Training a dog to walk nicely when on leash can be very frustrating and can seem daunting. My job as a dog trainer is to break down goals into small chunks for my clients to focus on.
One of the important strategies that I recommend is to be more interesting than the environment. When a dog pulls she is often interested in investigating something that is in the distance. If you make yourself really interesting and fun activities start when she appears by your side, then she will be more motivated to walk next to you.
Understanding motivation is critical to being a great dog trainer. What entices or motivates a dog to do something? That understanding is key to success.
There are many ways that you can motivate a dog to walk nicely next to you. Here are some strategies that you can try with your dog to be more interesting so she is motivated to walk near you to see what other fun activity is going to happen!
- Bring an outside-only toy with you. If your dog is not thrilled with toys, read this post about teaching a dog to like toys more. Keep a toy near your front door that your dog LOVES. Only use it on walks, and only give it to your dog when she is walking nicely. Gently take it away when she pulls.
- Talk more. Enthusiasm is a way to keep your dog focused on you as well as provide information to her that she should continue doing what she is doing because she might get a treat or a toy.
- Quick, gentle changes in direction. Occasionally turn quickly and go the other direction when your dog pulls. Never jerk or be rough with your dog. The changes in direction combined with enthusiasm when she is in the right position is a way to keep her focused on you.
- Change speeds. If your dog wants to run, run with her for short spurts when she appears by your side. The goal is to make it worthwhile for her to walk in the "reward zone" because sometimes it results in toys, treats or quick sprints might occur.
- Change your tone and volume of voice. Did you know talking really softly is one way to sometimes get dog's attention? Try something like, "Hey. What's over there? Let's go check it out" and then start running towards something as soon as your dog looks at you. What are you doing? You are motivating your dog to pay attention to you. The more a dog pays attention to the person holding the leash, the less she is scanning the environment for something to pull towards.
- Toy exhanges. Teach your dog to drop toys on cue and then practice toy exchanges on walks asking for "Drop", throwing another toy within the length of the leash. You can continue this periodically on walks to give your dog exercise and mental stimulation. If you need to learn how to teach your dog to Drop
- Reward eye contact. Read this post about teaching eye contact on walks. The more your dog is motivated to look at you, the less she will pull towards other distractions.