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HI there! I’m Ana. Furbaby Pet Care’s Behavioural trainer and owner of Sky Above Canine Training. Every so often, I’ll be dropping in with a blog post offering you tips and direction on caring for your dog. This time, we’re going to talk about leash training.

Have you ever wondered if there is something more you could be doing that could help make your walks with the dog really enjoyable? Do you ever feel embarrassed by walking your dog past other dogs or other people in your neighbourhood? Guess what? You are not alone! There ARE things you can do now to help make your doggy walks more enjoyable!

I always get plenty of questions on this very topic. Questions like: “What should I use to walk my dog?” or “Why does my dog pull so much when walking on his/her harness?” The other good question I get frequently is “Is it safe for me to walk my dog on just a collar or should I be using something else to walk him/her?”

So, let’s tackle “What should I use to walk my dog?” This gets asked a lot as not many people know the other options available other than a harness or collar. In fact, I have more people asking me about collars and harnesses than I have ever seen in my 14 years experience working with dogs. From experience, I find collars to be very hard on a dog’s throat and trachea as it puts a lot of pressure in that area. As well, using a harness puts pressure on the dog’s chest which is also not good for the pup. My preference is a slip leash. They can be used in a few different ways: either around the neck just under the ears or under one front leg as a half harness and half collar combo. Correctly using a slip leash can prevent your dog from slipping away, and is also used as a correction tool for dogs who pull and tug.

Slip Leash

Another option for a walking aid would be a Halti® or head harness. These are used around a dog’s muzzle (but not as a muzzle and with free range to pant and lick.) A Halti is used for working dogs, such as service dogs, as it is easy to use and puts no pressure on the dog. A Halti is also used for dogs who react to events on walks such as other dogs or people – it’s easier to control a large dog by their head than having the dog put added weight into pulling with their body.

Halti®

When using a harness, think of someone putting their hand against your chest bone and pushing hard. Do you feel the need to push back? If so, then this could very well be why your dog is pulling. As soon as you put pressure on the chest plate, it triggers a push forward reaction.  So perhaps think of using a slip leash instead. Even if it appears your dog can’t handle the lead around its neck, try slipping it under one leg and use a quick tug correction to stop them from pulling. Using this correction technique along with a “shht” sound should pull the dog’s attention back to you and away from whatever it was they were pulling towards in the first place.

I do not recommend the use of flat collars for walking your dog, for these reasons:

  • it’s really hard on a dog’s throat and trachea to walk/be corrected on a flat collar;
  • if your dog decides to pull towards something or react badly to something, the risk of them slipping out of that collar or injuring themselves is very high.

However, not every dog needs a slip leash or a Halti to walk. Some dogs do great on a Martingale collar or even a flat collar if they are completely leash trained and non reactive. So, keep in mind dogs are animals and will act like animals at times, regardless of the training they have. 

Martingale collar

When walking with your dog, keep in mind that everything your dog does is based off the energies he/she is feeling. So, if you have the leash wrapped around your hand, the tension on the back of your hand is the same tension your dog is feeling whether the leash is tight or not. I tell this to my clients a lot – try not to wrap the leash around your hand. And remember to stay calm when leash-walking your dog. I base my work off calm assertive energies and always remind everyone, “the calmer you are, the calmer your dog will be.” And finally, if you are walking and your dog is triggered, just stop and sit them down pulling their attention back to you. Do not remove your dog from the situation as that will not help stop the triggered reaction, it will actually make that reaction worse in the long run. Sit and wait until the dog is re-focused on you, then take a few more steps forward. Repeat this until the dog walks calmly past the trigger or until the trigger has passed. Remind yourself to not get frustrated. I know. It’s easier said than done. And, I know it can be tough not to think of incidents which may have triggered your dog in the past. Remember, your dog is not looking into the past or thinking of the past! Your dog is in the here and now. So work with that. 

Thanks for reading and remember to stay calm! If you have any other questions about training your dog or are looking at getting some extra training, feel free to email me anytime at training@furbabysk.ca.

Don’t forget to check our Furbaby Pet Care’s website. Under ‘booking’ you will find my services as well.

Ana Supynuk, Furbaby Pet Care’s Behavioural trainer and owner of Sky Above Canine Training

Ana Supynuk and her dog Elso