Leash manners- why are they so important?
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Leash manners- why are they so important?
Before we dive in, our number one goal with this post is to create a happy and healthy relationship between you and your dog. We want to be able to open up the lines of communication in order to create a harmonious relaxed walk. below is a breakdown of the how’s and why’s of dog walking in order to help you have the most successful walk you can! Above all, walks should be a fun and stress-free experience you get to share with your dog!
Why is it so important that your dog walks politely on leash?
Simple answer: a polite dog on leash is a polite dog in the house.
Most dog owners we encounter frequently allow their dogs to get away with pulling, sniffing, lifting their legs on everything, stopping and starting because they either 1. Don’t have the tools to fix it or 2. They want to let their ‘dog be a dog’. Here’s why number 2 is so wrong: dogs in the wild never exhibit these behaviors around their ‘pack leader’. They are respectful, wait for direction and never try to dominate during times of travel (ie. walks). When we allow a dog to walk in front of us, we are encouraging a leader mentality in our dog, which should not be his role to take. Walks are such a crucial time of training and structure in order to build a life-long respectful bond between owner and dog. Walks are beneficial for socialization, exposure and mental stimulation. Think about how critical that is when raising a puppy or setting boundaries for a new rescue dog! When you properly walk your dog, you should return home with a calm, ready to rest and relaxed pup, not a dog that is bouncing off the walls. This mindset will set the tone for the rest of your day with your pup not to mention the rest of her life.
A leader on a walk is a leader in home.
As a fellow dog owner of four, I can tell you from experience, if there is not structure on walks, it’s an absolute nightmare. There is nothing fun about being pulled by four dogs while trying to take a relaxing walk. This is why I treat our walks as a perfect training opportunity. Here’s what your walks should look like: when we are walking, my dogs are either next to me or behind me, never in front. Why? Remember, my dogs are not leaders and are not the guys calling the shots. No matter my speed or direction, my dogs follow me. These results come from the clear and consistent expectations I put in place from before we even leave the house.
Keep in mind, if you have a dog who is unruly on walks, this can create reactivity or worsen any existing reactivity; which makes focus on walks that much more important.
Here’s my step by step process:
My pack and I leave the house in a calm manner.
So many more times than not, I find people cranking up the excitement and energy level with their dog before they even open the door! ‘Do you want to go on a walk!?’ while they run to grab the leash. ‘Are you ready, Buddy!?’ as the dog builds up more and more excitement and then BOOM... They fling open the door and the dog bolts out! Now the dog is running and choking itself at the end of the leash and the owner is stumbling behind trying to keep up.
To prevent this from even happening in the first place, do not talk to your dog. Remember when you speak to your dog at those high levels of excitement what you are communicating is to be hyper, distracted and in a state of anticipation. As you put your shoes and on and grab the leash, stay calm and quiet. When you go to open your (front) door to leave, YOU walk out first and the easiest way to accomplish this is to play goalie with your dog. Block him with your body or simply block him with the front door. If he tries to bolt, you (or the door) are there to prevent him from getting out. Be patient with your dog! If you only have ten minutes to dedicate to your dog and spend 8 of those ten minutes practicing 'wait' so be it! Remember the mental structure is equally as important as the physical.
Let's touch on training tools really quick. Walks should be done on a six-foot or shorter leash. Remember, we need control here. You won't have that control if you dog is six plus feet away from you. No harnesses (unless your dog has a physical disability and can't have pressure around their neck). Harnesses were created for one thing: pulling. They are designed to strengthen the strongest points on a dog's body. Your best bet for successful walks, when it comes to tools are flat collars or martingales, pinch collars and dominate dog collars as well as remote collars. Our goal here is to have easier control of the dogs body. When you place a collar at the top of a dog's neck behind its ears, you have easier control of its head. This makes for a lot less work directing your dog where to go. If you control the head, you have control of their nose and eyes, which is what makes dogs pull in the first place. This is also the proper placement for pinch collars and dominate dog collars. (for more information about proper placement and use of these tools check out our blog post ‘Training Tools’).
Once outside, do not give your dog all six feet of its leash; and please, don’t walk your dog on a retractable leash. Allowing feet of leash is a disadvantage to any sort of control you have over your dog.
Do not match your dog speed. Walk at your own pace and have your dog follow your lead.
I will walk my dogs at least half of the allotted time before I allow them to wander off and sniff the grass and do their business. This is their time to do their own thing. Once a few minutes have gone by, then it is right back to structure and a focused walk.
What's important to note here, is that my energy and intention never change. No matter what we encounter on the walk, my expectations of my dogs never change.
Once I return from my walk, the dogs enter the house just as they left it, calm.
Most importantly, always have fun with your dog!