Does Your Dog Walk You, Or Do You Walk Your Dog?
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The Problem: One of the biggest complaints people have is that their dog pulls them on a walk. And those complaints are reasonable. It is tiring and annoying for a dog to drag you along. Many dogs start to wheeze and cough because they pull so hard. Dogs can pull so hard, or lunge so hard, that the dog breaks away. And people hate the idea that their dog is the leader and not them.
Heeling: All dogs need to learn how to properly Heel on a leash. What is Heeling? Heeling means the dog walks on a loose leash on the left side of the handler. The dog should walk in a parallel line with the handler, even in turns to the left or right. The dog should be relatively close to the handler, but not bumping into them or interfering with the handler’s natural movement. The side of the dog’s neck should be in line with the handler’s hip. When the handler stops, the dog should automatically Sit, and when the handler starts moving again, the dog should effortlessly go along with the handler.
That’s probably not the way your dog walks on a leash, however.
What Doesn’t Work: Many people, including some trainers, get all worked up about why a dog isn’t walking at their side. Some will turn it into a power struggle. They will attribute it to the dog not being submissive to the handler, and the handler not being the dog’s pack leader. I’ve seen plenty of dogs that would still pull, regardless of how much their owners came down on them. And if you intimidate a dog enough, they will start growling or even bite you. Others will say it is because the dog is getting rewarded for pulling ahead, so you should stop walking if the dog pulls. Once the dog stops pulling, you can start walking again. I’ve seen plenty of dogs that got hysterical doing this kind of thing. Some will recommend that you jerk back hard on the dog’s leash whenever the dog is pulling. This can result in a severe injury to the dog’s neck. I know of a Dachshund that can no longer have a collar on its neck because the disks in her neck were ruptured. Others will say it’s that you are using the wrong equipment. So, the suggestions will range from a head collar, body harness, to choke chain, to prong collar, to electric collar. Dog training is NOT about devices, it is about training, meaning the dog LEARNS something. Devices aren’t learning, they are just devices. The dog will adapt to devices over time if there is no learning.
All of these answers are too simplistic, and if you’ve tried to implement them, you’ve already seen they don’t work. That’s because there are usually a number of reasons why the dog is pulling you along, and all of them need to be addressed. Though you might hit upon a method that works for your dog by accident, my experience has been that is a pretty rare event. And so people tend to then head in one of two directions, they either give up on the whole affair and put the dog in some kind of contraption, like a restrictive harness, that prevents pulling, or they dramatically the force, dominance / intimidation, and pain to try and force the dog to stop pulling. But, the problem really doesn’t get resolved, and oftentimes, other problems result, such as dogs that get more aggressive while on a leash.
The Answer: The problem really is that you don’t have a properly trained dog, and you aren’t trained as to how to deal with it. You need to teach your dog to properly Heel, with all that goes into that. There are no short cuts, there are no secret devices, there are no special dog whisperer tricks that will fix this for you. Your dog is untrained, and you need to solve that. Then, and only then, will your dog walk nicely on a leash, in public, and with distractions.