Proper Dog Walking
I see many people walking their dogs where they are just following their dog and allowing the dog to decide where to go and what to do. This is allowing the dog to control the walk. This is not a proper walk. Getting your dog to do a proper dog walk is very important for your dog’s physical and mental health (and for your own safety and sanity). A proper dog walk means that you, the human, are in control of the walk. The dog is walking nicely next to you or behind you. During a proper walk, at least 75% of the walk is you and the dog(s) traveling together; only a small part of your walk should be spent on sniffing and potty time. Sniffing and exploring are important (especially for puppies and young dogs) however, keeping your dog moving with you is more important. Learning to walk your dog in a proper way will help keep him under control and prevent bad behaviors such as leash pulling, barking, lunging, fear, and aggression.
To begin have a regular 4-6 foot leash (never use a Retractable Leash). I recommend using your regular buckle collar, head collar, or slip lead placed high on the neck. If your dog has a pulling problem, I recommend you do not use a harness; this gives your dog more power and gives you less control.
Start with your dog sitting next to you on one side (even with your feet or slightly behind). Which side does not matter. If you prefer one side, you can start with that, but it is important that your dog eventually learn to walk properly on both sides. Hold your leash part way down so that the leash length is short, but loose. This is important. The leash should only be tight (tension) when giving a correction; it is equally important to release the tension immediately after each correction. If your dog tries to move out of position once you begin your walk, give a mild correction by pulling up or to the side. NEVER pull backwards, this just intensifies your dog’s want to pull forwards. A correction is only meant to snap the dog out of whatever he may be paying attention to and back into position, it is never meant to harm. When giving any correction, you must be calm and assertive. Never give a correction with anger or frustration. After each correction, immediately remove the tension on the leash to go back to the short, but loose leash. Remember to stay calm and assertive and breathe. It is also important to remember to relax any tension in your arm or body after each correction. Keep your head up and shoulders back. Walk tall and proud. Your leash should feel like you’re carrying a fancy purse down a runway. Pay more attention to where you are going, do not keep looking at your dog. A proper walk should be fun and relaxing.
If your dog gets fearful, drags behind, or puts on the breaks: pull on the leash (add tension) until the dog moves forward at all (moves body forward, lifts a paw forward, etc) then immediately release the tension. This tells the dog that you agree with him moving forward. You may need to pull and release several times to “unlock” the dog from a stuck position. Remember to remain calm and assertive and take your time. Do not get nervous or anxious or panic with your dog. By remaining calm, your dog learns that he can trust you and it will be easier for him to keep moving forward.
A proper walk is the single most important thing you can teach your dog. Remember that you are in charge of the walk, not the dog. Walk tall and proud with your head up and shoulders back. Relax your body and let go of any tension or stress from the day. Walk where you want to go. Every now and then, allow your dog to sniff/potty in an area for a few minutes (1-5). Then continue on your walk when you are ready. When you move on, do not hesitate, just go and the dog will follow you. Remain calm and assertive and enjoy your walk with your best friend! Have fun and smile!