Walking on a Loose Leash Techniques
- I use a prong collar which doesn't do anything to the dog when it is on loose leash, but if a dog moves forward or pulls, the pulling action causes the collar to tighten its grip around the neck, like a mother dog's bite on a puppy's neck when being disciplined. The pressure is divided all along the length of the collar instead of pinching in one spot. The moment the dog slacks and moves back, the grip of the collar on the neck loosens correspondingly. I refer to the prong collar as power steering in a dog. It looks medieval, but it serves its function well and is possibly the most humane effective dog walking training tool. It trains the dog to realize that if he walks at my pace, and slackens the leash, he doesn't feel disciplined, but if he pulls harder, the grip gets harder. I use the prong collar only when training to walk nicely. The moment the dog successfully learns to walk consistently on a loose leash, the prong collar can be put aside and the regular flat leather collar can be used.
- Timing is essential, learning when to correct (make a snap on the leash and collar and release) and when to slacken the leash totally is important. The walk starts inside the house, at the door when the leash is being put on the dog. I do not put on the collars and leash until the dogs are 100% in a calm submissive state, on a "Sit" or a "Down". I make them wait, sometimes 10 secs, sometimes up till a minute or more. They do not step out of the door before the human. And when outside, they tend to jump up jubilantly and happily, and I allow their expression of joy for a few moments, while we walk to the property gate. Same thing at the gate, they do not get to step out until they are 100% calm and good. I begin the walk by giving the command "Walk" in a very clear obvious manner. There will be no doubt from my serious tone of voice that we are on a structured walk. The dogs get it and then we walk side by side. They are allowed to walk side by side or slightly behind.
- When they start walking ahead (their shoulder going pass my foot), or at a faster pace than I am comfortable, I will repeat the command "Walk" and if they do not slow down, I will correct them before they get a chance to pull tight on the leash and collar. This is to help them understand that to "Walk" is a command and this is a structured exercise, not a free for all. And if they do not respond accordingly, there is a consequence of a correction. After a good correction, I will repeat again "Walk" while they are walking nicely by my side, so they learn to associate, "Walk" means walk by human's side at the human's speed. Normally, I do not give verbal praise when on a walk, because the walk itself is the reward for the dog. To be given the honor of being in my pack, is the reward too. To be in my favor is the dog's reward as well. Giving the dog my quiet approval is good enough. The reason I do not give verbal praise exuberantly is because I do not want to excite the dogs into an excited state of mind, which would trigger pulling, fast motion, or jumping up and down - actions which I am actively trying to discourage while on a structured walk.
- Finally, there is a need to allow the dogs to "walk at their leisure". While on a structured walk, they are not allowed to sniff around, pee, or stop for any reason. They have to be on a walk at my pace. They start and stop at my command. When I am satisfied with their walk, occasionally, I will release them from the command while I still hold on to their leashes, I say "Free" and they can walk ahead of me, or to the side or behind, as long as there is no pulling tightly involved. After they are done peeing, pooping, or sniffing, and just walking however they want, I will return them to the structured walk exercise and say "Walk" and the structured walk resumes.