Leashing your dog – a subject close to my heart.
When you leash your dog, it’s an important part of teaching that you are the pack leader. And you have control of your dog when leashed.
I’ve heard many stories from people who tell me of their off-leash dogs that would never disobey a command. However, dogs can be unpredictable, just like us humans, and there are breeds where the prey instinct is particularly strong. No matter how well-trained some dogs are, the sight of a cat, a squirrel, a bird or anything resembling prey is an invitation to dash off unmindful of their owners call. Most will follow prey right into traffic, causing injury or death to themselves and accidents involving drivers and their cars.
Most communities have leash laws. If you are caught, you may have to pay a hefty fine. If you allow your dog to run free, he may become the victim of the local dog catcher, eat something poisonous, get hit by a car, have to defend himself against other dog attacks or people abusing him. And if you value the friendship or at least the peace between you and your neighbors, you don’t want to let your dog go potty in their gardens or rearrange their landscaping. It’s not fair to other people to show such disregard. Children, especially little ones, don’t distinguish between puppies and small dogs or large dogs. They can be fearful of any dog on the loose. You can be setting yourself up for a court case when letting your dog roam the neighborhood freely. And IT’S AGAINST THE LAW.
There are enough appropriate places to let your dog off-leash. Beaches offer areas set aside for your dog to play in. There are designated hiking areas where your dog can be free accompanied by you. Dog parks are great places to let your dog socialize and have freedom. And of course, many working dogs need to be off-leash.
If your dog is not leash trained, right now is a good time to start.
Before going any further, lets talk about differing opinions about your dog walking in front of you. Many popular trainers believe that letting your dog walk ahead of you will make your dog think he’s the dominant one. I believe that as long as you are in control and your dog is not pulling you, your walk together should be an enjoyable bonding time even if your dog takes the lead. It isn’t natural to make your dog walk at heel always, you’re using excessive control and constant vying for control can make both you and your dog nervous and the walk a disaster. I have a 110 lb. German Shepherd and she just walks faster than I can. She doesn’t pull, but walks slightly ahead of me, sniffing at something that interests her every so often which I allow. In no way does she ever show dominance.
If you are patient and consistent you can teach your dog to walk calmly on leash without pulling you every which way.
At this point your dog should know the basic commands, sit, down, stay and come. Have your dog sit while you attach the leash. You might want to consider using one of the styles of harness that control pulling or a head halter. This type of equipment does not cause harm to your dog if he suddenly pulls. A neck collar in this instance can cause injury.
Once the leash is on, gradually step towards the door, all the while keeping your dog in the sit position. As long as your dog obeys, you can offer treats. Your dog will naturally be excited when you open the door but keep him in the sit position until you are ready to give the command to come.
While walking, if your dog starts pulling, simply stand still. When your dog looks at you, praise him, walk in the opposite direction and reward your dog as he follows.
Each time your dog pulls or is about to pull, repeat the exercise. With patience, your dog will learn that it’s much better to walk without pulling and on a loose leash.
You’ll both discover the pleasure of enjoying your surroundings safely.