I have had dogs my entire life and considered myself pretty good at training them. Teaching a dog to walk properly on a leash is not easy, but I never had as much trouble with it until Maya came along. Walking her often caused my arm to ache and blisters to form on my hands where I held tightly onto the leash in order to keep her from getting away. Maya is an energetic dog who is super excited about walks, ready to sniff every tree, and eager to greet every person and dog she can see.
The method I had used to train my other dogs did not work on Maya. I was using an old-fashioned method which involved leash jerking and harsh collars. I started out with the choke chain, then eventually had to move up to one of those pronged collars. The prong collar worked but I felt awful about using it. And it only worked when I used it. If she wasn’t wearing that collar, all training was forgotten and Maya was back to her headstrong pulling self.
It wasn’t until I started taking classes to be a certified dog trainer that I learned a better method. Last year, I earned my dog trainer’s certificate with the Animal Behavior College and used my skills to teach Maya to walk on a leash without a special collar.
The first technique I used was the hardest for both me and Maya. If she pulled too hard, I would make an eh-eh sound and stop. I would stop and wait until she stopped pulling and looked back at me to see why I wasn’t following her. This was difficult because it would take a very long time for us to even make it a block.
The second technique was to bribe Maya with treats. Whenever she walked nicely beside me, I said, “Good girl!” and tossed her a treat. Some dog trainers are against using this bribery method because they believe that the dog becomes dependent on the treats and only behaves when treats are present. This can be true to some extent. I am currently in the process of weaning Maya off the treats. But I would rather have her behave because she wants a treat than to behave because if she doesn’t the prong collar will pinch into her neck.
Although these tips are simple, they are time consuming. It took a good couple of months to get Maya to behave on the leash most of the time. We still have some issues to work out, but I am really glad that I can walk her now without using those terrible prong collars. If you have trouble walking your dog, consider the above techniques. Set aside fifteen to twenty minutes a day for walking. Keep it up for as long as it takes. Remember that nothing good ever comes easy.