One of the challenges of teaching leash walking is that it’s easy for your dog to lose attention on you and just pull toward all the other interesting stuff outside. How can you compete with the smell of cats and the leaves blowing in the wind? One trick is to be unpredictable with your walking. Going in a straight line at a steady pace is boring; add some twists and turns and pace changes instead!
Your dog will want to pay attention to you because your movement is unpredictable and fun!
If, when you’re outside, your dog has a lot of trouble looking at you or following you as you call him, then practice indoors first. That way there is less distraction and you can build his desire to pay attention to you.
Setting up the game:
Have treats available – yummy ones that your dog enjoys even when he’s outdoors. Your dog is on leash, connected either to a harness (recommended for safety) or a flat collar. Prong collars and choke chains are not recommended – the point of this game is to build your dog’s desire to pay attention to you, rather than punish him for getting distracted.
How to play:
Simply mix up your regular walking in a straight line with the unexpected! Go forward three steps, then take a left and turn in a circle. Walk back the way you came, then zig-zag from one side of the side walk to the other. Slow down for a few steps. Wink at your dog, and then run away from him! Whenever your dog catches up or moves in sync with you, happily praise and reward with a treat.
If your dog lost his focus and didn’t see you turn away, avoid yanking on the leash. Call your dog, pat your leg, make kissy noises, or whatever else it takes to give him a heads up and help him turn and walk with you.
When you’re teaching your dog to walk nicely on leash, don’t focus on trying to get from Point A to Point B in a certain amount of time. Instead, focus on the quality of the walk on your way there. It’s worth taking the time to make your walk an enjoyable activity that you are truly doing WITH your dog!
If you can’t compete with the distractions outside, try these tips:
- Walk farther from the distraction so that it’s less tempting to your dog.
- Spend more time practicing in a less distracting area.
- Use more enticing treats (such as hot dogs, sausage, or string cheese).
- Provide your dog with exercise indoors or in the backyard BEFORE you do your walk. Right now, the point of the walk is training, not exercise on its own.