You’ve just brought your new dog home from the shelter and you can’t wait to make him a part of your family. After you’ve played with him, given him toys and treats, and gotten him familiar with his new home, it’s time to take him out for a walk.
This is where things can get a little dicey. Whether your dog is a puppy, who has no idea what a collar and leash are, or an older dog who has already developed bad leash behaviors, there are a few things you can do to get you and your wonderful new pet on the right track.
Make sure your dog’s collar is the right fit.
Having a proper fitting dog leash and collar for your dog is one of the most important things when you’re getting Fifi or Fido accustomed to “polite” leash walking. If the collar is too tight, it will choke the dog and make him or her not want to participate in whatever you have planned next. If the collar is too loose, the dog will be able to slip his head out of it – and you’ll be running frantically down the street after your cavorting canine!
Rule of thumb is, you should be able to insert two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck. If you are using a prong collar or a choke collar, please make sure that the collar you have chosen is of the highest possible quality and made of the best materials. Many professional trainers use these types of collars all the time. They insist that the reason these collars have a bad reputation is because there are so many low-end products out there that are poorly made and can be harmful to your dog. So, make sure you are consulting an expert and buying your leash, collar, snaps, rings and clips from a reputable manufacturer.
Get your dog accustomed to wearing the harness or collar inside first.
Put your puppy’s harness or collar on inside and be prepared to spend time playing with him and rewarding him while he is wearing it. This will teach him to associate the collar with fun, attention and rewards. Remember: in order to get him to do what you want, reward him with things that he wants, whether it’s a toy, a treat or a pat from a favorite family member. Once he has begun to associate the collar and leash with fun, it’s time to take him outside.
Don’t let your walk turn into a tug of war.
It’s time for that walk in the park and your dog wants to investigate every smell, sight, and sound. The trick to having everyone enjoy the trip is to patiently, but persistently, set the rules. It’s important to remember that dogs will instinctively fight against restraint. If their wild ancestors allowed themselves to be pulled back and restrained, they’d end up as a tasty meal for a larger predator. So, the more you pull back on the leash, the more your dog is going to pull you in the opposite direction.
While some trainers recommend that, when your dog pulls and strains on the leash, you should immediately stop dead in your tracks, others say you should turn back and walk a few steps away from the smell or object that your dog is so eager to get at. They call this the “penalty rule.” You can practice this at home first by placing a treat or a favorite toy several feet away from where you and your dog are standing. If your dog starts to pull on the leash, you can make him go back a few steps and immediately give him the command to sit. Once Fido has gotten the idea that he isn’t going to get where he wants to by pulling, you will both be on the path to loving your time together outdoors.