It's important to understand why dogs pull in the first place. Surely it's uncomfortable for them right? Especially when you hear them what sounds like, choking as they eagerly pull forwards while on the leash. But the truth is that dogs pull because it works! And, it helps them to get to the park quicker...
It's not just our fluffy pals fault through, it's also us hoomans allowing them to pull and/or not being consistent in their loose leash and close walking training. Dogs naturally have a faster pace than humans do with an extra two legs, but they also love to investigate, sniff and pick up their 'weemail'. So we'll dive into learning some simple techniques for 'non-pulling training' and close walking.Woof - let's go!
Loose Leash Training
The 'Traffic Lights' Technique
Let's begin with how to teach them not to pull. This first exercise is called 'traffic lights' and includes these 4-steps:
- As soon as your dog pulls on the leash then Red Light = Stop!
- Come to a stop - no words, no cues, no eye contact and wait for your dog to realise you’ve stopped and choose to come back towards you or to move to a position where there is no tension on the leash
- When the leash is loose again, then Green Light = Move
- You should start to notice your dog may look around or even move toward you with less pulling
Don't forget to...
- Treat, treat, treat! Every few steps offer a tiny treat for not pulling. You’ll be able to lengthen the gaps between treats as you practice.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat - you may end up stopping as you leave your driveway 10 times but put the hard work in at the beginning and you’ll enjoy the experience later!
The next step on from 'Traffic Lights' is 'Stop, Start, Change Direction'. It adds some stronger physical movement cues to teach them not to pull - brilliant! The key is to hold on to the very end of your lead when it comes to this next step. Take 4 steps in one direction before changing direction rewarding when the lead is loose with high value.
If the dog pulls immediately, turn in a different direction then:
- Stop now and again and then set off again in the opposite direction
- Remember to teach this in all scenarios, at the park, at the beach, in the woods, to be a success
Now it's time to adopt a close walking strategy with your pups! Before you begin, you'll need to decide which side you would like your dog to walk, jog or run on as a rule, as we will teach this side first before moving onto the other - eventually you will train them on both sides.
For example, let’s start with left side:
- Stand with your dog next to your left leg, both of you facing the same way. You can lure her/him into this position using a treat.
- Have one of your dog’s favourite treats in your left hand
- Take one step forward with your left foot, place the treat by the outside edge of your left shoe and say the cue “Close”
- A nano-second before your dog gets to the treat use your marker “Good”/or clicker
- Don’t wait for them to finish the treat but lead off your right leg then left leg and again place a treat by the outside of your left shoe and say “Close”
- Your dog has probably already started moving towards the next treat but remember to Mark the behaviour you desire so “Good” when he gets to your foot and has the treat
The correct behaviour Marker word “Good” should always come before the treat so you have to be super quick with your timing but don't beat yourself up if you get it wrong a few times, as you’re learning too! Repeat building up to two steps before laying the treat on the ground next to your left shoe.
If your dog wanders off or is distracted then stop the exercise, they are either too many exciting things going on for her/him to concentrate or s/he has had enough for today, So finish with some fun!
Don't forget to...
It’s important to teach CLOSE/HEEL both sides as mentioned before I would always keep your dog on the inside of the pavement away from the road so you’ll need for your dog to understand for either side of you. Also, believe it or not, dogs’ posture can become unbalanced if they have always walked the same side which can lead to problems.
"I'm just a pup really, so it's important for me to train equally on both sides of my body, or I might get all wonky and wobbly!"
There we are! A couple of simple yet effective loose leash and close walking strategies that we hope have helped both you and your pup enjoy a walking with little and even no pulling for the most enjoyable walkies - that's what we aim for here at PupRepublic.
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