Walking your dog is one of the best ways to give your dog exercise. Both you and your dog get out the house and burn some calories. Dogs need to roam to be happy. It is instinctual. They need exercise. Being in a back yard or a house all the time is boring. They like to sniff and check out their neighborhood. It is not easy, however, to teach them to walk on a leash. It goes against their instinct, which is to pull.
The tools of the trade needed are a regular leash (not a retractable), a collar, or a no-pull harness. I recommend the Easy Walk harness or the Freedom harness. The difference between the two is that the Freedom harness hooks up in the front and in the back. It gives you more control than just being hooked up in the front of the harness. For extra large dogs or heavy pullers, I would recommend a Gentle Leader. It is a face halter that has a small loop over the snout that helps you guide the dogs vs. being pulled from a collar or a harness. An important note-never leave the Easy Walk or the Freedom harness on, as dogs like to chew them off. They are for walking only.
Once you have your dog hooked to the leash, you want to start by having one hand through the loop of the leash and hold onto the leash with that hand. This is vital because you don’t want to lose your dog nor do you want to have your hand burnt by the leash as the dog pulls. Wrapping the leash around your hand can do some damage. The other hand is holding the leash close to your body on a short leash. This is your guide hand. Pick a side to have your dog on. Left or right is fine-most of the time, Lily is walked on my left side. A dog should never be walked in the center, because then the dog is walking you. You control the leash, the dog does not control you.
Start by saying “Let’s go,” as your cue word. As your dog starts to pull, firmly stop and say “Uh-Uh,” and put the dog back into place. Repeat this. You only go forward when the dog is not pulling. Another technique is to do an about face. If the dog is pulling towards, let’s say, a squirrel, you go in the opposite direction to break their attention off the distraction.
When the dog is walking with a loose leash, praise him or her. Give them a treat if you have them. This reinforces the proper no pulling on the leash.
For the harder pullers or dogs that have leash reactivity, I would strongly suggest working with a trusted trainer on techniques to manage the situation. Simple behavior modification techniques can solve the issues, and make the walk a much calmer experience overall. Happy trails all!