We all know how crazy things can get when you first try to walk your untrained dog around their new neighbourhood! For hassle-free interaction with your pet, dog training is essential.
The world ‘properly’ quickly pops into mind. How do I make my dog walk properly next to me? You want your animal to never pull, not even for one step, and always walk close to you with a J bend in the lead.
When you learnt to drive a car properly it paid off to practice in an empty space such as a car park before attacking the main roads. Same applies with trying to get to step 5 before making sure your dog has learnt the preceding steps. If you have already tried this then you will know it is a guaranteed recipe for poor behaviour and walking habits.
Remember, it takes time and one has to be patient while walking a dog. Efficient dog sitters are wanted by many busy pet owners who cannot stop a dog pulling.
STEP 1: OFF LEAD
Start by making your dog follow you around the house off the lead. Keep moving away from your pet; make sure they do the following, not you! Reward your pet every 2-3 seconds IF s/he is close to you. Always keep the sessions short. 3-5 seconds and gradually increase up to 15-20 seconds. Dogs relate to your personality so always be an interesting, exciting, fun, and happy person to be with. No one wants to follow Oscar the grouch!
You can and should repeat the above exercise as much as possible; a great place is in the garden as its familiar territory that provides little distractions such as new smells.
STEP 2: OFF LEAD
To begin, start with your dog sitting to your left (you can put your self in the correct position or lure your dog to the correct side). Put your left foot forward and take two steps then lure the dog into a sitting position (as with speech, constant repetitious actions make learning easier). Repeat this exercise 50 times, then start to add in more steps 4, 6, 8, and 10 up to 25 meters and remember to constantly reward your pet! Even when trying to stop dog chewing or doing away with separation anxiety in dogs, a little patting or reward would help you to control your pet.
STEP 3: ON LEAD
Once your dog is comfortable with sitting around the house or garden on a loose lead (without going for a walk), start by taking the lead on and off again and rewarding your dog for staying calm. Remember to practice this frequently as practice does make perfect.
STEP 4: ON LEAD
Walk around the house and garden with your pet closely following you. The lead must NEVER be tight as this can cause undue stress and hinder training. We are working on positive reinforcement training and the only reason for the lead is a safety precaution.
STEP 5: ON LEAD
Once your dog has learnt to correctly walk close to you on their lead in a non distracting environment its time to tackle the big bad world! Start with very gradual introduction of outside distractions such as people, bikes and other dogs etc. Remember to always set your dog up to succeed, not to fail. Step by step encouragement really helps so that s/he never fails and you can reward your dog for their ever-improving performances.
Dog parks can serve as an extreme place for bad behaviour to occur and attempting to go to one too early without 1) being able to walk on a loose lead, and 2) having embedded the ‘come’ command is another great recipe for failure!
Dog parks can be quiet at some times and should definitely be used as a training area down the track. Start with a few exercises inside the park, such as instant sits and drop and then you can further reward your pet by taking off the lead to release the dog to play freely for a short controlled period of time.
A dogs automatic reflex action when you have pulled their lead is to resist and it will only cause tension and cause the dog to pull harder.
If your animal starts to pull do not follow your dog, this in itself is a massive reward that will reinforce bad habits. Remember YOU are the leader, not the follower! If you begging to follow you are being trained by your dog and we most certainly don’t want this!
If you can start to anticipate the lead becoming tight you can try one of these following steps:
- Stop, bend your knees, picture your self becoming a tree (dogs don’t pull trees )
- Turn and walk in the opposite direction, if s/he pulls, turn again and repeat
- Walk in a left hand circle (no point in pulling!)
- Try using walls or fences to practice along side.
- Penalty yard, which is waking backwards each time the dog pulls in the direction that they want to go, e.g.: to go somewhere towards people or other dogs.
- Walking close to the gutter of the street will make your dog either stick close to or they will be forced to walk at a different level and try to straddle the gutter.
If your dog has already begun to train you then the best step is to go back to kindergarten and start again. See steps 1-5 above.
Head collars (gentle leaders, haltis, black dog) and easy walkers (no pull harnesses) are great assistant training aids. These devices will help you stay in control and not give up while training your best friend in the correct behaviours. Like a training wheel on a child’s bicycle they should be removed and discarded as soon as your dog can walk calmly by your side at all times.
Many dog sitters try their own ways to train pets. If you have a knack to train dogs, such as stop dog peeing for instance, you can specify the same to your owner when he is signing the agreement and discussing the dog sitting checklist with you.