So, you have a puppy or a new dog, yeah! You now have a new buddy to walk with in the mornings. He’ll be a reason to get out of the house, even when the weather is dreary. It will be the best ever!
Then reality sets in! You clip your leash on your dog’s collar, open the door and you almost have your arm pulled out of the socket! Who knew a 10 weeks old puppy could have that much pull, but away you go. Half way through your walk, 4 blocks away from home, your 7-month-old, 55 pound “puppy” decides he’s done. He lays down and there is no way you are getting him home without carrying him. Help! You just want to walk your dog.
Great! Now let’s take 2 steps back to start this process on the right paw.
First things first is equipment, the stuff you’re gonna need to train right. So you have the dog, first thing on the list for dog walking, is now checked off.
Next important thing is the leash. It is called “leash walking” after all. Let’s talk leashes. There are lots of options out there. I have lots of cute leashes, but some can be subpar construction or made of slippery materials that are hard to hang on to. For the most part, I prefer a 4’ braided leather leash. For most situations 4’ is more then enough. I find going up to a 6’ leash there is too much extra leash. When your dog is walking politely, too much leash gets in the way. Along with length of your leash you need to consider the width. Width is a factor in two ways: 1) How big is your dog? 2) How big our your hands? I have smaller hands, I cannot handle a 6’ long 1” wide leash easily, it’s just too much leash for my hands. So even if I have a larger dog, I will use a strong leather leash that is narrower in width. I need to be comfortable in the thought that I can hold on to the leash no matter what.
Which leads me to the next thought in leashes – waist leashes. Frequently the best leash is the one that you do not need to hold on to, especially while training leash walking. I have used just about every waist leash on the market and my two favorites are the Buddy System Leash and Quantum Leash by Kurgo. Sometimes it is hard to handle a leash, your treats, your attention all at the same time trying to manage a dog learning to walk on leash. Waist leashes take that stress away. They are also great for strong dogs with small people on the other end of the leash. Your waist is your center and there for your strongest part of your body, so you can anchor a pulling dog. Also if you have a tendency to use your leash as a steering wheel, the waist least helps eliminate that habit. My only complaint about many waist leashes is that they are designed for large dogs. I do not want a big clip hanging on my small dog or hitting them in the back. The Buddy System does make a small dog version that is great.
Harnesses and Head Collars
The next important piece of equipment is what is your dog going to wear as they walk? I do not suggest attaching their leash to their collar. While a dog is learning to walk, they will pull, lunge and other such silliness. If the leash is attached to the collar, even a flat leather or nylon collar, you can do a lot of damage to their tracheas and necks. So, I suggest using a harness or a head collar. My first choice for most dogs is a harness. There are lots of choices and some that are designed to discourage pulling such as the Freedom Harness. There are a couple of no pull harnesses, by far the Freedom harness is our favorite. My dog Bueller has trachea damage from being in a shelter and walked on slip leads. So he uses a Choke Free harness or a head collar. Not every dog gets used to wearing a head collar, but they can be very useful for strong pullers and anxious dogs. I use both the Gentle Leader Head Collar and the Perfect Pace with great success, but they do take some time to train the dog to wear them comfortably.
The last piece of equipment you need is a treat bag. While teaching your dog to walk politely it is going to take a lot of training and making it “worth the dog’s effort”. Remember, dogs don’t naturally walk politely next to us. So we have to make this “trick” worth the effort. I like using a treat pouch because the rewards are easy to access. Plastic bags are a no-no. Your puppy can jump up and grab them and eat all the cookies or just tear a hole in the bag. Also, pockets are not that practical since it can be hard to get a reward out quickly. Plus, there is a good chance if you leave the treats in your pocket, your dog might nibble a hole into the pocket. (from experience, trust me!) So, that takes us back to treat bags. I personally like the ones that “snap” close with a metal hinge. That way if you lean over all the treats don’t spill out. I also like my treat bag to be pretty good size. I like to always have a variety of rewards during training and a little bit bigger bag helps. People like all different sorts of treat pouches and bags. You just need to try a couple before you find your favorite.
Now that you have all the equipment, it’s time to start training your dog to walk politely on leash!
Check out our next blog for the foundation of polite walking.