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Loose Leash Walking
(The Reduce Pulling Campaign!)

Even with stellar training and the best equipment, teaching a dog to walk politely on leash can take a long time. Most dogs, even tiny ones, have a natural gait that is faster than a human saunter. In addition to pulling as a natural state of affairs, many dogs are very, very practiced at pulling, and have used it as an effective technique to get where they want to go.

Special Equipment

When beginning your Reduce Pulling Campaign, a combination of training and special equipment produces optimum results. The equipment that I recommend to reduce the amount of tension your dog will maintain on the leash is the Easy Walk harness by Premier, since it appears to be completely comfortable for the dog, and very effective. If your dog lunges in response to specific situations, I recommend the Gentle Leader head collar, also by Premier, since it allows you to gain control of your dog's head and redirect him to better behavior.

Training

The drawback to using special equipment of any kind is that most dogs will not transfer their new leash walking style from the special equipment to a regular collar. For this reason, it is important to include training as part of our Reduce Pulling Campaign.

Step 1. Pulling Doesn't Work Anymore

To train dogs not to pull, we first address the reason that they pull: to get where they want to go. And it works! Many owners get towed all sorts of places they would not have gone if the dog had not been pulling. So the first step is to prevent pulling from being effective for your dog. Simply put, you must stop or change direction every time your dog pulls on leash. Dogs do what works; if it doesn't work, they will eventually try something else. The trigger that allows the walk to continue after a stop is reconnection with you-any acknowledgement of your existence at the other end of the leash, including glancing or stepping back, is the green light to continue the walk. In the beginning, it may be necessary to stop after each step! This is where you need to call on whatever it is we all have in common with Mother Theresa and Gandhi to supply you with the patience to stick with it!

Step 2. Allow Yourself to Be Human/"Pulling Allowed" Equipment

If you are not able to stop each and every time your dog pulls because you are late for work, too tired, or having a bad day, there is a way to go on a walk without sabotaging all of your hard work. Choose another piece of equipment, and designate it as the "pulling allowed" equipment. For example, I choose a body harness instead of regular collars if I don't want to stop each time my dogs pull. For Kenai and Osa, a regular collar means pulling won't work, and a body harness means I have granted Open Season on pulling! If you usually use a harness, choose a collar or head halter and vice versa. As long as you are consistent, your dog can figure out how to play the game and win.

Step 3. Make Walking By Your Side More Fun

In addition to providing a consequence for pulling (stopping), you can also provide reinforcement for walking nicely with you-take treats on your next walk and reward your dog for checking in with you during your walk. In fact, any time your dog shows up at your side while you are walking, whether it is in your house, in your yard, or on your walk, tell them how brilliant they are and run to the cookie jar! An accumulated history of rewards when your dog is next to your side will increase the probability of your dog choosing your side as their favorite spot to linger.

Alternative Forms of Exercise

While you are working on the Reduce Pulling Campaign, you may need to explore alternative forms of exercise for your dog, since leash walks may become very slow, and may not cover much distance. Other options include tossing the ball, playing hide and seek, or a romp at the dog park. It is especially important for young dogs to have an adequate outlet for their energy otherwise they may not be physically capable of walking calmly.

Encouragement

Training a dog not to pull is one of the most challenging training goals, and can test anyone's dedication to having a well-trained dog. Do not despair! You are in the majority of dog owners if you are struggling with leash pulling, and it is possible to change the situation. Consistency is the key. You can do it!