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Teaching your dog good leash manners

 by lucy on 21 Dec 2016 |
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Every dog parent has watched with envy as a friend, neighbor or relative walks his canine companion seamlessly down the street. Good leash manners don’t come easily, however, and require patient and consistent training on your part.
 
Leash tugging can make walking your dog stressful, but good leash etiquette stretches beyond comfort. Pulling on the lead can cause your dog to accidentally break free from your grip, for example, not only toppling you into the pavement, but also putting your pet at risk of encountering cars, animals and other outdoor dangers. Walking side-by-side is a bond-building exercise, too, showing your dog is paying attention to you and making it easier to guide and direct him on walks.
 
To teach Fido to walk with you side-by-side, start with a big bag of treats. Food is a great motivator, after all, and a tasty reward will reinforce good behavior on the lead. Attach a long, 10- to 20-foot leash to your pet and take him to an open area where he will be free to roam to and from your side. Choose either your right or left side and feed your dog a reward at that hip. Then, take up a fast walk and continue to offer your pet a treat whenever he walks next to your chosen hip. Soon, your dog will associate your side with tasty treats and you will not need to feed him as often.
 
Once your dog has mastered staying by your side with some consistency, practice giving him the command to join you. Start by walking him on a long line in an open area. Wait until your dog is off on his own and then give him a command such as “let’s go.” When he catches up with you, reward him with a treat and praise on your preferred side. If he continues walking by your side, reward your pet with a treat every few steps. If, however, your dog doesn’t follow and the leash becomes taut, stop walking and gently apply pressure to remind him you’re there. When he does approach, praise him and release the pressure on the leash. 
 
Once a dog responds to the “let’s go” command, you can switch to a shorter lead and practice changing walking speeds and directions. Continue to reward your pet when he stays by your side, gradually decreasing the frequency with which you give him treats. Eventually, you will be ready to take to the streets with your new, leash-savvy companion.
 
Remember, teaching a dog good leash manners takes patience as well as a hungry pet. If you’re having trouble with leash training, take a break and try another time when your dog is hungrier. In time, you’ll find you have a pet that walks faithfully by your side, not only making walks more enjoyable, but also allowing you to take more and longer jaunts with your canine companion.

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