1. We believe that dogs are friends, and they should be treated as such! They are our companions, not our servants, and our relationship with them should be one of mutual respect. However, dogs are not humans. They are dogs, and they are born only knowing only how to act like dogs. Our respectful relationship needs to focus on teaching them in a positive way how to live with humans.
2. We believe that good dog training is largely based on offering choice to our dogs. Dogs are individuals with unique feelings, wants, and needs, and one size does not fit all. Learning how to listen to what our dogs are telling us and offering them safe, positive choices enables them to figure out for themselves what their best options are.
Keeping these philosophies in mind, we will now talk about proper leash handling on dog walks.
Before we start with techniques, we would like to make a few quick notes about human stress levels, as well as equipment. Dogs are great at reading body language, and if you are stressed, your dog will definitely feel that and get stressed out too. People who are stressed often keep the leash tight or yank on it, which is not very conducive to helping a pup stay relaxed and learn. Try to take some deep breaths, and keep the leash as loose as you can while still staying safe!
Regarding equipment, we prefer a front or back (or both) clipping harness, and a six-foot leash. Maybe a muzzle if you’re working with a dog that has a bite history. That’s about it! Equipment meant to restrict or inflict discomfort/pain is also not very conducive to relaxing and learning.
1. Holding a Leash
Wrapping the leash loop around your right wrist, place your left hand halfway in the middle of the leash. Keep the space between your two hands loose, and keep the space from your hand to the harness loose. Your right hand is your anchor hand. Your left hand should be loose enough to let some leash slide.
2. The Slow Stop
When the pulling begins, let a foot or so of leash slide through your left hand, with only a slight “warning” pressure. While the leash is sliding, slow down your steps until you come to a complete stop. If done correctly, you and your dog will come to a complete stop without any leash yanking or jarring sensations.
3. The Fake Pull
If a dog is fixated on something, we can get their attention gently and without yanking on them by sliding the leash through our two hands, one over the other, like you’re pulling in a rope. Instead of actually pulling, you just let the leash slide, which creates a small, attention-grabbing sensation for the dog. When they look back at you, you can give a big, “Yes!” and encourage them to walk away with you.
4. The Basic Heel
Perhaps the easiest way to encourage a good heel is to reward your dog when they are walking properly. Take some treats with you, and whenever you notice your dog walking where you would like them to (ideally, right next to your ankle), give a, “Yes!” and give them a yummy treat!
The answer is, for any reason, really. They might be excited, happy, scared, uncomfortable, nervous, angry, hungry, or any other emotion. However, they never do it for the purpose of annoying their walker, which some seem to think!
First, you should be reinforcing your heel as much as possible. If they’re rewarded for heeling, they’re less likely to pull. Second, utilize your slow stop if they do pull ahead. When you are in a complete stop, wait for both the leash to slacken, and for the dog to turn their head towards you. When this happens, try walking again. Repeat as often as necessary. Sometimes it might be every two feet down the whole block. That’s okay.
If she is distracted, you can use the fake pull to try and gently redirect her attention.
Sometimes, it’s good to know when to let a dog pull. If they are very nervous, scared, or way too excited to contain themselves, you won’t really get anywhere. If they are small, you can pick them up. If they are big, calmly deal with the pulling until you’re in a place where they can calm down.
When is the only correct time to yank the leash? If a dog is in direct danger, like running into the street, about to get into a fight, about the be stepped on, etc…
Otherwise, it is okay to smoothly but firmly pull a dog away from something that seems to be dangerous or might trigger them. Examples include seeing a trigger approaching around a corner and pulling them away because you both need to escape. It’s better to deal with the stress of a bit of pulling than the stress of a triggering event!
1. Two Hands Is Better Than One
While leashes can be safely one-handed by experienced handlers, you will ALWAYS have better control with two hands. Save the one handing for open fields, big quiet spaces, and other very safe areas. Two-handing is the way to go in the city!
2. Corners and Blind Spots
Most accidents happen when the walker isn’t paying attention to their surroundings. Leave the phone in your pocket, and keep an eye out for triggers! Check: building corners, hallways, elevators, street-side doors, intersections, and any spot where you can’t immediately see what is coming.
3. Dog Fights
You should NEVER stick your hands into a dog fight, it’s a great way to get bitten or otherwise redirect the aggression to you. Instead, if you need to break up a dog fight, you can: pull them away if they’re both on leash, put jackets or blankets over them, spray them with water, or use a citronella spray in their faces.