We're expecting a nor'easter in Massachusetts today, March 16th! It's supposed to dump around 6 inches of snow, maybe more. NEVERTHELESS... it's spring, tomorrow is Saint Patrick's Day, and the weather is bound to turn mild one of these days.
Mild weather makes us want to be outdoors - people and dogs! We all know that walking is great exercise and you would think that leash walking the pup would be a preferred springtime activity. Too often, though, we won't walk with our dogs because their on-leash behavior is awful. They pull and jerk us around. So some of us get retractable leashes thinking the dog will get some exercise and it will be less unpleasant for us. WRONG ANSWER. Retractables give your dog license to be out of control which is the problem with her on-leash behavior in the first place. And whose job is it to get pup under control? You guessed it! Someone once said, "When I see a dog behaving badly I look at the other end of the leash".
A tip: dogs need strenuous exercise, especially young ones. Pup will make a better walking partner if, while you're training her, you engage her in strenous activity before snapping on the leash. Try a few rounds of fetch in the yard - tennis ball, frisbee, whatever she'll chase. When she's panting and starting to slow down, snap on the leash and off you go.
All dogs need time to sniff and mark trees along the walking route, so allow them to do so. However, YOU are the one who should decide when that's okay and when it's not. I live on a pretty street where people love to walk their dogs and I'm always seeing owners who take their cues from the dog. Of course, this teaches the dog that she can do what she wants, because you will follow her lead. Don't allow that behavior!
It will take time and patience but you can teach her to look for cues from you as to what's next. Pat Miller, in her column "Good Dog Walking" in the March 2007 issue of The Whole Dog Journal, recommends using a clicker and treats to reward pup when she is walking nicely beside you on a loose leash. Begin by using the command, "Let's walk". This means that pup can do a little sniffing, peeing and exploring as long as she is not pulling on the leash.
Holding the clicker in your left hand and the treats in your right, move forward. When pup is beside you, click and treat. Bring your right hand around to her mouth. You don't want her to move around in front of you to get the treat. Click frequently in the beginning for being close enough that the leash hangs loosely between the two of you. Before long, she will realize that the treat comes when she is close by your left side. When she pulls out ahead of you, stop. Be a tree. Refuse to budge until she turns around to look back at you. As she does so, the leash will slacken. Click and treat.
If that doesn't work, back up slowly, increasing the pressure on the leash. As soon as she moves toward you, click and treat. When she has learned to stay close enough so that the leash is always slack you can begin to teach the "heel" command, which is a precise position next to your left leg used in close quarters of while walking among a group of people and dogs.
Don't give up! It's not safe for your dog or for you for her to ever get the idea that she's the one making decisions. You have to be the "alpha dog". Making the effort to be the leader is just part of having a pet dog.
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