Leadership Walking

The number one thing we hear out on our walks is almost always, “How do you walk so many dogs together? I have trouble with just my one!” And the answer is more simple than you might think.

Dogs are sophisticated pack animals with social hierarchies and roles. The better you understand the way they interact with one another and with humans, the better the relationship you will have. In the wild, dogs use their physical bodies to show leadership by positioning themselves in front of other members of the pack. They may growl and nip at the neck of younger pups to show what behaviors are and are not acceptable. In domesticated settings, being their leader is a must. Creating a stable environment for your dog and adding the walk will help reinforce this role for you. If done correctly, your dog will relax into the calm state he or she was meant to live in and harmony will also ensue in and out of the home.  

First things first…Your Tools: Collar, Leash, Kibble/Treats

You will need a six foot flat leash and your dog’s regular collar. If your dog tends to pull on the leash then add a prong collar. The prong collar pinches your dog in the same manner that a mother would an out of line younger pup. They are not evil but rather the most organic tool on the market and thus, a very effective training tool. I do NOT recommend using choke collars as they can cause esophageal damage to a dog who pulls; nor do I recommend harnesses as they only encourage pulling.

Your collar of choice must be fitted properly. It should not be loose or dangling, nor should it be too tight that you can’t slip your finger under it. If using a prong, the prongs should be taut and sitting just on top of the skin, not pushed into the neck.

Attach your leash to the collar and be sure to bring along a bag of kibble or small treats as you will need them while walking. The leash should be looped in a relaxed circle, held in one hand, a short distance from your hand to their collar,  arms relaxed and absolutely no tension on the leash. Your goal is to walk as if you do not have a dog with you, as if you were walking alone. 

Please keep in mind that once you leash up for a walk, it is for exercise alone! Potty breaks should be kept to the beginning or end of the walk. Do not let your dog sniff or mark while walking either. If you do not have a lawn or fence for your yard and require a leash for the purpose of going potty, use a retractable leash prior to your walk. Your dog will learn the difference!  

Next…Establish Leadership 

Now that your pup is secure in his or her collar and leashed up for their walk, you will need to exit the home. When you get to the door, open the door and exit: human first, dog second. If your dog rushes past you, go back inside and do it again! This is a fundamental part of establishing leadership. Once you have calmly exited the home, using a very short lead on the leash, you will need to correct your dog with a quick snap and release on the collar followed immediately by a treat. You are simulating the correction of the alpha, think: a cobra strike. It’s a quick snap of the wrist, not a pull. Standing in the same spot, repeat this action five to ten times. You are  training your dog to understand that when there is a tug or correction on their leash, they are to immediately look at you. If they are too timid to take the treat, use a touch praise like rubbing their ears and saying “good dog.”

Click on link below to download video demonstration…

K925 Leadership Walking – Correction:Treat Action.TRIM

Onward…Out for Walk

Walk ten steps and then stop and have your dog sit next to you. Give treat. Repeat every ten steps. The only command you will be saying is “sit”. As your dog begins to master this training, increase the steps in between to 20, 30, so on and so forth. Practice this process for two weeks! If your dog moves before you do from the sitting position, don’t move, put them back into “spot” (which is sitting calmly next to you) and withhold treat, take a second pause and continue the walk.  You are creating a walking pattern for your dog. When you stop, he/she stops. When you move, he/she moves. The sitting provides opportunity to reward calm stable behavior and translates to the same behavior during neighborly conversation.  If you dog does not sit when you say the command, manipulate your dog into the sit position after your second try and treat. 

Click on link below to download video demonstration…

K925 Leadership Walking – 10 Steps then sit

Technique…Always Beside or Behind, Never in Front

This is critical! Your dog should always be walking beside you or behind you. They should never be walking in front of you! That is a display of leadership and will echo negatively in other aspects of your family pack dynamic. So if you feel tension on the leash, as well as arm,  from your dog pulling ahead, let them go ahead until they have extended the full six feet of leash. Naturally when the have no more slack on the leash, give the snap of the wrist correction and reel them back into spot, then give treat. There is no command/label to give. Continue to walk. What you are doing is reinforcing that they receive a treat when in spot, rather than when they are ahead – negative response to negative behavior, positive response to positive behavior.

Distractions…Birds, Squirrels, People, Other Dogs, Blowing Leaves, Etc.

If and when your dog sees something that may be distracting say “leave it,” give a snap of wrist correction, and then a treat. Little trick to enhance this moment, have your your dog make eye contact. So take the treat from their nose to yours and back to their mouth in a quick, fluid movement. If your dog remains fixated on the above list, keep giving the correction with the command over and over until you pass. Then reward. 

Happy walking!  

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