National Train Your Dog Month: Walking the Dog

It’s generally well-understood that walking your dog is a good thing.  Going for walks gets your dogs exercise, it gets them mental stimulation, and it just breaks up their day and lets them get some energy out.  Sadly, a lot of dogs don’t get to go on regular walks and the main culprit is not lack of time or good walking places or any of the other excuses you’ve heard (or said!).  I believe one of the main reasons dogs do not get walked is because they are unpleasant for their owners to walk, simple as that.  By teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash you are setting him up for a lifetime of fun outings you both can enjoy.

Loose Leash Walking (LLW) is one of the biggest headaches for owners and trainers alike because unlike simpler behaviors like sit and lie down it can’t be achieved in a few short sessions.  It’s an ongoing process that dog owners must commit to and because of that, you must find what works for you and your dog.  So, let’s cover the basics.

Choosing what equipment to use for walking is much more complicated than picking out a cute leash and collar.  It is my preference to have most dogs not walk on a neck collar at all, but on a harness of some kind.  If you have a rowdy puller or a reactive/fearful dog on your hands, I recommend a front-connection no-pull harness and my current favorite kind is the Freedom Harness.  I love it because it doesn’t restrict shoulder movement like the other main brands of front-connection harnesses, and it offers two options for connecting the leash, providing you the option of using two points of connection which is a great thing (more on that some other time!).  If your dog isn’t a big puller or is very small, you might think about a standard back-connection harness.  I LOVE my Comfort Flex harnesses that I use when I run or hike with my dogs. If you’re currently using a head halter, which is another great option for bad pullers or reactive dogs, I encourage you to also use a harness so that you can again have two points of connection on the dog, and not constantly put pressure on the halter.  My favorite halter is the Comfort Trainer.  It seems to be the best-fitting and the most comfortable. 

Using no-pull equipment as a band-aid for training your dog not to pull is your perogative, truly.  But, if you are going to go this route, use a harness, not a halter.  It’s damaging for a dog to pull on a halter, so if that’s what you’re using to walk your dog, you need to teach them to walk nicely on a leash. 

Ok, so how the heck to you teach them to walk nicely on a leash?  Well that topic deserves a textbook, so here are some resources:  the Silky Leash technique has some great videos, and the BRILLIANT youtube channel of Emily Larlham has some great tips for LLW as well. 

Of course, if you want one-on-one coaching for pleasant leash walking and you’re in the Northern Colorado area, contact me to set up a lesson!