Veterinarian - San Diego
1540 Morena Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92110

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By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
May 17, 2013
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As fellow animal lovers, we at Morena Pet Hospital are committed to ensuring the highest level of support, information, and service to give your companion the best care possible for a lifetime.  That is why we concentrate on building upon the pet/pet owner relationship and aim to educate you throughout your pet's various life stages from puppy/kitten to adulthood.


How to Leash-Walk Your Dog

Understanding your dog’s behavior and beginning obedience training from an early age are key components to having an enjoyable relationship with your pet.  We asked our expert veterinarians, Dr. Jeanne Potter and Dr. Crystal Steib, to provide us pet owners with some tips on how to create a dog training method that is built on a foundation of respect and positive reinforcement.  Although they were sure to mention that no single method works for all dogs, here are some general guidelines they shared to help you and your pet through the process:

First things first, dogs are not naturally born to know how to walk on a leash, nor do they understand that they should not pull, or lag behind too far.  This is where leash training comes into play--which can be challenging for all parties involved (both owner and pet) because dogs have the tendency to move quickly and are usually very excited to venture outdoors.  Leashes work to lessen these natural behaviors and movements.  Drs. Potter and Steib reiterate that teaching your dog to walk without pulling takes time, patience, and lots of positive reinforcements. 

You may notice a remarkable difference between the obedient and well-mannered service dogs or those you see at dog shows versus the dogs you meet at your everyday dog park.  The difference being that the ones in dog shows have been extensively trained in precision heeling and how to walk on a leash and thus prance gracefully alongside their owners, as opposed to the ones you see out-and-about in the neighborhood, pulling and jumping up on their owners.


Training Guidelines:

Consider all walks as training sessions until your dog learns to properly walk on a leash and heel on command.  The ASPCA recommends keeping the training sessions short, but frequent (and fun) for your dog. 

During your walks (aka training sessions), your dog should be taught to walk on your left side, next to and not in front of or behind you, and never pulling ahead.  Teach to sit at corners, stoplights, and curbs.  Note: This is work time for the dog and reward time is the visit to the dog beach or park.  The ASPCA refers to these training sessions as ‘Red Light, Green Light’ and another option is the ‘Lure and Reward’ (ASPCA.com 2013).

One tip for success is to tire your dog out before taking him/her on a training walk.  So before you train, play a game of fetch or tug of war to expel some of that energy.  This will make your pet less likely to pull during training.

Also, remember that if you expect your dog to be controlled during a walk, it is equally important for them to control themselves before the walk!  If your pet is one that gets overly excited when seeing you reach for the leash, wait for them to calm down before opening the door.  This may be easier said then done, but it is important to repeat this sequence until your dog has all four paws on the ground. (Dr. Potter also encourages owners to practice having their dogs sit and stay before putting their food down and before greeting them when you first arrive home). 

If you walk with your pet at a quick tempo, they will be less likely to be distracted to sniff around or relieve themselves every few steps.

And keep in mind this is hard work for a dog; and all good behaviors should be reinforced with plenty of rewards.  One possibility is to use highly desirable treats that your pet does not usually receive at other times.  Reward with your pet with the treat and continue training.

Ultimately, in order for your dog to understand you are in charge, he/she needs to be taught to obey your commands by obedience training and daily reinforcement.


In addition, with the hot summer days approaching, both Drs. Potter and Steib remind owners to walk your dogs at a time of day when it is not too hot outside, especially if your dog is of a brachycephalic breed (e.g. Bulldog).  To learn how to recognize the signs of heat stroke and prevent it from happening to your furry companion, please refer to our blog article: Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke) in Pets.

Have questions in regards to which collar and leash combo is best to use for your training?  For recommendations, please refer to our previous blog article, Dog Training Part One: How to Choose the Right Collar and Leach.

References

Teaching Your Dog Not to Pull on a Leash. ASPCA. http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-articles/teaching-your-dog-not-to-pull-on-a-leash. 2013.

Dr. Potter's Dog Care Tips. Jeanne Potter, DVM. http://morenapethospital.com.edit.officite.com/dog-care-tips.html.

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