I’ll admit it – I don’t like walking the dogs around town. I’d rather walk in the woods, or drive them to the off leash park so they can run around and socialize with other dogs. I try to convince myself that’s its better for them because I can practice off leash recalls, and recalls out of play. The truth is I find walking both dogs on leash together hard, so I don’t do it as much as I should. It’s easier to have them chase balls in the back yard for ten minutes than walk around the block. Unfortunately, this means that I have been ignoring an essential dog skill: walking loose leash.
I worked really hard on Bojtár’s loose leash walking when he was a puppy, and he had it down. His downfall is that he is a sniffer, and a marker. Mojo on the other hand, always seem to be on a mission to somewhere and thus a puller. It’s embarrassing having dogs that pull you around, or that you have to pull away from a sniff spot. So, over the last few months I’ve worked on Mojo using the tips and tricks that I learned from taking classes with Bojtár. I’m not a professional dog trainer, but I can tell you that consistency works. Most dog trainers will tell you this, but when it comes to loose leash walking, I have the voices of Sue and John from Dogs in the Park in my head (Aside from all their regular classes, they have a whole workshop on loose leash walking).
In the beginning, stopping each time the leash was tight, meant stopping almost every step. It also involved a lot of demand barking. Patience was required, mostly because Mojo wasn’t really interested in what/who was holding the other end of the leash. Although often frustrating, it became easier when I realized that if we only went around the block in half an hour, so be it. Mental work is tiring for dogs too. Once Mojo realized that I wanted eye contact, and offered tasty treats if he came back, things got much easier. There was still a lot of yo-yoing, but he began coming back to sit at my side consistently once he felt a tight leash. I’m now getting to the point that I can ask him for 25+ steps of walking beside me before he gets a treat. The best part is that even if he isn’t in heel position, when he is ahead of me, the leash is still slack and he checks in with me from time to time. I’m not sure if he gets the connection, but the better behaved he is directly relates to how long the walk is. If he’s really good we can make it to the off leash zone and he gets to chase and tug his ball-on-a-string.
Work with Mojo will continue as he learns more self control. I will increase the length of time between treats until I can cut them out completely and still have a dog that is happy to walk with me.