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Training Tips by Valor Service Dog
Loose leash walking is one of the most important things we teach at Valor Service Dog, but is also just as important for any pet owners so that exercise and outdoor walks can be enjoyable and safe for owner and dog! When we teach nice walking manners we use a martingale collar, a 4-foot leash and LOTS of small treats or kibble. For training purposes, harnesses that hook on the back of your dog are not recommended. They can actually encourage your dog to pull harder.
We start by calling our dog toward us, facing the direction that they will be facing when they get to us (not face to face, but side by side), and when they come to our side, we reward them with a treat! We then start walking and every couple of steps we give a treat if the dog has remained at our side. It is very important that for the duration of the walking you are making eye contact with your dog and giving them praise in an encouraging and cheerful voice. You want to do this so that their attention is focused on you and not what is ahead of them, because pulling is a direct result of a dog wanting to move forward or get to something ahead of you. Every couple of steps, we will give a treat. By doing this, your dog is learning that great and tasty things come when they are walking side-by-side with you!
The key to learning nice leash manners is teaching them that they never get to go where they want unless they do so on a loose leash. So when your dog starts pulling, you should stop walking and take several steps backwards. This begins to teach the concept that pulling on the leash to try to move forward actually causes them to lose ground. While walking backwards, call your dog in an excited tone and reward them when they return to your side. Now, start walking forward again. If your dog walks forward on a loose leash at your side, give them a treat every 3 to 4 steps and continue with the eye contact and constant praise. If they begin to pull forward again, repeat the process. With consistency, your dog will begin to learn that forward motion is only achieved if they are walking by your side and not pulling! In order for this method to work, you must do it every time your dog pulls. If they are allowed to pull sometimes, and not allowed to pull on other times, you will only confuse your dog and they will be unreliable leash walkers.