I have yet to find a magic wand to teach dogs to walk politely on the leash. If anything I have found lots and lots of ways to sabotage your dog’s leash skills. I tell every client that I want them to think of the leash as a “seatbelt not a steering wheel”. That means the leash is only there to keep your dog from doing something dumb, like running into traffic. Leash laws exist for a reason right? The leash also provides you a safety net to prevent your dog practicing skills that you never want to see, like running up to unfamiliar dogs or people. Here are three tips to help you master your dogs leash skills like magic!
Training starts before the leash is put on
Training starts as soon as you touch the leash. Start working on impulse control and focus as soon as you touch the leash. If your dog is going bananas because they are so excited for their walk, you will never see anything that resembles brain cells when you walk out the front door. Apart from actual leash training, I work on sitting calmly while I attach the leash. I need these the leash to indicate that it is time to focus and listen. Parkour off the couch signals the opposite of focus and listening.
Wait for the door to open.
If my dog’s nose is wedged between the door and doorframe waiting for me to turn the knob, we aren’t leaving the house. They have already forgotten that I exist and my walk will not be pleasant. A life skill in my house includes waiting to be invited through the doorway. I live on a busy road. While I trust my recalls on my dogs, I don’t feel comfortable with them in the front without a leash. This is also true for getting out of the car. My dogs learn to wait to get out of the car until released, then they turn back to me for cookies before we start walking.
Dogs who cannot turn back to you or eat cookies cannot go forward on their walks until both of those events occur. This gives me information on how my dog is feeling. If they are preoccupied with the sights and smells of the great outdoors, they do not have enough brain space to listen to what I am asking them to do.
Only spend 15 mins outside practicing.
Mind blowing right? I promise, if you are doing it correctly, your dog will be just as tired if you went a whole mile. Just like with learning any new skill, it takes lots of effort for your dog to figure out how to do this leash thing correctly. Since you should be paying attention to where your dog is located, and pressure on the leash and where your cookies are, you will also be mentally exhausted after 15 minutes.
Bonus Tip: Don’t go 15 minutes in one direction.
Let your dog be successful from the front door to the end of the driveway, then turn around and go back to the front door. When you turn around your dog should be super focused on you, and you have the chance to reward that heavily. Once you get to the front door go back down the driveway and turn towards the neighbors house. If your dog is struggling, walk back to the front door. When you turn around your dog should be super focused again, and you can reward that a ton. This back and forth allows you to create “Easy Zones” and “Difficult Zones” that you can sandwich together to make your walks easier.