Dog Training Tips

Loose Leash Walking

Healthy, head-clearing, refreshing!  Aaahhh, the benefits of a nice spring walk.

Have you ever thought what a good walk means to your dog? Walking is important to your dog’s physical and mental well-being.

Walking your dog is not just giving the physical exercise he needs to stay in tip top physical condition, it’s a mental exercise that will help your dog to relax and understand his environment. And it’s a great opportunity for training. A well-exercised dog will be better behaved, less destructive and will be more focused on the things you ask him to do.

I often hear people proudly tell me how their dog has a nice fenced backyard, with plenty of room to run. The fact is a safe yard is a benefit for the people, not for the dog.  It means we don’t have to walk our dog 4 or 5 times a day to relieve themselves.  And it means on those frigid January mornings we don’t have to bundle up like a mountain climber to take the pup out for a morning jaunt before we shower.

Just because a dog has free run of the house and yard, doesn’t mean he or she gets the exercise they need.  Next time you let your dog outside watch them to see what thy do?  Sniff a little and lay by the tree?  Chase away the single squirrel (that dared venture into your yard) for the entire distance of fifty feet?  Consider that dogs are built to run 20-45 mph depending on the breed; do you really think they are getting sufficient physical exercise walking from inside to outside and back again?  Truth is, you might be the one getting the most exercise just getting up and down to play doorman to your dog.

The average walking speed of a human is slower than the natural gait of a dog.  So a dog that has to adjust his gait to match our human pace is not getting the exercise they need.  This may be one of the reasons why they pull on the leash, you can help your dog by walking at a speedier clip – you guys will both get in shape.

Now consider where your dog spends most of his time – in the house and in your yard.  Does she ever leave your property?  How often? Can you imagine one week without leaving your property? Now consider what it would be like if all there is on TV and the radio is one channel with repetitive shows and songs.  Or you only have one book to read. Kind of mind-numbing? Well, the view from the backyard never changes and the smells are always the same.  Not a very stimulating way to spend the entire 12-16 years of your dog’s life?

Walking your dog in different places or at least going in different directions each day really gives them something to look forward to. Dog olfactory senses are much better than our own.  While you’re inhaling the clean spring breezes, your dog is catching up on the p-mail, left for him near the fire hydrant.  A walk to a dog is an opportunity to find out what’s been going on in the neighborhood, he can get his bearings, leave a marker for himself should he ever get lost and keep up with the Jones’ new dog.

Ten Tips for Dog Walking.
  1. Use a flat least to walk your dog.  A retractable leash encourages pulling.  Even though you may not realize it, and your dog isn’t straining on the end of the retractable leash, doesn’t mean that he’s not pulling.  Retractable leashes by their very mechanism encourage the dog’s opposition reflex to engage and the dog feels that they must always have that tension on the leash (no matter how minimal you may think it is, I promise you, your dog feels it).  When you switch to a flat 6’ leash your dog will have gotten so used to feeling the tension that he will require it. So start with a flat leash and get your dog to walk along side you.
  2. Your leash is not a steering mechanism.  If your dog is walking nicely at your side you should not feel them at the end of your leash.  The tighter you try to hold him back the harder he will pull against you.  Try sticking the leash in your pocket or attach it to your belt loop with a carabiner. Then use your innate intelligence to encourage your dog to walk along side.
  3. First let your dog play, or run to get out their initial excitement of being outdoors with you.  Remember there may be some built up cabin fever, even if you just walked them earlier that morning.  While you were away at work, lunching with friends, or running errands you dog was home ALL DAY in the same environment they have lived in for the last… how many years?
  4. Start in an area with few or no distractions.  A good area is a deserted parking lot, or a residential street at night or early morning.  Wear well-reflected clothing and walk in the street (few dogs walk there so it cuts down on the need to sniff and mark), but watch out for cars.
  5. Tell your dog to “HEEL” or “LET’S WALK.” Use a treat or just talk to your dog to get their attention. Praise them when they have a loose leash.
  6. Try to keep a nice U shape in the leash so the hook hangs straight down with gravity.
  7. After a few (5-6 feet) of nice walking without pulling RELEASE your dog to play and sniff.
  8. Using a RELEASE command such as BREAK, RELEASE, AT EASE or FREE allows your dog to know it’s okay to not stay at your side.  You will have to teach him what the REALEASE command means by romping and playing with them.
  9. Allow your dog to sniff and enjoy the scents of the nearby hydrant, fence post, or light pole as a reward for his nice walking behavior for a minute or two.
  10. Repeat steps 4-9 as often as possible until your walk is complete, each time requiring a little more focus and a longer HEELing position each time.
After you and your dog get good at nice long loose leash walks, start adding in distractions.  Go for walks at different times of day, in different directions and in different locations.  Be patient and always remember that that walk should be fun for both of you.  Your dog shouldn’t be pulling and you shouldn’t always be requiring a stringent HEEL position with no sniffing.  Switch it up! Reward good HEELing with a few minutes of sniffing, tracking and rolling.  And play with your dog, too.  You don’t always have to be the ‘responsible human’ you can jump and run and roll on the ground with him.

Sounds simple here, but it’s hard to learn dog training from a written document.  You have to be patient and you have to experience it. And you have to think like a dog!  A good dog trainer can make all the difference in keeping you focused on the positive and give you tips on body language that will help you and you dog understand each other better.  If you would like more in-depth and hands on instruction for loose leash walking or any other behavior issue, call 952-226-2622 for an appointment or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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  • Bear & Carolyn

    About Animal Communication...Thank you for your patience & caring. Bear & I are still doing the transition thing but the house is coming along. He has blossomed into a confident, protective, loving friend. (who loves skunks!)~Carolyn,Taos, NM Read More
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