Don't Make These Leash Training Mistakes With Your Puppy
One of the most important skills a dog can learn is how to walk nicely on leash – but I notice that it’s a skill few dogs have! Leash training is probably the most difficult part of training a puppy, but it tends to be the part that many people spend the LEAST amount of time on. Here are some common leash training mistakes, and how to fix them.
Moving too fast – When they get a new puppy, many people can’t wait to start taking their dog everywhere with them, going for long walks and showing off their adorable pup. Understandably so! It’s a very exciting time. But what ends up happening is that the puppy’s very first introduction to the leash and to walks is an unstructured free-for-all, with the puppy zig-zagging around to smell everything and paying no attention to the owner. This is very detrimental to leash training because these first experiences on the leash create the dog’s perception of what it means to go for a walk.
Going the distance – Many dog owners have the perception that walks must be done in a linear fashion for a certain distance. Five blocks, around such-and-such trail, 1.5 miles – we tend to think in terms of distance and we tend to move in only one direction – forward. And so they keep on truckin’ for the whole 2 mile walk with the puppy pulling relentlessly at the end of the leash. If you want to leash train your puppy, throw this mentality out with the poop bags asap. Walks DO NOT need to be some big grand excursion. In fact, while you are leash training, they shouldn’t be. Walks should be done for a certain duration rather than a certain distance. You may walk back and forth in front of your house for 20 minutes, changing direction often while you train your dog to follow you and pay attention. This is even better exercise for the dog than a mile long walk, because in addition to the physical component, your puppy will have to think and make decisions. Mental exercise is far more exhausting to a puppy than physical exercise.
Not viewing walks as training sessions – Every walk – I repeat – EVERY WALK – is a training session until your dog is fully leash trained. Whether you mean for it to be or not, because your puppy is always learning. If you allow your puppy to pull on the leash, you are teaching that pulling is ok. If you allow your puppy to change sides at will and zig-zag every which way to sniff at her discretion, you are teaching your puppy that this is how she should behave on walks. If you allow your puppy to pull excitedly toward other dogs on the leash, then you are teaching her that this is how she should greet dogs. You must be extremely intentional about everything you do with your puppy – this creates her behavioral habits FOR LIFE.
Christine Fasan is the head trainer and canine behaviorist at K9H. She specializes in German Shepherd Dogs and healing reactivity in dogs of all breeds. K9 Holistics offers dog training and behavior modification in St. Petersburg and throughout Pinellas County and Tampa Bay. Please contact Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org.