The art of anxiety free leash training
Quote of the Day:
"Never Say Never, Because Limits, like Fears, are Often Just an Illusion." ~ Michael Jordan
1. Why do dogs pull on a leash instead of walk by your side
It's a common problem. It's a frustrating problem. Dogs pull on leashes because they don't know they aren't supposed to. From puppyhood they've been practicing getting all jacked up about going for a walk. The state of mind has always been over excitement.
Opposition reflex - marketing tells us that a harness is the best tool for training your dog to walk by you. Not always the case. Especially for working dog breeds or those who are high energy, high anxiety, opposition reflex comes into play. It's a game for your dog. It's frustrating for you. Think Iditarod. Dog think it's fun to pull and a harness can cue them to do just that.
Anxiety, reactivity, overexcitement play a roll in dogs who pull on the leash. You'll need to slow down and build some confidence in what your dog is focusing on while on a walk.
2. Humans think of "The Walk" as a straight line destination
If your dog is accustomed to pulling you where ever you go, you'll need to back up and realize that re-training means you've got to reframe how your dog looks at a walk with you.
The first thing they need is an understanding that they need to focus on where you are going.
3. High Distraction Expectations
When you learn to do something new, do you learn best in high distraction? Or do you get yourself in a focused state and get good at it before you try it high distraction? Let's say you were going to learn how to fly a plane. We'll use that since the memory of the difficulty in learning to drive a car is faded. It's the same concept.
You get familiar with the equipment. You learn the basics. You do that over and over and over before you ever actually fly. You have someone lead you, a co-pilot. And you practice all of that A LOT before you take off on a solo flight.
We expect our dogs to go from their normal non distraction life, in their comfortable home, out into the world where there are smells and distractions everywhere. If your dog can't walk with you in low distraction, like around your home.... how can you expect you dog to do it in high distraction?
4. Start by giving your dog a chance to learn in low distraction circumstances
If you've got a dog that pulls on the leash, no matter what the reason, reframe walking with you in a non distractive place like your home!
My favorite set up is to use a fanny pack with a carabiner attached to it. Attach the leash to your dog's collar and the carabiner. Then walk around the house. Do it when you are getting ready in the morning. When you're doing chores. Any time you've got movement in the house going on. You can also leave it on as you sit down.
You are really teaching your dog to focus on you and where you are going while attached to you. That's not normal for a dog. They aren't born understanding how to walk on a leash at all.
5. Dog Life Unleashed Calming the Chaos Experiment
We're practicing "The Walk" or running or some kind of movement with your dog for 20 minutes a day, 30 days in a row, to see how your relationship changes with your dog. How you can be less frustrated and your dog can be your co-pilot to letting go of anxiety, frustration and over thinking all that you've got to handle in a day.
If you've got a dog that pulls on the leash or is anxious, overexcited or reactive in any way, especially on leash, back up and spend your time doing this for the 20 minutes.
Movement is movement. "The Walk" is not defined in a linear destination!
We often limit ourselves in options when in frustration. We keep practicing the same things and getting better and better at handling frustration. We begin to accept it as the only way there is and we don't try other options.
So go ahead, even if your dog is pretty good on a leash, this can bump up the fun factor when you are out in distraction. Your dog will get the chance to clearly understand the fundamentals of walking on a leash.
If you haven't joined Dog Life Unleashed Calming the Chaos Experiment come on along with us here!