Yesterday I read of another frustrated dog walker on Twitter. I wanted to explain to her how to walk a dog so that the dog doesn’t pull, but I was frustrated by the lack of my ability to do so in 140 characters! (-:
So, I thought I would give it a shot here. It really is extremely easy to take control and have an enjoyable walk with your beauty queen (or king). And, no, it is not done by strong-arming or getting angry or abusive with them.
The one thing a dog wants in life (besides the ability to give and receive unconditional love) is to know where they stand in the pack. A dog that doesn’t know their position is a dog in turmoil. They worry and fret and think, ‘well, nobody is stepping up…I guess I have to!’ But they really don’t want to. Therein lies the problem. The turmoil they experience makes them do silly things. Like pulling their friends down the street. They think, ‘Okay. I’ll do this. I’ll take control. But I don’t know where I’m going. I’m freaking out, man!’ So, they pull. Sometimes in multiple directions. They are well and truly freaking out. Their mind is not calm and quiet, like it should be. They are unhappy and fretful.
How do we change this? How do we walk our beauty queens and kings?
How about a point form explanation that works for me. I’m sure there’s more than one way to do everything. So, I’ll just call this my way. But I know that most would agree with me that it is THE way.
1. The walk begins INSIDE the home. Yes it does. If you want to learn how to do this right, don’t argue with me on my first point! Your acceptance of your role-and your dog’s acceptance of you in that role-begins at the front door. Make your dog sit still at the front door. You are between your dog and the front door. Put his/her collar and leash on. Now…in your usual role, what would happen next? Would you open the door and allow your dog to walk outside? If you answered yes, you’re already sending the unhappy message that you expect your dog to be the leader. Enter the anxiety for your dog. What you do is take the lead. You step out of the house first, then allow your dog to come out behind you. It’s important that you take the first step out the door. They may not like it, at first. They may try to beat you to the outside. They may be desperate to get their first…but it’s not really what they want. They want to relinquish the lead to you. It’s your job to show them that it’s okay for them to do so.
2. So, now your on the front porch with your dog. What do you do next? Please don’t say, “shoot the starter’s pistol and try to keep up with the galloping dog way out ahead of me at the end of their leash.” That would be wrong. The next thing you do is STAND STRAIGHT. STAND AS IF YOU OWN THE WORLD. Show your dog that you are confident and strong and ready to take on the world. Stand slightly ahead of your dog. Head up…chin proud. Shoulders straight—un-slumped! You are the emperor/empress of the world. Of your world. Be ready to speak clear and firm and with strength. (Don’t show weakness)
3. Now, you’re on your front porch. You are standing straight and tall. Your dog is slightly behind you…at your side. Don’t be surprised if, at this point, they are looking you in bewildered bemusement. Seriously, they are probably thinking, ‘just what is she getting at? She’s not confident…I can see right through her. I’m going to have to run this show again!’ But NO…you stand your ground. Don’t let those puppy dog eyes fool you. You get ready to start walking. You allow slack in the lead. You’re facing the direction you’re going to take and your dog is waiting for the next step. You take a step. And another and another. IF your dog tries to step out in front of you, you step in front of them…you block them. No force is needed…no yelling. You simply step out in front of them…let them know they have to walk right at your side and slightly behind you. Watch their nose…make sure IT doesn’t take the lead.
4. Okay. You’ve taken a few steps. You’ve been standing arrow straight, chin up…you own the world. The dog will try for a couple of minutes to retake their spot in the lead…but that is only because they’re not quite sure they can trust you to own that spot. You keep stepping out in front of them, blocking them from taking over. They will look sad, despondent. Like they want to lie down and cry. This is them going through the letting go. You might at this point think they look too sad. You’ll think, ‘but they’re not happy now’. Don’t give in. Allow them to get past this part of the walk. Once they realize that they can trust you to be the leader, they will calm down and walk beside you and you’ll never believe they were ever a dog who pulled.
I know it sounds too simple to be true. But I’ve seen die-hard disappointed dog-walkers get from the pulling stage to the walking calmly beside them stage in 2 minutes or less. It’s turning a switch on your dog that they desperately want you to turn.
1. You walk outside first.
2. You ‘allow’ your dog to follow you through the threshold.
3. You own your body, your position, your world. Head up, shoulders straight, calm and confident.
4. Keep your dog slightly behind you and at your side.
5. Walk. Step in front of them, block, block, block if they try to get the lead.
6. Sad looks. “What are you doing to me!?”
7. Calm. Relief. “You’re going to do this. You can lead. YAY! I can just walk happily beside you!”
Just remember to keep blocking them. They will eventually give up and the switch will flick and they will be walking beside you, happy.
8. Keep your position when the walk is over. Make your dog sit down at the door. YOU GO THROUGH THE THRESHOLD FIRST. It is YOUR threshold. Then, allow the dog to come through behind you. (I usually sweep my hand in a welcoming gesture at this point. Then I get her to sit while I remove her leash.) My Franny knows that she is a follower. I’m not mean to her, bossy, pushy, etc. She wants that position. She would prefer to take the backseat. They only get anxious when they are giving the role of leader. They don’t know where to go, so they simply pull. It’s confusion in action. Take control, but be kind and gentle. Be calm and assertive.
FOR: @shanynlee and others who love their dogs and wish to take them on a happy stroll.