Taking walks with your dog is a great way to bond while also staying healthy and active! If your dog is difficult to walk and pulls on the leash, walking becomes less enjoyable and a source of stress and anxiety.
Fortunately, teaching your dog to loose leash walk with the proper methods and training tools, such as the Canny Collar, is as easy as these simple steps!
We asked Robert Thomas of Marvelous Dogs to share how he trains shelter dogs using the Canny Collar.
Q: Where do we begin when starting to walk to heel?
Robert: Introduce your dog to the equipment you are planning to use. This includes their collar, leash, harness or head collar. Each dog is different, and will respond differently to certain tools. Some dogs benefit from a head collar such as the Canny Collar whilst others do better in a harness.
The Canny Collar is a head collar that is gentle, easy to fit and comfortable. It reduces the amount of stress on both you and your dog and was designed with the purpose of training loose leash walking.
This is especially important for rescue dogs who are nervous or are easily distracted as it helps to keep your dog focused on you and helps reduce distractions, while allowing for gentle yet effective corrections.
Q: How can we develop a positive association with the Canny Collar?
Robert: Teach your dog a cue sound that means “food is coming.” This could be a click from a clicker, clucking your tongue or saying the word “yes.” Regardless of what you choose, the method is the same.
In a distraction free area with your dog on their leash, whenever they turn to look at you, immediately make the sound and give them a treat. After a few times, your dog will start to look at you more regularly and will likely even come over to you to get a treat.
Always say the cue word, and always reward as quickly as possible to keep your dog interested and reinforce the behavior you are looking for.
Q: So standard clicker training works. What’s next?
Robert: Have the dog voluntarily come to you. Call the dog, or say the cue word, so your dog will come to you. While the dog is on the way over to you, still on their leash, back up several paces and reward them when they eventually get to you.
Start with a couple steps and slowly work up to backing up a reasonable distance. Keep eye contact with your dog and make this step exciting! You want them to have a positive experience from the start so they look forward to walks and putting on their leash.
Continue this step until your dog will not only come to you when they hear their name or your cue noise, but also walk with you a couple steps.
Q: What about the actual loose leash walking?
Robert: Start your walking practice inside where your dog is comfortable and there are minimal distractions. New equipment such as a Canny Collar will be distraction enough, so you need to set your dog up for success by practicing in an area they are familiar with.
Praise your dog when they are walking beside you calmly and reward them with the cue noise and a treat when they make eye contact with you. Walk just as you would outside, making direction changes and stopping periodically and reward your dog liberally for doing the behavior you are seeking!
Then take your progress outside! This is the hardest step and it is important to remain calm and have patience. Being outside provides many distractions and smells that are likely to affect the focus of your dog.
Stay consistent, reward your dog every time they make eye contact with you and are walking calmly beside you. If there are major distractions, such as other dogs or animals, try and avoid them for your first few walks outside. You want the experience for your dog to be positive and exciting.
Slowly work up to walking past things your dog reacts to. If your dog begins pulling, do a 180 degree turn and walk in the opposite direction. You can do as many turns as you need to in order to allow your dog to regain focus and walk calmly beside you again.
Q: Any take away thoughts?
Robert: Training a dog is difficult and a lot of hard work, so don’t get discouraged! If you follow these simple steps, and reward your dog for focus and concentration you’re already halfway there. Patience and consistency is key when training loose leash walking!