Dogs pull on the lead for a number of reasons.
Their four legs work much better than our two and they’re designed to move faster than we do.
They want to get to ‘interesting’ as quickly as possible (and ‘interesting’ may not be where we think it is).
We don’t always communicate with them properly.
We don’t really consider that we put a lead on a dog when it’s ‘fully charged’ and raring for action.
Let’s look at the last one first. Your dog has been lying around at home, had a quick ‘out’ in the garden after feeding and is now full of energy ready to be released. The appearance of a lead usually causes excitement to build and we can’t really expect an excited dog with a store of energy to burn to be completely interested in what we have to say. It’s not dissimilar from expecting a sugared-up toddler at a birthday party to sit down and be quiet.
We can take the edge off that energy by playing a ‘find it’ game.
Go out into your garden (or you can even play this indoors with a smaller dog) and, out of sight of your dog, hide six treats in places you can easily remember. Get your dog’s attention (or take him into the garden) and tell him to ‘find it’, but guide him by gestures to the first treat if this is his first time for this game. You’ll find that dogs become completely absorbed in the find it game as it brings their minds into focus as well as burning off some excitement and energy.
When all the treats have been found it’s time to go for a walk.
‘Taking the dog for a walk’ is a completely different thing from ‘going for a walk with my dog’. The first may as well be ‘dragging a brick up the road’ because it implies that there’s going to be, at best, minimal interaction.
Communicating with your dog doesn’t mean talking to him all of the time. It means that you need to stay as aware of your surroundings as he is and that you react to them in a way that demonstrates you’re in control. Guiding him by using his lead intelligently will go some way towards that.
You’re supposed to be more interesting than anything else for miles and you become interesting because of the way you interact with him on a regular basis. Just because it’s called a ‘walk’ there’s no need to limit your activity to walking. If you find an appropriate place to do it, play a game with him or stop for a random fuss for no reason. His attention will begin to swing towards you because you’ve become a source of good things.
There’s nothing we can do about the four legs to two aspect of pulling, but addressing the other three will make him more receptive to being trained to properly walk to heel, which is where we’ll begin with the next blog.