Ok, so you’re walking down the street or into the grooming salon/pet store with your dog on a leash in one hand, some kind of drink in the other, and your baby or some kind of paper work in the other. All of a sudden, your dog sees another dog, a cat, squirrel, rabbit, or another person even, and starts pulling you over. Your drink about spills, your paper work goes all over the place, and your baby starts screaming loudly. How embarrassing!
How about this one: You are trying to get your dog to go with you for a simple walk, or put him in the car or a kennel and he decides to turn into a mule and not budge. He may squirm, bark, howl, screech, and pull against you. What do you do? Do you try to drag him along? Do you give up and try again later? Do you scold him?
Well, whatever the situation is.. I’m sure you have had some kind of trouble with your dog and the leash. The bottom line is.. most dogs do not like the leash, especially if you have a dominant dog in your "pack," or if the leash is new to him. Do not drag your dog, do not give up, and do not scold.
There are generally two kinds of problems with the leash when it comes to walking. Either the dog pulls you everywhere, or refuses to go with you. But why?
Dogs are really not complicated thinkers like you and I, no.. they are far simpler. They come into a situation and simply react with out thinking. Back when the wolf was domesticated, they were used to pull carts and help hunters. Wolves came to realize that if they worked together with man, that they would eat more with less effort.. well… less hunting anyway.
All modern dogs have some of that wolf gene in them.. to put it simply. So when they feel tension on the leash, they naturally try to pull against it. Breeds that have been bred specifically to pull have a hightened urge to pull. These breeds include the, Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Pit Bull, Bulldog, Rotts, Mastiffs, and most all of the Working group (AKC). Ok, so add to this urge to pull.. excess energy from being couped up all day, prey drive, cabin fever, and bordem, and you have a witches brew of behavior problems.
Dogs that refuse to go anywhere, have the same problems, only you have to add insecurity and sometimes fear into the mix. Some dogs even learn that if they refuse to go anywhere on a leash, they can control their humans with the behavior. Why? Because the humans give up, get frustrated and become unbalanced (mentally). Some of these dogs are actually dominant dogs telling their people that they are the pack leaders, and not the people.
You see, alpha dogs (pack leaders/dominant) get the best places to lay, they eat before anyone else, they choose which toys they want to play with and initiate the play, and never go around or come to a submissive pack member. They will also claim any space they come into by marking. Does this sound familiar? Then you have a dominant dog.
So what do you do? I’m glad you asked! You simply do all of the stuff I listed in the paragraph above… except for marking.. that wouldn’t be pretty. Seriously though, you need to claim your space by blocking your dog from the things he’s claiming. A toy, food, a bed, or whatever it may be. Block your pooch from obtaining it. When you feed your dog, make him work for it by sitting first, and always eat before him. Do not let your dog hop up on furniture with out an invitation. If your dog hops in your lap whenever, it could mean he sees you as an equal and not as the leader… this is not good either.
So what does all of this have to do with the leash? EVERYTHING! Really! Dogs refusing to go with you on a leash by squirming and whatnot, are throwing tempertantrums. Give a quick jerk on the leash, let some slack in the leash, and keep moving. Do not let the dog win. Think of it as a two or three year old throwing a huge fit… you don’t give up, you keep going. Now, you may punish your child with a time out or a spanking, but don’t punish your dog. They don’t understand punishment, and sometimes punishment can make the behavior worse. Just stay calm, give a jerk, and keep moving. You are saying to your dog that you are the alpha, and he needs to follow you. Realistically, this won’t always work the first time. You have to stick to your guns and stay consistent. Eventually, your dog will give in.
If your dog is pulling, stop moving, or change directions. You are saying to your dog that you are the alpha and he needs to follow you. Your dog will begin to associate pulling with stoping or changing direction, therefor, he will pay more attention to you because he doesn’t know what you will do next. Pulling also means your dog is not getting out enough. Dog’s like to get out and go places just like you and I. The catch 22 is that your dog is pulling partly because of cabin fever, and lack of exercise, and he has cabin fever and lack of exercise because he pulls and it’s difficult to walk him! "But I have such a big back yard for him to run and play in all day!" Yeah, well you can sit at home and buy everything from groceries to car mufflers online, watch t.v. all day, and never leave your house, but you still feel the need to get out of there once in awhile don’t you? Same for a dog.
Once your dog sees you as the pack leader (Alpha male/female) you will notice a huge change in his behavior. He will look to you for direction, and you can’t let him down, or he may go back to his old behaviors. Dogs like social order. They feel more comfortable in a secure, orderly pack.
But what if my dog isn’t a dominant dog and the refusal is do to fear? The same applies. Do not give in to the dog’s phobia. If a tragic event happened to your dog on the leash, let it go and your dog will do the same. If there is even a trace of unbalanced energy traveling to your dog through that leash, your dog will feel it, and react to it. It’s really that simple. The hardest part is waiting for the dog to give in. Because sometimes, it will take some time.
Once your dog gives in to you on the leash consistently, train him to heel or walk nicely on the leash. That is a whole other entery!
If you are having serious difficulties with your dog, find a trainer nearby to assist you. Most trainers love their jobs and would be pleased to give you advice.
Remember, never get frustrated with your pooch. He won’t understand, and it may make the bad behavior worse. Also, remember that dogs are not human, therefor, they do not think the same way we do. So trying to reason with your four legged friend will not work… however, it can be somewhat theraputic for us!