The Secret to A Perfect Walk


Tired of a dog that is constantly dragging you all over town and embarrassing you in front of your friends and family? Are your walks not looking how you’ve always dreamed they should be? You know… a diligent dog by your side, checking in with you with those big loving eyes and instead turning into a lunging, tugging, upper body workout of a nightmare? 

Let’s break it down. 

Before we can change it, we need to understand why it is happening. Don’t worry, we don’t need to delve into puppyhood traumas. We just need to look at motivation. When a dog is outside there is a TON of stimulation; bikes and cars zooming by, birds chirping, squirrels running…it’s like a kid that’s been stuck inside at boring school all day then suddenly steps into a Chucky Cheese and you’re asking them to stay calm. Good luck! So really, in this instance, you have become the thing holding them back (literally) from all the potential excitement. On top of that, when you have a regular route that you walk, they know where the good spots are (cue backyard dog running to the edge of the fence to bark at them) and are anticipating it all. Exciting stuff!

OK then, you tell me, so what do you do about it?

There are 2 main elements to address, the first being your part in this scenario. I hate to break it to you, but you have unintentionally become the nagger. They’ve stopped listening to you, because an occasional pull on the leash does not override all that awaits for them on this adventure ahead. Learning how to change the conversation will be life changing for both of you. You are going to set yourself up so they are SELF CORRECTING their own behavior and it won’t feel like it is coming from you at all. How do you do this? Simple! Instead of correcting them with the leash, and pulling them back every few minutes, do the following: as soon as your pup gets a few steps ahead of you, without saying anything, I want you to about-face, and go the other way. Don’t lead them around, don’t casually change directions, I am telling you to pull a fast one on them and book it in the direction you came from. By the time they feel the tension of you going the other way, they are seeing your back and thinking “OH! I wasn’t paying attention, we are going a different way now,…MY FAULT!” and suddenly it’s not about you trying to tell them how to live their doggie life.

The key piece of this is to not let them know where you are going (live a little! Don’t be predictable!) The more you can look like a crazy person that has lost their shopping cart, the more your dog will need to pay attention to you and which way you are going and NOT everything else that is happening around you. Every time they get ahead, you go a different direction, around in circles, back to the front door of the house even though you just walked out. Remember, as a famous internet philosopher once said, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey!” The same applies for your walks.

When the dog doesn’t know where you’re going, and they keep ending up at the wrong end of the leash, they will start paying attention to you, because there is nowhere else to go! 

It’s important as well to look at their unwanted behavior on a sliding scale. If lunging at the end of the leash is a 10, turn around and go the other way at a 2. The first time you notice their ears perk up. When your inner voice is saying ‘here we go again’, start making the change then. It is easier to prevent an escalation in behavior than to stop it once they have gone too far.

Key tip: I hate harnesses for dogs that pull! It is like having a car with a steering wheel but no brakes or gas. It severely impacts your ability to have a meaningful conversation with them through the leash, and it can often encourage pulling, but that’s a whole other segment! Try a martingale collar or slip lead that allows you to have some feedback.

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Andrea Robinson