Do you have a dog that loves to pull you along when you take them out? Or do you want them off lead but they just don't come back? It takes patience and effort to get your furry friend to walk nicely with you whether on lead, or off, so we're here to give you some tips on how to make your dog walks a little easier.
Some dogs are naturally good at training and find enjoyment in pleasing their owners so don't worry if the Border Collie next door seems perfect whilst your Labrador ignores you at every command. Like humans, dogs learn at different paces. When left to their own devices, though, they won't make any progress thus continuous walks and training is necessary to get them to understand the behaviour you expect of them.
Make sure your dog's basic training is up to scratch
If your dog is misbehaving in the house and doesn't listen to you from day-to-day then you'll need to fix this issue before you can expect to see results on your walks. Training a dog isn't too hard when you know what you're doing, and because we want people to enjoy this process, we wrote a blog post on exactly this - so take a look at our 7 Tips For Successful Dog Training post to find out how you can get started with effectively training your dog.
When your companion accepts that your are in control and understands your commands, it will be much easier to apply the training to your walks.
Positive reinforcement - bring along lots of treats!
The Positive Reinforcement method of training is the best way to get good results and should be used during your dog walks. If your companion has a habit of jumping up at you, biting the lead or pulling, then a sure way of getting them to stop is to reward good behaviour and discourage these bad behaviours.
Whenever your dog pulls, jumps up, or bites the lead, this method teaches that you stop walking, and only carry on when they have ceased. Don't talk to the dog at this point or give them any attention and they will soon get bored of standing around doing nothing. When your dog is walking nicely, treat them, and tell them they're doing an amazing job (however if you're finding the treats and praise are making your dog over-excited, as it could especially in younger dogs, skip this part. Simply being able to continue on the walk could be enough of a reward). It might take you a while to see your dog's progress but patience and consistency is key here, your encouragement will give your furry friend an incentive to walk nicely, making your dog walks a lot easier!
This can be applied if you're teaching your dog to behave off lead too. The dog's favorite treat can help you work on their recall - for instance, when you call them back and they come to you, reward them with a treat and they will learn that listening and returning to you is a good thing. If the dog wanders off or runs around in every direction and doesn't stay close to you, then you can put them back on lead.
Practice in quiet areas, avoid busy tracks
Anything and everything can be a distraction for a dog, so it's best to walk them in quiet areas if they aren't great at walking nicely yet. A popular dog walking track will not be the best option. If you want to make your walks easier, you have to help the dog help you.
Own the appropriate gear
The best lead to use when you have a dog that doesn't quite get the notion of walking nicely is a short one, so that you are able to keep the dog under control at all times. A retractable lead isn't advisable because a) you're giving them more freedom to do what they want which means they will want to walk far ahead of you, b) if anything catches their attention, like another dog or people, they can easily start tugging you in that direction and it will take longer to reel them in, c) it's easy to get tangled up with other dogs, posts, trees etc.
Sometimes, the basics (collar and lead) aren't enough to keep your dog under control during walks. The solution to this problem could be a front facing harness. Investing in a good harness can change the way your dog walks with you and is a great training equipment that we highly recommend. A front clip harness doesn't allow your dog to pull ahead comfortably, encouraging them to slow down to your pace, and it is more effective than a back clip harness. At Wanaka Dog Walking, we use front clip harnesses with dogs that we know are pullers, and our arms thank us for it. In fact, if you think this may be the solution you've been looking for, then get in touch with us and buy your dog an EasyWalk harness; we have small, medium, and large sizes.
Pick the right time to walk
Choosing the right time to take your companion out for a walk may be more important than you think.
First thing to consider is the weather. If it is too hot, your dog is not going to be comfortable and therefore will not be in the best mood to behave or walk nicely.
Secondly, it's good to walk your dog when you are certain you have enough time to do so. Rushing a walk with a dog that is still learning means skimping on the correct training, and consistency is very important in the success of the training. When you are rushing, you are more likely to be agitated with your furry friend leading to confusion on their part.
And lastly, it's good to give the dog something to look forward to, so, if you feed your companion after a walk, they will start associating a walk with a big reward at the end. Of course the treats are also rewards for good behaviour during the walk itself, but giving them their dinner afterwards will give them the motivation to be good during future walks.
Let them enjoy it
Your dog loves going out for a walk for a variety of reasons, but sniffing around, smelling different smells is one of them. So let your furry friend explore and use their senses, they are less likely to misbehave if they're happy sniffing around, taking things in.
There you have it!
We hope this post helps you teach your dog to listen and obey your commands on walks, making your time out in the outdoors less stressful for the both of you. And remember, consistency is key.