Leashes are a part of owning a dog, everybody knows this and it is an expectation that our dogs will be ok when we leash them.
The truth of the matter is though that often the process goes like this. We clip the leash on and the dog had better get used to it. There is no warm up to this restriction, there is no help for the dog when he realizes his freedom has just been rudely taken. We offer little direction or clarity with how we want him to behave while leashed, instead we may have a growing resentment towards the dog and their crummy behavior on leash.
The majority of us don’t mean it that way; after all we need to leash our dogs to take them into public and to explore the world. We’re only trying to get them to the car, out of the house, to the park.
We react with confusion, irritation, and frustration when our dog does anything but walk nicely on a leash(despite a lack of training). The dogs in these situations often get labeled as stubborn or difficult, when really they just don’t understand our expectations when it comes to the leash. Without even realizing it we slip so easily into the mindset of our dog being against us that it’s mind boggling.
And when the dog starts pulling, what’s a person to do but to pull back?
Unknowingly, this reaction from us actually *reinforces* the dog’s pulling behavior and it can do much worse than that. Reactivity on leash is more and more common these days and a lot of it starts with how you introduce your dog to leash walks. Those of you with reactive dogs will understand how stressful your dog’s behaviors can be and how it can seem like it’s never ending.
No one wants to have conflict on their walk with their dog. Yet the issues usually start at our end of the leash and we tend to be the stubborn ones!
You don't know what you don't know
This is true when you are training your dog to do anything, including something as simple as what to do when leashed. The fact is though that a lack of knowledge often leads you to make well meaning mistakes that can take a while to untangle and get fixed.
Let’s go back to our simple issue of the leash. If you’ve ever seen a wolf or coyote walking around in nature, they’re not walking at our pace. A comfortable walking pace for a dog is faster than ours. A leash is supremely restrictive when it comes down to it, and the pace at which it forces our dogs to experience the world is terribly frustrating for them. It’s no wonder that many dogs fight the leash, try to pull us along more quickly (to the point of choking even), or overreact when they see something new enter their frustrating situation.
All of this can be mitigated with a little preventative training and doesn’t have to be your reality or your dog’s reality for that matter. Our job as caring dog owners is to do our best and be empathetic with our dogs. They can’t tell you with words when something isn’t quite right or they don’t know what to do. But I guarantee that they will show you, in ways that more often than not make them misunderstood by us and create a cycle of unnecessary stress and conflict.
There is a kind way to walk your dog and teach them how to behave on leash. It doesn’t require the use of punitive equipment like choke chains or prong collars, nor does it involve yelling, hitting, or intimidating your dog. Any dog can learn and it is never too late to start. It’s not your fault if your dog has a lack of education about their leash, but it also doesn’t have to keep staying that way.