Going for walks with your dog is an excellent way for you to bond. However, it can be an activity you end up dreading because of how challenging it seems, and your dog can prefer to walk in a zig-zag and never seems calm. This will prompt you to want to know how to teach a dog to walk beside you.
How to Teach a Dog to Walk Beside You
Teaching your dog to walk beside you can be quite simple and fun when you do it the right way.
Get the Right Accessories and Supplies
Before the training, you need to have the necessary equipment. You should make sure that all the equipment fits well. When a dog has a leash or collar that does not fit, they tend to become irritable and try to get away from it, making the whole process difficult.
When looking for a collar, measure the size of your dog’s neck, and ensure you can fit two fingers between your dog’s neck and the collar. Choose one that is adjustable and allows you to adjust it according to your dog’s growth. The collar’s material is also essential as it can tell how long it is expected to last and if it is washable.
Use a thick one for large dog breeds and a thin one for small to medium dogs. Choose one with a medium length that allows your dog to walk close enough to you, so it is not far away and, at the same time, not so close that its movement is restricted.
Avoid retractable leashes as they can cause rope-burn-related injuries, and your dog tends to pull away from you. This is the opposite of what you are teaching your pet.
Consider getting a harness for dogs under four months, as they do not interfere with their natural gait. A harness also provides back support for your dog by distributing pressure evenly. It is gentler on its neck.
When choosing a harness for your dog, there are several types to choose from. They include the following:
- Step-in harness: It is suitable for dogs who do not like having a harness over their heads. It is also easy to put on. However, you may have a few problems putting it on a dog that is not obedient or has difficulty getting into position.
- Dual clip harness: Has both the front and back clip. However, it has metal loops that rub on your dog and are uncomfortable.
- Front clip harness: It is also called an anti-pull harness, as it teaches your dog not to tug or pull its leash. They have a loop that sits on the dog’s chest. Your dog can get its legs tangled in this type of leash if you do not lift it high enough.
- Back clip harness: It is also called a step-in harness, and looks great on your dog. It is one of the most common types and has an elevated leash attachment that makes it easy for your dog to run, reducing the chances of legs tangling.
- Head halter harness: This one has straps around its neck and a loop around its muzzle. It is great for guiding your dog forward; when it lunges or pulls, its head is redirected down.
When getting treats for their dog, most people tend to ask for recommendations from their friends, and then buy those treats and give them to their dogs. Simple, right? There are better ways to go about it than this. A lot of considerations should go into picking the right snack for your furry friend. This includes the following:
- Ingredients used to make the treats: This is very important if your dog is allergic to some things
- Size of your dog: Treats have different shapes and sizes, and treats that are good for a large dog, may not be suitable for a small dog
- Texture of the treat: Senior dogs prefer soft treats compared to younger dogs. If your dog has plaque or tartar, you buy treats that last long so your furry friend spends more time on them
- Health history of your dog: If your dog is genetically predisposed to obesity, you do not want it to eat treats that are high in calories
Since you will use the treats to reinforce behavior, you should select those that are healthy and good for it in the long run.
Starting indoors allows your dog to get used to the harness, leash, and collar in the comfort of its home. It will also feel less shy compared to doing it outside. Choose a quiet room that is not close to windows, so your dog is not distracted. You can also remove its toys from the area.
Allow it to sniff the harness and praise it for doing so. You can also give it a treat so that the association with the gear is positive. Put the harness on your dog for a few minutes, remove it and then give it a treat. Do this a few times until it gets used to it. Then you can gradually increase the duration it has the harness on.
After your pet is used to the harness, introduce the leash and have it walk around with it. At this point, you can use toys to distract it, so it is not focused on the leash. When it is comfortable with the leash, walk around the room with it, taking small steps. The goal here is to ensure it stays close to you during walks.
After your dog has gotten used to walking indoors, it is time to take it outside. In this case, “out” does not mean a one-hour walk. You can start with the yard as you are coming from indoors. The yard is a controlled environment, and at the same time, there are distractions. You want to ensure your dog can focus on these areas first.
To help your dog focus, you must become more interesting than the distractions. Ensure you engage with your dog and show it that it has your full attention. After the yard, you can proceed to the street when it is less busy such as early mornings.
Now that you are walking outside, there are a few things to follow to ensure the whole process is successful. They include the following:
- Start giving treats randomly, so your dog stays focused. It also prevents it from thinking of treats like bribes for good behavior.
- Stop and steadily hold the leash if it starts chasing after something during walks. Try to get its attention by calling its name and offering a treat.
- If your dog shows any signs of disobedience, do not shout at it, you may have to pull it back until it focuses on you and change the direction of your walk.
- If you drop the leash and your dog starts biting or chewing it, try to engage it to forget about what it is doing. You can also pretend to walk away, and it will begin following you, thinking where you are going is more interesting than biting the leash.
- When your dog likes pulling on the leash, walk in small steps to show it the ideal pace. You may have to get a harness that prevents it from pulling.
Patience is vital when it comes to training your dog. Some days you will feel like you are making progress, and others will be challenging. Do it with the end in mind and think of how good it will feel about going on walks with a dog that does not pull on the leash or try to get away to chase other animals. Alternatively, you can hire a trainer to teach your dog how to walk correctly.