I have so many fond memories of going on walks with my family as a kid. My two sisters, my parents, and I spent many summer evenings just walking around our neighborhood, admiring the neighbors’ flower beds and waving to their dogs and cats. Sometimes we would walk in Downtown Athens, snacks in hand to feed to the ducks at the Duck Pond.
Family walks were a fun way to get some exercise, but also provided much-needed time to catch up with the family and share stories about our day. The fresh air and sunshine was always a welcome change from being stuck inside all day, and I was always amazed by how many things we would discover about our so-familiar route that we would otherwise never have noticed.
For all of the same reasons we love going on walks – for fresh air and exercise, and to explore our little corner of the world – our dogs too love going on walks.
Dog walking is hard!
But taking your dog for a walk can also be very frustrating. If your dog pulls too much on your leash, it can cause damage to his neck and to your hands as you try to hang on to the leash. It is very easy to turn to aversive methods to teach the dog to stop pulling; equipment such as choke, pinch, and electronic collars are sold every day to owners who think that punishing the pulling will make the dog walk nicely.
I myself even used a choke collar on my first dog, a high-strung lab mix, after I learned from a book exactly how to give collar corrections; looking back, I realize that even after years of training, Gracie never did learn how to walk nicely on leash, even with the choke collar.
Why do dogs pull anyway?
For most of our dogs, pulling on leash is a symptom of a bigger problem:
- Your dog wants to walk faster than you because he has a lot of energy and needs to run
- Your dog doesn’t know how to split his attention between you, and all the distractions in the environment
- Your dog does not understand how you want him to walk because he hasn’t had clear enough communication
- Your dog assumes that pulling is the only way to walk on the leash because it’s always worked in the past.
So, in positive reinforcement training, we actually need to work on teaching our dogs all of these concepts before we can begin to expect those relaxing, pleasant walks with our dogs.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Make sure that your dog has adequate physical and mental exercise every day,
because the walk simply supplements his normal exercise requirements;
2. Teach strong eye contact, leave it, and other cues because everything in the
neighborhood is very distracting;
3. Use positive reinforcement because you will need to teach your dog what you
DO want: to walk close at your side.
4. Resolve to not allow pulling on the leash, no matter what!
It's worth the effort.
It may sound like a lot of work, but in the end it’s worth it! Your dog will feel like part of the family as he gets to walk the neighborhood with you, taking in all of the neighborhood’s sights and smells.
You could even take walking to a new level, taking your dog on pet-friendly outings! Do you need to pick up more dog food from the pet store? Do you need gardening supplies from the hardware store? Do you want to try out that new restaurant for lunch, the one that has the dog-friendly patio? Imagine the thoughts running through your dog’s head as he gets to participate in all these new experiences!
Alabama Dog Academy offers two lesson packages because you can't learn everything you need to know from blog posts!
Contact Elizabeth at Alabama Dog Academy today to reserve your spot for one of these exciting training packages and get out walking with your dog!
Elizabeth Morgan, trainer and owner of Alabama Dog Academy, has always found leash walking to be the most fun behavior to train.