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Walking on Sunshine: Make Walking Your Dog More Pleasant This Year

(Thursday, January 16, 2014)

Getting fit is one of the most common New Year's resolutions. Taking a walk with your dog is a great way for you and your pup to get some exercise and bond. However, if your dog pulls the leash or lunges, it can make your leisurely stroll difficult and frustrating. American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen® Director and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Mary Burch, Ph.D. offers some basic training techniques on teaching your dog how to walk nicely with you:

  • Walking your dog on a loose leash: When walking your dog down the street, there should be slack in the leash. When the leash has slack in it, there should be a "J" shape that begins where the leash snaps to your dog's collar. Your dog should not constantly strain at the leash.

  • Teaching heel for control: Teaching your dog to heel is a good method of control. In the heeling position, the dog is positioned at your side. It's best to begin with your dog sitting at your left side. Step off your left foot as you say "Heel." Walk forward and praise your dog for being in the heel position. After several steps, take your last step with your right foot and bring your left foot next to it. Repeat the process until your dog will heel nicely in a straight line.

  • Using a toy or treat as a reward: Your dog's favorite toy or treat can help act as a reinforcer to help teach your dog how to walk nicely. You can start by having your dog on your side and have the toy or treat in your hand (at the center of your waist). Give your dog the toy or treat as a reward for not pulling at the leash. Remember to praise him ("Good Dog") with the treat. Eventually, you'll fade out the treats.

  • Stop your dog from lunging or pulling: Dogs who arefearful, protective or playful may lunge at other dogs or people. If your dog starts to lunge or pull on the leash, briskly turn and go in the opposite direction. Your dog will have to follow you and hurry to keep up with you. You can also stop lunging on the leash by standing still when the dog starts to pull or lunge. The dog soon learns that the walk stops when there is pulling.