Myths About Lead Training Dogs
I have read many dog training articles and books over the years and most seem to have the same issue in common; they all assume that we dog owners were born innate dog training or pet behavioural instincts and skills. If we were all capable of training our dogs on the first try or with one or two simple commands, there would be no need to buy these training aids in the first place.
For me one of the biggest disappointments in the training books that I read (and this is certainly not a criticism in the techniques offered or expert advice), is the matter of fact way that the training is often depicted and the gap between the perfect canine test subjects in these guides and most of our actual dogs. I would often follow the simple instructions several times and end up giving up because I felt like a complete failure at not being able to follow simple instructions or becoming concerned that I owned the only dogs in the world that would never be trained.
There were no examples of how much repetition some of the training techniques would actually need or forewarning that getting your dog to heel as they walk would mean building shoulder muscles like a body builder and tripping over the dog on numerous occasions. Maybe professional trainers feel that they should not provide us owners with the truth on how hard it might actually be just in case we give up before starting. However, I for one would have appreciated knowing the pros and cons so that I could more accurately measure our and the dogs progress and I would have been comforted to know that other owners struggle with training (a few pictures of of insane, energetic dogs refusing to walk calmly may also have helped).
Why Train Your Dog To Walk on a Lead
A number of years back, when our 2 adorable Border Collies were slightly less well behaved (slightly meaning that they owned us as oppose to the other way around!); my partner and I knew that we had to get control of our dogs and become the pack leaders. We were unable to walk both dogs at the same time, due to their erratic behaviour and incessant pulling and we were well aware that it was our fault for not putting the hard work in sooner.
Ellie, our youngest, would literally swing off her lead by her teeth when she saw another dog or if we walked too slow for her! And Jay dragged us around the streets like we were on a Formula One circuit in pole position. Wanting to have relaxed and enjoyable walks for both us and the dogs, we decided to take charge and train both the dogs and ourselves to have more control. We bought numerous books and read online articles about lead training, but after several attempts at the simple suggestions such as keeping the lead loose, not allowing barking or jumping, controlling the walk, treating good behaviour, it soon became apparent that these things were a lot easier said than done.
However, I am pleased to say that we did not give up and fall at the first hurdle; we persevered and developed a lot of our own training methods and now, although we have not achieved perfection, I can say that we have a great relationship with our dogs, we are able to walk them both at the same time (without ending up flat on our faces) and the walks are relaxed and enjoyable. But most of all we learnt so much in the process, about training, about behaviour and about dogs in general and I wanted to share our experience and help others.
If I was only able to offer one piece of advice to all those with a new dog, whether it be a puppy or an older dog. Train them as soon as they come into your home! Do not wait even a few weeks because the dog needs to have very clear guidance and instructions about who is boss and by taking control of the walk you make good headway in this regard. Being able to control a dog during a walk means that training them within the home is even easier, after all you do not have the distractions in the house that you do outside, dogs, cars, people, smells, sights…all of these things add up to major distractions for your dog and once you have a handle on controlling them on the lead and have them listen to your commands outside, you are half the way there with inside training.
Real Life Tips and Tricks for Lead Training Your Dog
We probably tried every training aid and technique available all those years ago, some worked and some didn’t and after talking to many others on this topic it seems that each dog and owner is different in what training techniques will work for them. However, many people will fall into the same category as us, in that a mixture of these techniques will work best once you work out what suits you and your dog.
The below tips can be used in conjunction with each other or as separate aids, but what is most important is to give each one a fair chance before moving onto something different. Do not give up after one walk if you have not had any success, as it can take numerous tries for your dog to get the hang of training, especially if they have developed bad habits or have been able to walk however they wanted for many years.
We have provided some links and places to buy the aids from, but you should be able to find most aids in any good pet store and obviously the techniques won’t cost you anything (if you don’t count the blood, sweat and tears you pay with!)
Dog Training Head Harness
This training aid worked a treat with Ellie, and enabled us to lead and control her from the nose, giving us the ability to direct her attention and prevent her from using her neck and shoulder strength to pull like she usually did on walks. The most common brand is the Halti Headcollar, however most pet stores online and the high street sell their own makes now. It took us 2-3 walks before Ellie walked without pulling and we did have to reattach the harness several times at first due to the dog pushing the mouth strap off with her paw. However, we found this aid invaluable as a training aid.
Half Check Slip Collar
For larger dogs some trainers will advise using a choke chain style collar, which is basically a double chain where you clip the lead and when the dog pulls it tightens on their neck and then loosens when the dogs stops pulling. Our issue with these was that we did not want to choke the dog with a harsh chain. We therefore bought a Softex Half Check Adjustable Collar which is like a normal fabric collar two thirds of the way around and had a double chain just at the top of the neck area. This is where the lead clips and this aid worked well for both dogs and we still walk them on these now (it is not to be left on an unattended dog!) Always ensure that the collar is at the top of the neck just under the ears, as lower down is where the dogs power to pull comes from. We noticed an improvement on the first walk with this aid.
Left Hand Walking (or maybe right hand)
This one sounds a little strange, but with Jay it worked very well in conjunction with the slip collar. We’d had Jay for over a year when we started to lead train him and he was a 10 month old rescue dog, so he came with bad walking habits and we gave him a few more by taking so long to train him! He was so used to walking on the right side of us that when we swapped him to the other side it seemed to confuse him. For the first couple of walks he walked behind us trying to swap back to the right side, but after that he got used to walking on the left side but he always walked slower and slightly behind us, enabling loose lead walks.
Treats (Good for leaving & entering the house before your dog)
The age old tradition of treating your dog for good behaviour. It is very important when lead training your dog that you focus on leaving and entering the house as well as having a relaxing walk. Your dog should not be leaving or entering the house in front of your as you need to show your dominance and leadership by ‘leading’ your dog. If your dog is used to going in and out before you, training them to wait is a bit of a chore, which is where the treats come in. We spent many hours with the dog on a lead, front door open and training the dog to sit and wait whilst using food as treats. The Only Natural Pet Store have a huge range of treats and snacks that are made from natural sources and are GMO and chemical free. Use coupon code CJ15 for 5% off your first order if you decide to use them.
Give Yourself a Pat on the Back
Whether you are training a new puppy or a faithful family pooch, you deserve a pat on the back and a big well done for taking the time and care to make your dogs life better. By giving your dog rules and boundaries through lead training, you are really improving your dogs life and reducing the stress associated with a dog thinking they are the pack leader.
As tough as lead training can be (and it is certainly not tough for everyone), the rewards and benefits to you and your dog are worth so much more and once the hard parts have been worked through you will be so proud of yourself and your pooch. Remember to be prepared for how hard leash training can be and then you are less likely to give up at the first obstacle you encounter.