Walks are thrilling for dogs. For many pet dogs, they are the next best thing to hunting or foraging expeditions. Dogs have a chance to meet other dogs or at least check out who’s been on the path by sniffing lamp posts. There are interesting food smells either from rabbits or dustbins.
For a dog a life without walks would be only half a life. No wonder they get over excited. Some take their owners for walks (not the other way round) pulling them along or otherwise making them wait while they investigate every single lamp post.
It takes time and patience to teach young dogs before the age of seven months to walk on a slack lead. Never train with a flexilead. These should only be used as a substitute for off-lead walks. All dogs should be on an ordinary lead near a road.
Many people (even celebrity dog trainers grrrr) deal with a pulling dog, by putting on a choke collar, sometimes called a slip collar (sounds better but is still a choker). The harder the dog pulls, the tighter the collar. Oddly enough these DON’T WORK. The dog seems able to pull even while almost choking to suffocation point. Such collars can and do cause pain and neck injuries.
Change from a conventional collar to a Gentle Leader, which is more like a horse halter – available online from www.pets.f9.co.uk . This will probably be enough for most pulling dogs. Some dogs don’t much like the new head collar, so the best way to use it first is to put in on before a really enjoyable walk, and when putting it on feed the dog some treats. Incidentally keep the ordinary collar on as well.
Keep some more treats in your pocket for during the walk if the dog balks. Don’t make too much fuss of a dog that is trying to get off the head collar. Just walk briskly ahead like a rather jolly nanny! And don’t feel sorry for him.
At first the dog may pull worse than ever, but don’t give up. Don’t bother to rebuke him or punish him either. Ignore him. That means saying nothing, and not even looking at him. Cultivate an intense interest in the landscape!
When you are recalling your dog from the walk, don’t show him the head collar. Just clip his lead on to the ordinary collar and a few minutes later put on the Gentle Leader – with a titbit.
Some dogs just hate the Gentle Leader and can’t be jollied out of this. They sink in to depression or will just lie down and refuse to move at all. For these try the Hi-control Stop Pull harness from Pets at Home or Stop Pull harness from www.kumfi.com . This lifts the dog if it pulls. Dogs that have been hurt by choke chains are more likely to relax in a chest harness.
If you have a confirmed puller you may need help from a trainer. Ignore any trainer who tells you to be pack leader or that your dog is dominance: this is a sign of ignorance. Ignore any trainer using a choke collar: this too is a sign of ignorance. Find one at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers
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All normal safety precautions should be taken when dealing with animals. The advice in this section should be taken only at the owner’s own risk. All sick animals should be seen by a vet.
General advice of the kind found in this website is no substitute for an individual consultation with a vet or qualified behaviourist working on a vet’s referral.