Leash training is a simple behaviour made up of a variety of complex skills. If your dog does not understand or possess the complex skills, this 'simple' behaviour you are asking them to perform ends up being not so simple for either of you. Before you become frustrated with your dog's disobedience on a leash, consider your dog's skill set in the following areas:
In order to walk calmly by your side, in a distraction-rich environment, your dog must learn to ignore distractions. You need to have a clear understanding of what level of distraction your dog can handle. Try starting in the home. Working with a hands-free leash starting in the house and working towards the front and back yards will help you better understand what triggers and thresholds your dog currently has. (Learn more about triggers and thresholds through our online learning centre. http://www.pet-intel.com/learning)
Following a human's body:
Just like when we learn to drive, we need to understand what the road signs mean, how to stay in our own lane and how to share the road with others. When walking with your dog, you are the lanes, the road signs, the traffic lights. You have to set the rules and your dog needs to understand them. In simple terms, they need to learn how to follow you. Puppies naturally follow until around 16-20 weeks when they begin to wonder more independently. Obviously, starting in puppyhood is easier due to this natural desire to follow. Regardless of your dog's age, you will need to teach this skill to achieve loose-leash walking. Use a long-line or training-line (no more than 12').
Note: The JWalker Utility Belt can be connected together to create a long line as well.
Give your dog some space to explore and keep watching! Be the center of the wheel and keep turning your body towards him. When you move away, your dog will naturally be attracted to come forward, when you come forward, your dog will naturally move away. Start moving together and rewarding him for staying close by.
Understand directional cues:
Directional cues are essentially your steering, breaks, and gas. You wouldn't want to drive a car without knowing how to steer, accelerate or stop! There are many products and tools on the market designed to control your dog but not all products are designed with your dog's natural instinct or cognitive ability in mind. Some products accidentally push on the gas and the breaks at the same time. Some forget to steer. By directing your dog from the side, you are able to communicate direction and pace. When you turn in a circle towards your dog (dog inside the circle) you will slow them down. When you turn with them on the outside you will speed them up. When you back up directing the dog from the side of their bodies you ask them to slow and come towards you. When you walk forward with your dog clipped on the side you ask them to maintain the pace. This is a language your dog will understand.
Appropriate social etiquette:
We have unspoken rules in our society that are taught at a young age. For instance, you don't hug strangers you've never met before. This affectionate display is typically reserved for people we are more familiar with. Shaking hands, personal bubbles, soft eye contact and even a tone of voice all affect the nature of a social interaction. Your dog must understand what appropriate social interaction is for them and what expectations we have of them in public. These skill, yet again, are best practiced in calm controlled environments. Most importantly, you, the owner, need to know what your expectations are and be consistent.