A "smiling" lead is the key to an enjoyable walk

by Amy Healey // June 2017

A “smiling” lead is the key for an enjoyable walk

Like most owners, I always look forward to taking my dog out for a lovely long walk especially on a beautiful summer’s morning! What I don’t enjoy is having my arm forced out of its socket because my dog wants to sniff a blade of grass or has found a rabbit scent beneath the brambles. This has involved me being dragged into the bushes or down the street! Does this sound familiar? Well Dogs Trust Dog School can help by providing you with the tools to train your dog to walk with a lovely “smile” on their lead - which could be the key for an enjoyable walk. What we are looking for is the lead to be nice and loose and in the shape of a smile

If your dog is continuously pulling on the lead, taking them for a walk can start to feel like a chore. There can be a number of reasons why dogs may pull but the best thing you can teach your dog is to always walk on a loose lead. This will, in time, reduce any of your pooch’s bad habits.  Teaching your dog to walk well on a lead will potentially be time consuming and hard work but the end results will be very rewarding for both you and your dog!

Back to basics

So where do we start? Well, with Molly (my 5 year old, Labrador), we went right back to the basics and started our training in our back garden. I began this way in order to set my dog up to succeed! There are many distractions outside our home, particularly the variety of smells, as we live on the back of a nature reserve, so you can imagine the amount of wildlife that roam free near us that Molly would have wanted to sniff out!  For me, a key element to success is to ensure the dog succeeds - never make the task too difficult! An example of this with Molly is providing a cue to let her know when we are training and when we are not. Many owners don’t always have time to train their dogs every time they’re walked – sometimes we only have time to take them for a quick walk. For me, a convenient time to train Molly is in the evening, but how does she know the difference between when she’s being trained to walk nicely on the lead or just going for a walk? The answer is she doesn’t! Therefore I have provided a cue which allows her to identify when we are training. All that is involved is her collar, harness and lead.

I want to teach my dog a ‘permission to pull’ as this will allow Molly to recognise when she is required to walk nicely on the lead. When I’m training her to walk nicely, her lead is attached to her collar – when she has permission to pull, her lead is attached to her harness. If you do not own a harness you can use something visual, for example, a piece of ribbon tied to their lead

My first  loose lead technique

I started off the training by using a technique called lure and reward, which basically means I am “luring” my dog into the preferred position and then rewarding for the desired behavior. Being a Labrador her preferred reward is food! Generally, beef jerky, liver cake or cheese – she’s not too picky! But you can use anything.

I have trained Molly to be able to walk on both sides as I’m left handed and my partner is right handed.  I will explain some techniques as though I was walking my dog on the left. Firstly, I place the lead in my right hand and have the treats in my left hand. Even though I am walking Molly on my left, I do not want the lead in the left hand as I want to easily dispense the reward down my left thigh to encourage the desired position. If I’d given the food in my right hand, Molly would have moved from my left side and positioned her body in front of me and I would have just rewarded her for standing in front of me. This has helped Molly to learn the basics and for me to get the “smiling” lead.

In my next blog I’ll be sharing more tips on how to continue perfecting the loose lead walking so that you and your furry friend can enjoy lots of happy walks!