Training your dog should be rewarding for both you and your dog, but I have a confession to share: this past week was NOT a rewarding time for either me or the dogs I was attempting to train. Sir Charles Tucker the Third is an awesome dog; we have been working with him for some time now and were quite confident that he understands the COME command, and will respond. Well, two rabbits crossed his path, his distraction level kicked in and Tucker took off. (I will never know if one rabbit could have been resisted!) Was I tempted to scold him? Absolutely. When he finally decided that the rabbits were gone, and he came back to me, was I a happy trainer? Absolutely not, but, remembering the advice from the experts that “Come” should always be a word that means joy, I realized that I could easily sabotage any progress that we had made. Instead, I accepted the fact that Tucker was not completely trained for instant recall, and recognized that really reliable recall takes lots of practice, lots of patience, and lots of treats.

Then there was the new dog that probably had never been on a leash. Walking politely by your side doesn’t seem like it should be a difficult task, but Andrew proved to be quite a challenge. Some dogs learn very quickly that the human is in control, but Andrew didn’t accept that idea. It took us more than ten minutes to just get half way down the driveway!

If you have a dog that pulls on the leash, simply stand still until he stops. Then praise him, and when he seems calm, proceed with your walk. Every time he pulls on the leash and you continue the walk, you are rewarding him for pulling. Why do so many dogs pull on leash? Simply because they can. They learn that pulling on the leash gets them where they want to go. They pull, and their humans follow. Professional trainer Pat Lee insists that dogs will walk in a calm, controlled manner when their caregivers are calm and assertive and praise the dog when he is following the command and stop immediately if he starts pulling. (We are hopeful that Andrew is beginning to understand that concept!)

Some tips to help you and your pet both enjoy the walk:

  • You need to have the right equipment. We do not recommend a retractable leash, because it is difficult to exercise control.
  • Always carry bags for cleaning up and disposing of dog poop—leaving dog waste is a health hazard and downright irresponsible.
  • Always practice safety first. Be aware of others coming up from behind you. Dogs do not like to be startled. Watch out for kids on skateboards or bikes. Many dogs don’t like motorcycles or even pedal bikes.
  • If you walk on small side streets without sidewalks, it is important that you allow yourself and your dog enough room so that cars are not a danger to you, and you are not a danger to the drivers.
  • Be consistent about reinforcing leash walking and not allowing leash-pulling, and insist that everyone who walks your dog follow the same procedures.

Not only will your dog benefit from a controlled walk, you get perks as well, by improving both your physical well being, and your mental well being. Walking your dog should be a pleasurable experience for both you and your dog…and one of these days, Andrew and I may enjoy walks beyond the driveway!