Walking your dog can be an enjoyable experience, but often it is not as much fun for the human half of the team as it should be. You need to decide whose walk it is when you take your dog out for a walk and make sure you are in charge.
When I am teaching basic dog obedience classes folks have trouble figuring out how to be a leader when walking their dog. Troubles start with a very young dog and, the bigger the dog gets, the bigger the problem is as the dog grows up. Many times by the time I start working with them, the trouble is well ingrained and the leash is gripped for dear life by the human while the dog goes where he wants.
If you have an older dog that has little respect for the leash, you can fix this using some of the same techniques used with a puppy. First, put the dog on a well fitted buckle collar and a six foot leash. These exercises should not be done with any type of collar that slides and chokes the dog.
Learn to Trust Your Dog
The hardest part in starting this is getting you to trust that the dog will not leave you. One approach is to loop the handle of the leash over a hook or other solid object, strong enough to hold your dog and then step back, taking your hands off the leash. Now, get a treat and step into the dog, but do not touch the dog, use the food to guide him into a sit, using just your voice and the treat. You have taken the first step in trusting that your dog can work for you on a loose leash.
Next you want to walk up to the dog when hooked like this and guide them with the food, your voice, to take a step and sit, within the limited range of the tied leash. You are learning to wean yourself off the dependence on the leash – the dog is just fine.
Work in a Small Area First
You can then move to a small area, preferably a room or garage that is totally enclosed, and drop the dog’s leash on the ground, letting him drag it around. A Run is a perfect option for an enclosure to train your dog in. Now walk, using your voice and treats to motivate the dog to be with you, walking along with you around this space. Work at keeping the dog’s focus using the treats and your voice so he walks with you. If the dog goes away, step on the leash, let him self-correct and when he looks back, praise, move back and entice him to come toward you, reward with a treat.
Once you have confidence that you can control your dog with the treat and your voice, take the leash and loop it around your waist, leaving your hands free. Stay in a small area, especially if your dog is larger, and try walking with your dog, not touching the leash with your hands. Use the food and your voice to guide the dog with you.
Then move to a larger Area
Now you can graduate to a larger area, with limited distractions, like your backyard, and practice walking. Gradually increase the difficulty and distractions while you walk and soon you’ll have a dog that walks with you, on a loose leash. If the dog starts pulling, go back through the steps until you have the dog back on a loose leash.
Going for walks with your best friend are much more fun when you don’t get pulled around by the dog. Most dog obedience programs can help you fix this problem, so if these steps do not work find a trainer in your area to work with. You and your dog will both benefit.