We have a 5 month old kelpie cross. She was 3 months old when we got her from the lost dogs home. She has settled into the family nicely apart from being highly distracted and pulling the lead tight when walking. My aim is for her to walk next to my left leg with a loose lead. I am confused with all the tips that people are giving me and am becoming frustrated while we are walking. I know that the dog can pick up on my feelings . What are your suggestions for the best way to teach a dog to walk on a loose lead next to my leg. Thanks for your advice.
Hi Jozette, thanks for your question. There are many ideas on how dogs should walk on lead, some people believe that a dog should walk by your left side only, other people believe that your dog can walk anywhere on the lead, as long as they are not pulling you along. I prescribe to the latter, you are walking your dog for their stimulation, this means she should be allowed to stop and investigate along the way, and have the freedom to move on a loose lead around you.
If you are going to embark on teaching your dog to walk on a loose lead there are a few basic obedience skills your dog should know. The first is recall, you must allow your dog to be off lead every day. Jozette, you have a very, very active breed that will need at least one hour of off lead time each day. If you are able to let your dog off lead it will set you up for practicing loose lead walking more easily. Become familiar with recall, click here to see a video on recall in action with my dog.
The second skill you should work on is heeling, on lead and off lead. I use heeling to get my dog past distractions. Jozette, for you, this might mean bikes, joggers, prams etc. If you can teach your dog to heel, you can walk her on a loose lead and call her to heel only when you need her by your left side, focused on you. You will find that you do not need her by your side all the time, and to expect her to walk like that now is unrealistic.
Once your dog has learned recall and heeling you are ready to start loose lead walking. Take her to the park, let her off lead and give her time to explore, this might mean a 20 minute off lead walk (nothing too strenuous). Once the park is quiet clip her on a lead that is 6ft long (any material for your lead is fine). If she lurches forward and the lead is tight, stop, do not move your arms or make any forward movement until she comes back to you and the lead is loose. Do not pull her back. The moment the lead is loose you can begin walking forward again, be prepared to perhaps only take one step forward as she may race ahead as soon as she sees you move. This method takes a little practice as your timing needs to be spot-on so your dog can make the connection between a loose lead and forward movement.
The reason that you need to work on this at the park is to give your dog a run around off lead before on lead training can be successful. Also, if you become tired of training loose lead walking, you can always let your dog off lead, this will minimise frustration and ensure you feel good about the training- leading to consistency. You may even like to drive your dog to the park so you only need to walk a short way off lead.
Once your dog gets the message that she needs to come back to you to make you go again you can use this to gain whatever outcome you want from it. Rather than stopping when your dog gets to the end of the lead you can stop when your dog starts to run or jog on the lead, only going forward when your dog is walking. Eventually, you can even stop anytime your dog walks in front of you. So, the benchmark becomes your own. Make a decision about the end goal you want from your dog and work towards that. Mine is; my dog can walk (not run) anywhere on a loose lead. I stop walking as soon as my dog starts to jog or run on the lead.
This method is not perfect, it can take several months to work, and requires that you are patient and consistent. However, you will find that the changes happen from within your dog, she must think her way through this problem as you are not forcing her to walk on a loose lead. With this method your dog will start to self correct and understand what you want from her. There are some ‘quick fix’ products on the market for making a dog walk on a loose lead but this is not training, you are not changing your dogs behaviour, because as soon as you remove the aid your dog will begin pulling again.
Jozette, just remember that most dogs do not come knowing how to walk on a lead, they have no idea they are doing anything wrong, in fact they are often reinforced for it by their owner continuing to walk with them pulling, so why should they think anything needs to change? It is up to you to train your dog to walk on the lead as you would like, she is your dog and you have to walk her. Work out your goal and work up to it over the next few years.
Stay tuned for some video of me training Nemo to loose lead walk in the coming weeks, you will see it all in action then.