It has often been found humorous, yet disconcerting, by people in-the-know watching a dog take its owner for a walk. It is also found to be humorous by ignorant pet owners when they see dogs lunging and dragging their owner at great speed across the pavement or park. It is often commented as to who is taking who for a walk – or run.
The lunging dog is a product of the human-animal interaction syndrome where numerous factors influence the outcome of strong dog and weak owner. As part of the basic principle one has to realize that the dog’s agenda in going for a walk may be completely different from the human perspective and if the motivations are vastly different the exercise becomes a mission of mental torture with certain health risks.
Any person walking in a certain forward direction with the dog tugging at the end of the leash can be jolted when the dog suddenly darts off at a right angle at a moment that the owner is relaxed and not concentrating fully on the activity at hand. The sudden powerful change in direction can pull the person right off his or her feet and land flat on their face on rough ground; the sudden lunge can seriously sprain ligaments and tendons in the arm, injure one’s back such as slip a disc or even dislocate a shoulder. People need to be aware of the dangers and be prepared for any inevitability.
Many people have untrained dogs too loose on leash and these animals can, in an excited state, suddenly run around its handler and completely tie up the person’s feet with the lead. If the dog notices something very much more attractive across the road and if there is a considerable size discrepancy between owner and dog, the animal can quite easily dart into the traffic with the person in tow. For this reason a previous article dealt with subject of whether you can handle your dog – physically, especially. It is an interesting case for study as to why small, slightly built people want to take their brute breeds for a walk. It can be a successful and safe outing provided the dog has been taught to walk at the owner’s side on a loose leash right from puppy-hood and basic obedience classes.
If your dog is relatively small you will be able to control its activities through determined strength alone but even a persistent stocky-built small breed can exert enough pull to tire the average arm on a long walk.
Walking is an essential physiological human and animal activity – something that should be encouraged much more and should be pleasant rather than a physical strain. Dogs need to walk on a leash for exercise and for managing them at a grooming parlour, boarding kennel or veterinary facility. Walking obediently on leash is an essential behaviour for pet dogs and places them in one of the required categories of canine good citizenship.
Walking on leash is not inborn. It takes learning, planning and training to master the complex behaviour of leash-walking. Ideally one should select a webbed collar which fits snugly around the neck, like a watch-strap around a wrist, to which you attach the leash. There is a wide-variety of accessories in this regard and many are practical. Anyone walking their dog on a harness needs to have their head read – the device is designed to increase traction such as when Huskies and Malamutes are required to pull sleds. Harnesses are acquired by the ignorant who believe it is kinder for the animal. These same people are often seen hugging trees and believe that animals know that they are related.
The retractable flexible lead is more popular overseas. This device allows the dog to go wherever it wants, can be reeled in by the owner but the cable can get wrapped around trees, poles, people’s legs and other dogs. This can cause friction burns or even cut the skin. This device is for lazy people who subconsciously want their dogs to dictate the extent of outdoor activity.
Before one decides to walk a puppy there should be a long-term decision process and strategy as to how one wants to walk the dog – on the right or the left – behind or alongside you.
Every owner really dreams of walking a dog on a slack leash that does not pull, cough or lunge.
In order to achieve this form of cooperation the dog has to be taught to walk at heel. This goes back to basic training where the puppy is taught to walk very close to your side and offer its complete obedient attention. The heel position has so many advantages it is a mystery that more dog owners have not made this a priority in their relationship with any pet.
The leash is a device created to safely manage a dog, to keep it in close proximity and prevent it from making its own decisions of running off to chase a car or cat.
The leash is sensory experience – one of the many which floods the dog’s mind and body when out on walks. A dog does not perceive that a tightened leash is an indication that it is pulling too hard for the handler. In many instances the taut lead may excite the dog and encourage it to pull much more. In many situations people are inclined to yank the leash tight when something exciting is up ahead that the dog may wish to investigate. The human negative behaviour often creates the association that a tight leash means stimulation ahead.
In order to stop dogs from pulling, lunging, gagging and making a walk too much of a physical strain one should train the dog to learn that good things happen when the leash is loose. The dog needs to be surreptitiously convinced that there is more freedom to search and examine by keeping the leash flaccid. How does one achieve this?!
If the dog puts tension on the leash, you stop. This must be done in such a manner as if the dog is tied to a pole, only this time you are the stationary object. Do not say anything at this moment. Do not do anything else at this moment of stasis. It may take seconds or minutes, but sooner or later the dog will slacken the leash and move alongside you. At this moment you can proceed to walk again. You may have to repeat this many, many times until the perfect association sets in where a tight leash means dog goes nowhere and loose leash gives freedom to walk.
The efficacy of this training is dependent on the person’s consistency and patience and the learning ability of the pet dog. From here onwards the dog must never learn that a tight leash means it may sometimes go for a stroll and a sniff. Pulling may become a more determined strategy from the dog if you surrender the effectiveness of this technique through impatience, submissiveness and laziness. Intermittent reward will reinforce the undesired behaviour. Some canine companions with serious pulling problems developed this nuisance behaviour because people let them pull some of the time, or all of the time. Pulling becomes rewarding when the dog gets what it wants and goes wherever it wishes with the owner tagging along.
If your dog is learning to walk on a loose leash you further reinforce this good deed with treats or pleasant commands. You need to indicate to your dog that the leash must be loose before it can go greet another dog then you are rewarding the desired behaviour.
If you remain consistent the entire concept will become a pleasurable habit to the handler and pet. Taking your dog for a stroll on a loose leash is equivalent to a romantic walk in the park. If you think you love your dog wait until it stops lunging and walk alongside you then you will have insufficient adjectives to describe the frisson of a long walk with freedom.