The Art of Walking the Dog
First, we look at walking your dog on a leash. The first thing you want to realize is that a leash is meant to guide your dog, not to restrain. We have all seen, and surely experienced the "dog walking you." This is when you see a dog running forward while the owner struggles to keep up and the leash looks like it is ready to break.
To prevent this, the best place to start is by walking your dog consistently. Many dogs get over anxious, excited and tend not to listen when they are going on a walk. That is because they know it is a treat. But think; if you gave your dog a walk every day, just like you give him food, he would begin to see it as routine. This is not to say that he will become less excited, but he will begin to know what to expect.
Next, when training it is always best to do so in an area with few distractions such as other dogs. Of course this is not always possible, so work with the area you have. Teaching your dog not to pull while on a leash is fairly simple; the only hard part is that it takes lots of patience and repetition. The best tool to help you succeed is a no-pull harness! These harnesses can do wonders! You can use whatever commands you prefer, personally I use "heal" anytime my dog pulls away or is not walking right by my side. Immediately after he "heals" I will praise him with "good boy" after he stays by my side for a few feet I will stop, tell him to sit, and give him a treat.
Walking your dog on a leash properly first, familiarizes him with how walks should go. As I said before, treat your leash like it is a guide. Your dog should never be pulling on the leash if you wish to one day be able to walk him off the leash. If you do this correctly, your dog should never really know when the leash is on or off.
Once you have mastered walking your dog on a leash, you can start to work into walking him off a leash. This is best done by starting a walk with the leash on. At some point throughout your walk, ask him to sit as you unclip the leash. Do your best to distract him with another treat so that he does not realize what you are doing. Once he is finished with his treat, start walking again and see how he does off the leash. DO NOT attempt this in an area with other animals, people, or vehicles! We would never want your beloved pet to get injured!
Now there are many different opinions out there on whether or not your dog should wander away from you or remain by your side. I prefer my dogs to walk by my side whether they are on or off the leash. My best suggestion on how to accomplish this is to always reward your dog for focusing his attention on you. Yes, it is likely that your dog will see a friendly human, another dog, or a little cat running by that will make him leave your side. These instincts cannot be avoided, simply get him to come back, tell him "no" and continue on your walk. As usual, positive attitude, rewards, and praise are the keys to getting your dog walking in good form! After you have trained your first dog it is much easier to train the rest!
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