt loop. This exercise will not only teach your dog to pay attention to you, you in return will learn to pay attention to her.
Happy Training! Remember, greatness is obtained from doing small things over and over, day after day. I know you will gain the dog you’ve always wanted with a few minutes of training a day. Oh, and let Boy and me know about your progress in the comments below!
Building the bridge of communication between dogs and pet guardians