New dog owners often wonder how to teach their dog to properly walk while on a leash. We all know that it is very important to walk our dog every day, thus it is crucial for our best friend to experience pleasant walks. Recent research discovered that we should have two types of dog walks: recreational walks, when our dog can sniff around and explore, with or without a leash, and functional walks, when our dog can do their business or we need to go somewhere with our dog on a leash.
Before taking our dog out on a walk we need to choose the right collar and leash. Ideally, we want to use a flat collar, a martingale or an H shaped harness. For example, we should attach the leash on the harness, while the dog tag and the Kippy Evo GPS can be hung on the collar.
Once we have the right collar, we need to know how habituate our dog to the leash. This is the first step for pleasant and relaxing walks. We should start with sturdy but lightweight leash and collars that are fit for our dog’s size. We should be able to slip two fingers inside the collar when it is fastened. Initially, we will only put the collar on our dog for a few minutes at time, distracting them with play and fun.
It is now to get our dog used to the leash. It is quite simple to do, we just need to create again a playful and fun moment, put on the leash and follow our dog around. At this point we should never pull back our dog or use the leash to stop them from moving. The next step will be teaching our dog how to properly walk while on a leash.
We want to teach our dog to walk loosely on a leash. Initially we should walk very slowly and use a toy or food to lure our dog on walking with us. At this point we always want the leash to be loose, never tensed. Should our dog wonder off and pull in any direction, we should simply wait calmly and reward them every time he comes back next to us and walks with us.
Once our dog knows how to walk on a loose leash, we might want to tach them how to “heel”. This is an obedience exercise where the dog can be on or off leash and is walking perfectly next to their handler. During heel, the front legs of the dog should be perfectly next to the legs of the handler. We should start this exercise by luring our dog next to us in this position, for example with a small treat. We can then teach heel literally one step at time, by rewarding our dog for each and every step that they make while in the right position. If our dog goes too fast or wonders off, we just need to call them and lure them back next to us, rewarding our friend after the first step.
Federica Pirrone, Mariangela Albertini, Patrizia Piotti researchers at UNIMI Veterinaria