You love your dog and want to spend more time with him, but the minute you try to take him for a walk, he becomes unmanageable. Sound familiar? Let’s face it, no human wants to be dragged down the street by their four-legged friend. Below are the steps that you need to take to get Spot in line and out the door.
1. Get your dog in command mode by making him stay still at the door. This sounds so simple and yet most dog owners never do it. Once your dog sees the leash he usually gets so excited that you can’t get to the door fast enough and the minute you open it, his head is out and you’re behind. Practice putting on the leash with your back to the door so your body is blocking the door while you’re doing it. That sends a message to your dog that you’re in charge. Once the leash is on have your dog sit before moving toward the door. This makes him calmer and gets him used to obeying your commands. I’ve had to practice this one a lot with both of my dogs because the minute they know we’re going for a walk, the excitement begins.
2. Walk through the door ahead of your dog to show him who is boss. This is very important as it sets the tone for the rest of the walk. Dogs like to lead and if you let him, he will take over as the pack leader and whose job is that? Yours!
3. Do not use a flex leash. You need a leader collar and regular leash. I’ve never used a flex leash because I live in Arizona and if I let my dogs have too much leash, they could run into all kinds of dangerous creatures such as rattlesnakes, biting lizards, cactus, etc. Even if you don’t live where your pet could experience these dangers, a regular leash is the best tool for walking, even after your dog has learned to walk at your side. You can always stop and let them sniff, water the trees and fire hydrants at a later time after they’ve learned the art of the walk.
4. If your dog has too much energy, get a doggie backpack and weigh it down. This works extremely well for the high-energy breeds who need to burn off that excess energy and for pets who need to lose some extra weight. (Gosh, maybe I should use one of these on me!) You can use plastic 16 oz. water bottles filled with water, cans of food or whatever you have that will fit. We have an 80-lb. mixed breed who can handle two bottles on each side and our smaller dog, a border collie mix, does well with one bottle on each side. Start small and work your way up if you have to. Keep an eye on your dog for fatigue so you’ll know if the pack is too heavy. The first time you use this method, you will probably notice that, after a short time, your dog will feel that he has a job to do and just start moving forward with his pack. It’s amazing to watch this take place.
5. Keep a loose grip on the leash. If you keep tension on it, your dog will feel it and keep pulling. Think of the leash as an extension of your arm. Send positive energy down your arm, into the leash and into your dog. If you find yourself being tense for any reason, stop, have your dog sit by your side, take a couple of deep breaths and then continue on more relaxed.
6. Reward your dog with treats. Buy some of those small training treats at your local pet store to use on your walk. When your dog does well, reward with a treat. Any commands you want to teach your dog can be practiced on the walk. For example, you walk 30 or 40 paces and then give the command to sit. Reward with a treat as soon as he sits. Walk 30 or 40 more paces, give another command. Reward again with a treat.
7. Be patient with your dog at all times. Depending upon your dog’s age, limit your training time to no more than 10-20 minutes at a time. You’ll be surprised how soon your dog will pick up on what to do and how to please you. Don’t give up and remain consistent.
Follow these steps and Spot will be walking side-by-side with you in no time. Enjoy spending more quality time with your newly trained four-legged friend.