How many times have you seen a dog on a leash bounding on ahead while his poor owner is dragged helplessly behind? The dog-walking-its-owner situation is a common one, and it arises from a failure to train the dog to follow proper leash behaviour.
You might think leaving your pet to roam free and fettered is acceptable. After all, he’s well trained, knows not to eat rubbish, and is always well behaved around others, right?
A leash is not just an effective tool for training your dog, but also a necessity for your dog throughout his lifetime. Left alone without a leash, a dog can injure himself in your own yard or garden. If you allow him to bound about on the streets without a leash on him, he is exposed to the possibility of accidents. Dogs have a nasty habit of eating garbage, and if your beloved pet has ingested even a tiny amount of rotting garbage from the neighbourhood dumpster, he could fall seriously ill, with diarrhoea being the least of his health problems. If you live in the outskirts of town, with a lot of vegetation and trees around, you’re likely sharing your surroundings with many small animals, insects and reptiles that can bite and injure your dog.
Then, there’s the question of your neighbours and the community. It’s not civic sense to leave your dog free to roam about, trampling on others’ flower beds, and soiling their property.
And then there’s the biggest and most serious danger of leaving your dog free without a leash. With an unleashed dog, you have very little hope of control when he gets aggressive towards other people. Remember, your dog is an animal, and its unrealistic to expect that you will be able to predict or control his behaviour in every situation. If you have your dog on a leash, you will be able to restrain him when he begins to get aggressive towards another person. Without a leash, a dog can inflict serious injuries on others, putting you at risk for expensive litigation. There has been an increase in the number of dog attacks reported in the US, and a majority of these are committed by dogs who were not on a leash at the time of the attack.
Even if your dog has been trained to obey your commands, it might not mean much in the heat of the moment when all he wants to do is attack. Having a leash will also prevent your pup from being involved in fights with other dogs. Two dogs fighting is never a pretty sight, and depending on the size and breed of dogs, there can be plenty of bloodshed. Dogs have a naturally competitive streak, and see other dogs as competition – for food, mates etc. If you have your pooch on a pet, you can restrain him, and prevent a bloody dog fight.
In many ways, a dog is like a little child. They mean no harm, but let their instincts guide their actions. It’s up to you as the owner to have a leash on your dog always, and to teach him proper leash behaviour. Having a leashed dog is not going to be of much use if your seventy five pound German Shepherd is bounding after a poodle at the park, and you’re being dragged right behind it!
Here’s how you can properly train your dog not to pull at his leash:
First of all, make sure he’s outfitted with the proper leash. A retractable leash is not recommended by experts, because it teaches a dog that when he pulls hard, he can go further. A regular nylon collar attached to a six foot leash is ideal for leash training. You can also use a harness, which itself will make it easier for the dog to pull as all the force is spread across the shoulders and not the neck. If you do decide to go with the harness you will need to be strong enough to cope with the pull your dog exerts.
Once you have the leash on your pup, stand perfectly still. When his excitement has subsided and he’s calm, take a step forward and then, stop again. Now praise him, and offer him a treat. Continue the procedure – taking one step forward at a time, stopping, and then offering your dog a treat or praise. As he gets used to stopping after one step, increase the number of steps to two, and then three, and so on.
If he’s mastered this initial lesson, walk around with him in your yard or garden, before moving out on the street. If you feel him pulling forward, stop till you can feel some slack in the leash.
Don’t keep walking him when he’s pulling. This makes him think you’re rewarding him for his behaviour. You can also try turning around, and going in the opposite direction whenever you feel your dog pulling.
Once he’s used to wearing the leash, it worth teaching him how to ‘Heel’ when walking with you out on the street.