Walking calmly and politely on leash (aka: NOT pulling) is one of the most common skills pet parents want their dogs to learn. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most difficult, especially for an exuberant young dog. This ISN’T because your dog is trying to defy or disrespect you, and it isn’t because he is stubborn… it’s simply because walking at a human’s pace on a loose leash is very, very hard!
Here are just some of the reasons polite leash walking is particularly challenging:
- You’re working against your dog’s instincts and default behaviors. Imagine how absurd the human concept of a leashed walk must seem to your dog. She is fascinated by scents you can’t perceive, naturally travels at a faster speed than you, and this walk is often the most exciting part of her day. While it makes perfect sense to YOU to walk at a steady pace down the sidewalk, it makes NONE to her. None! Please be prepared to patiently TEACH her what you expect.
- Pulling is REWARDING. Remember, dogs don’t think about what is right or wrong, but rather what works or doesn’t work. The truth is, pulling on leash works for dogs A LOT. If they… pull towards an enticing scent and get to smell it… pull towards another dog or human and get to greet them… pull in the direction of the dog park and get to go there… ALL of these things are strong rewards for pulling!
- Humans are inconsistent. It takes consistency and repetition to teach your dog that your idea of appropriate walking behavior works better than his default tendencies! If you are tired or in a hurry one day and rush through your walk, allowing your dog to pull you along, you ARE undermining your training. If training reliable loose-leash walking is your goal, you will need to commit to it!
We don’t share all this to discourage you, but to help you have compassion for your dog’s point of view. Don’t be frustrated by her pulling or darting back and forth on leash; she has good reason to behave exactly this way.
Don’t be frustrated at yourself either! There is a lot that is counterintuitive about dog training, and loose leash walking in particular.
And if you’re ready for more relaxing leash walks, let us show you how to get there in our three-week Walkabout Class!