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Is Your Dog Pulling at More Than Your Heartstrings?

by Clare Reece-Glore, owner of YAY Dog! What NOT to do

I had a wonderful German Shepherd that we got when he was at least two years old. He was lovely and well-mannered in the house and a nightmare on a leash. Like many dog owners, training your dog to walk on a leash is a challenge. It is so much easier if you have a fenced yard to just let your dog run and play in the yard. So what is the value of walking your dog on a leash?

A good walk with your dog accomplishes many things. It is excellent exercise for both you and your dog and allows your dog to experience the world beyond the fence. To smell and see all those things he or she is tantalized by from the back yard is a wonderful experience and reward for your dog. Walking can also be a bonding experience for you and your dog -- part of building and maintaining your relationship. It’s a time to focus on your dog, disconnect from the world of technology and enjoy what nature has to offer.

The goal is to have your dog walk quietly beside you on a loose (but not necessarily long) leash. Most people choose to have their dog on the left side, as that is the position for heeling in obedience training.

Trainers may recommend vastly different methods and equipment to develop that excellent walking behavior. If you can have a dog walk without pulling and with just a flat leather or nylon collar, that is a simple way to begin. You may also want to look at a gentle leader or chest harness to help control a dog that wants to pull. Again, the objective is to teach the dog to walk on a loose leash at all times.

One of my favorite resources is a very short and excellent book called, “My Dog Pulls, What Do I Do?” by Turid Rugaas. Rugaas recommends starting in the house, with no leash, just tapping your leg, getting the dog to come your way. Then, as you get the dog to come over, tap your leg and walk a step or two. If the dog comes with you, praise him. Use a toy, treat or your best “fun” voice.

Once you can elicit that behavior in the house, do the same thing with your dog dragging a leash. Make sure the dog will walk with you by doing lots of twists and turns. Then go outside and try it for just a minute (with the leash on). Gradually lengthen the time. This method may seem like it will take awhile with an adult dog, but then all of a sudden, you see huge progress, and it is worth it.

44 Volume 2 • Issue 1 T The Triangle Dog

Then, what if the dog pulls? Rugaas says that you just stop. Do nothing for a few seconds, then turn and go the other way. If the dog pulls again, you just stop; wait, then go the other way. If the dog is a serious puller, you may need to have a trainer help you get the timing and reward the slightest good behavior.

I used the Rugaas method with my German Shepherd, and the first few times we got about 30 feet. I remember laughing because some neighbors drove by and I definitely looked like the neighborhood crazy lady. We’d take one or two steps, stop, go the other way and then do the same thing. It was daunting at first, but then for eight plus years I had a dog who walked beautifully and politely with me.

There are many training aspects to walking effectively. I invite you to check out positive reinforcement websites and some Rugaas methods on YouTube. Overall, just get on with your walking, reinforce what your dog does right and enjoy the world!

What TO do

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