Recently, I posted a video on my Instagram story of Hudson and Lucy loose leash walking. I had a ton of inquiries from people wanting help with their dogs.
Ask and you shall receive!
If you are new here, let me tell you what a miracle this feat is for me personally: I've had Hudson for almost 4 years now and when I first got him he was basically a bucking bronco on leash - here, there, jumping, pulling - it was nuts. Lucy has been with us for 1 year now, and although she was better, hot damn is she strong (and not always the best at staying focused).
Let's factor in that I have never owned a leash until Hudson. Yeah, no, you read that right. I grew up in the country where all the dogs just hung out and did their thing, visited the neighbours, and walked off leash. Essentially, I had no clue what I was doing or how hard it would be to teach my 2 big dogs how to walk nicely. I thought getting slightly dragged instead of fully dragged down the street was about as good as it was going to get.
I have tried everything: harness', prong collars, short leashes, long leashes, different tricks and methods.. and then I tried what I'll share with you now. Keeping in mind, as I said before, I am no trainer. This is what works for us, and it might not work for you. But stick with it for a little while and I think you'll be surprised (I sure was)!
First things first, the gear: I switched Hudson and Lucy onto Perfect Pace No Pull Dog Halter (pictured below). I was skeptical it would work, quite honestly, but I, like you, was willing to try anything. Unlike traditional halti systems, this one works with "calming" pressure points to encourage them to focus. My best advice with this is to put it on them without going for a walk, give them a ton of treats while they're wearing it to get them used to the idea of having it on. Also, be prepared, it does tack on a couple extra minutes in getting out the door. It's a little more complex than just throwing on a harness or collar. But totally worth it, trust me. My leashes also clip around my waist. You may not need this if you only have 1 dog, but with 2 I need a hand (and some extra security) for rewards! What else do we rock? A fanny pack. Sexy, right? Laugh now, but it's a game changer. It's stocked full of treats, plus I've got my poop bags, whistles, my phone - it fits everything.
So now that you're set up, what's the actual process? To start, pick a que word. My guys know "gentle" means they are getting a treat. To start, every time the leash is remotely slack (even if you have to encourage it, call them back, whatever) - boom, que word and treat. A million times over every walk if you have to. Eventually, they start to pick up that you have the treats and they want to stick close. Start bringing that leash in more and more. Short leashes mean you are in control, and they don't have the freedom to be doing whatever the heck they want.
The goal is to increase the time between que words and treats. For example, when we started "gentle" then treat right away and then treat after 5 seconds (if they keep focus), 10 seconds, etc. My dogs can go half a block now before they get their treat, and we'll keep upping that slowly.
"Kelsey, I've tried this before, it doesn't work!" Honey, I ain't done.
My dogs do not get treats unless we are on a walk. Wait, WHAT? Yes people, dogs who walk nicely get treats, they gotta earn those bad boys. I'm not handing them out for cuteness points.
I also don't speak to my dogs on walks (or I try not to) unless it's to give them a que - "gentle" "leave it" "good". These are words they know and will hear a lot better if it's not in the middle of a bunch of gibberish about Sally from work being nosey. You catch my drift? I read that somewhere and I immediately thought, "K, well that actually makes a ton of sense."
I make them sit and take a break every time they get too amped up about something. You know how dogs just seem to smell something in the air and you have no clue what's going on and all of a sudden, there's chaos? Make them take a break. As soon as I stop moving now and tell my dogs "take a break", Lucy sits down (Hudson is working on it).
My mutts aren't perfect, we still have to work at this every single walk. Do we still have issues with passing other dogs? Yes. But they're getting really good at sitting down and letting them pass across the street without the circus breaking out and making me look like a terrible dog mother. Squirrels? Hey, if I'm not in a bush, I'm happy.
My point is, be super consistent and super patient. The dogs need rules and expectations to follow and you need to know it won't happen overnight. We are in this together, I feel your pain and frustration. I've cried on walks, trust me, I get it. But don't give up! Last night, I walked both my dogs and my roommates pitbull and I didn't die. Win!
I genuinely hope this doesn't make any real dog trainers roll over in agony. How am I doing? Send help! Tips tricks you can share with the rest of us trying to make walks enjoyable again? I would love to hear from you!