All dog owners want to believe that walking a dog is as simple as putting on a leash and heading out the door. But the reality is that most dogs (and their owners) will need some time and practice to get it right. Otherwise, both will be pulling in different directions the whole time.
Here are some tips to make your dog walk a success.
1) Start with the right equipment
A basic leash or lead is generally all you need here. The leash should be no more 6 feet long (4 feet is better for control if you’re new to dog walks). Avoid retractable leashes while you’re trying to master the dog walk. Those are more ideal for situations in which you’re letting your dog explore areas in a more casual setting, separate from the structure of a dog walk.
If your dog is pulling too much on the leash, a dog harness can be an effective substitute, giving you more control of the walk while still making it comfortable for your pup.
2) Aim for the J-shape
This may take some time, but the goal of your dog walk should be for both of you to walk together at a brisk, focused pace. Neither of you should be pulling the other. In fact, in an ideal walk, the leash should be somewhat slack, forming a J shape.
3) Reward good behavior
How do you achieve the coveted J shape leash? The key is to reward your pup for walking properly, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). When your dog gets ahead of you, stop and change direction (without yanking!). Then, when he turns to catch up, praise him and quickly reward him with a small treat.
4) Resume walking only when the leash is slack
Don’t turn the treat into a prolonged snack. The real reward is resuming the walk – but only when your pup is ready to do it properly. After praising, start walking again while the leash is still slack. If pup is pulling or distracted, wait until he’s calm and leash is slack before walking again.
5) Allow light exploration
Part of a dog’s love of walking is exploring the world and taking in the endless scents of nature and other animals. To entirely deprive your dog of this experience is to remove the satisfaction of the walk altogether.
That said, stopping every 5 feet to sniff every leaf isn’t best for dog walking, either. So the solution is finding a happy medium. Some dog owners will include a mix of structured dog walking, broken up by periods of exploration and sniffing. It can be useful to designate a specific spot (or multiple) for this exploration, which will give your pup an extra incentive for keeping the walk brisk. The exploration time thus becomes an extra reward for keeping the walk on pace.
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