Walking with your dogs should be a fun activity, free from stress and worries. Unfortunately, for many dog parents, it can be more complicated. Here are some common problems faced by people when walking their dogs and some solutions to address those problems.
Leash pulling is one of the most common dog walking challenges. There may be a number of factors at play, but often pulling is due to excitement on the walk and a lack of focus. If your pleasant dog walking dream has turned into a tug-of-war game with your pooch, here are some tips you can try to stop them from pulling on the leash.
* The first step to stop your dog from being a major-league puller is to make sure he is paying attention to you and not everything around you while you walk.
* Walk in front of your dog. This will allow you to be seen as the pack leader. You should always be the first one out the door and the first one in.
* Keep the leash really short. This will allow you to have more control.
* With your dog calmly by your side or behind you, make different moves, such as start, stop and turn. This way, he/she will start paying attention to you in order to keep up.
* Stop walking if your dog begins to pull. When he stops pulling, begin walking forward again. Repeat this until your dog understands that pulling will prevent him from moving forward.
* If your dog obeys you and shows good behavior, reward him/her by allowing him to sniff around.
Stop constant sniffing
Does your dog want to sniff everything on walks, or mark his territory? Rest assured; you are not alone! Sniffing is totally normal in dogs but constant sniffing while walking, especially when you have not allowed him to do so is not acceptable. As a responsible pet parent, you should not allow your furry kid to decide when and where to sniff.
Dogs who pull on walks to sniff do so because they find it rewarding. Every time your pooch pulls on the leash he gets to sniff something, which is a form of reward for him/her. You have to teach him/her that pulling no longer works and good behavior will get him/her reward from you. Here are some tips to try:
* Keep the leash short, but not tight. Walk in front of your dog and make sure his head is up during the walk. Stay focused on your destination and maintain your calm, assertive energy. When your dog starts following you, allow him brief breaks to relieve himself and explore the area around him. These breaks are your dog’s reward for obeying you.
* Never reward your dog when he stops to sniff. Many people think treats will lure their dog to get up and walk again. But it is wrong as you’re rewarding them for stopping.
* Don’t pull on the leash because your dog will only strain harder due to “oppositional reflex.” It means when you try to pull your dog to make him move, he/she will pull in the other direction to maintain balance.
* Instead of pulling your dog, stop and say your dog’s name or do something strange that distracts them, like squeaking a toy, whistling or anything to capture their attention and distract them from the thought that they don’t want to move anymore. When using a squeaky toy to distract him/her, remember not to actually give your dog the toy as your dog will see it as a reward for stopping.
Lunging and barking at other dogs and people
If you always have to walk to the other side of the street to prevent your dog from lunging, barking and snapping at other dogs and people, then you need to fix this problem as soon as possible. This issue is commonly known as "leash reactivity." Most leash reactivity is caused by fear, anxiety or discomfort. Dogs bark and lunge at others to warn them. Here’s what you can do to fix it:
* To "heal" your leash reactive dog, you have to identify the triggers and then avoid them altogether for some time. After some time, you have to gradually reintroduce them after desensitization and counter conditioning. For example, you can initially walk your dog when there are no other dogs or people around.
* Gradually, you have to figure out what your dog’s threshold is with other dogs. Does he/she get triggered when the other dogs are just a few meters away, or does just seeing one on the other side of the park makes them agitated?
* Once you have figured out your dog’s threshold with other dogs, you can ask a friend with a well-behaved dog for help. Your friend has to walk his/her dog within sight of yours. Each time the dog is in sight, shower your dog with lots of praise and treats. By doing this you will make an association between seeing the dog and getting lots of treats and praise.
Never punish your dog for his reactivity. Doing so will make the problem even worse. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things. So, make all the sessions positive by using lots of rewards.
When reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other dogs and people, be protective of what he is exposed to and be careful where you take him. Just one fight is enough to trigger leash reactivity.
As you reframe your dog’s opinions of other dogs, consider not walking your dog for some time. Instead, just sit on your front porch with your dog on a leash, and practice giving him rewards every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight.
When desensitization and counter-conditioning are done right, your dog will turn his head away on seeing another dog and look into your eyes, expecting a reward. Over time he will come to tolerate or even look forward to meeting other dogs.
Walking tools you can use for training your pooch
Training your dog to be a "good boy or gal" on a leash can take weeks to months of regular practice and patience. To make your job a bit easier, here are some humane walking tools that can be used:
Head harnesses are designed to fit around your dog’s snout, with the leash attaching in front to gently turn his head when he starts pulling. This tool can be effective for short-term pull-prevention but it must be properly fitted and used appropriately to avoid stress and injuries.
These harnesses work exactly like head harnesses but they are fastened on your dog’s chest. When your dog starts pulling, it turns your dog back towards you, discouraging pulling.
When the dog starts pulling, these specially designed harnesses discourage pulling by applying gentle pressure to the dog’s chest or legs.
All these tools can be quite effective for training your dogs but they must be gradually introduced, properly fitted, and used appropriately.
Training your pooch is an important and necessary part of your life together. It is a great bonding experience and well worth the effort! So train your dog to put his/her best paw forward and you will soon be able to enjoy the world with your happy, fun and leash friendly four-legged companion.
The author, Anoop Nain, is a proud father of four rescued dogs and two Flemish giant rabbits. Besides being a full-time dog father, he is a freelance content writer/blogger and an educationist, with more than 6 years experience in the field of content writing. Blog:- https://www.flemishgiantrabbit.com/