Is Your Dog Jerking You Around?

In a previous post,”Dog Walking- Why Does My Dog Pull Me?”, I discussed why your dog pulls you on your walks.  I would like to take the opportunity to expound on that topic.  Most of my discussion was centered on the type of collar used during the walk.  I stressed the importance of being in control of the walk in order to make it as enjoyable as it should be for both you and your dog.  No one wants to have their sweet dog pulling them down the street in what looks like a tug-of-war with the leash.  Can you imagine the horror?  Besides that, it can be harmful for your dog.  As your dog pulls on the leash, the collar is pressing up against the esophagus.  The more he pulls, the more pressure on the esophagus and the result could be a trip to the vet.  If nothing less, your dog will be coughing and choking and people will think you are just plain mean.

Many owners will see this problem and think “I know, I’ll get a harness.  That will be so comfortable for my dog.”  This may be the solution.  If your dog will remain calm and walk at your side while wearing his harness, then great.  However, if he is going to simply substitute harness pulling for leash pulling, we are back to square one.  To make matters  worse, when you strap that harness on your dog, you are actually  giving him some serious leverage.  Your dog’s shoulders are one of  the strongest muscle groups in his body. To think that he wouldn’t use this to his advantage is folly.   People who harness their dogs are typically preparing for them to work, to pull something.  Maybe a wagon, or a tree trunk, or a sled but definitely not them.  In fact, there are competitions for this very activity because it is a natural instinct.  It is amazing to see these dogs at work.  They can pull over a thousand pounds, absolutely awesome to watch.  But I digress.  Suffice it to say, that if some dogs can be trained to pull that much weight, why not just pull you??

There has been some  progress made in the world of dog harnesses.  Joseph Sporn came up with an idea that would change the effect of pulling and he put that into a harness/ halter.   This harness transfers pressure from around the neck where the collar is to underneath the legs.  At this location, the dog is just sensitive enough for the pressure to cause him to back off the pulling.  The restraints are attached to the front of the collar then looped under the legs and anchored at the top of the collar.  It comes with sherpa sleeves to make the restraints more comfortable for your dog.  A very interesting concept that has been tested by dogs and their owners for over a decade.

So, back to the collar .  My previous post described the proper use of a choke collar and it’s cousin, the pinch collar.  To some dog owners these measures may seem extreme, even cruel.  But I have used them with great success and taught others how to use them as well. I truly believe that with many dogs, this is the best collar option that the owner can make.  There are alternatives.  Cesar Millan, known to many as “The Dog Whisperer”, has written numerous books on dog training and a lot of his materials cover the topic of dog walking and controlling the walk.  He has developed an innovative collar that he calls the “illusion collar”.  It is basically a choke collar with an added base to keep the choke in it’s most effective position- high on the neck and behind the ears.  This position is the most sensitive for the dog and therefore the most effective.  You have seen this leash position on show dogs in the ring.  The show collars are high to give the handler more control over the dog’s behavior.  Exactly what you want when you have your mutt out in the park!!

Finally, let’s talk about leashes.  I mean a proper leash.  My personal preference is leather.  A good width for your hand, so that will be specific to your palm size. These leashes give you a firm hold on the dog, will weather well and are tough as…leather!!  I have seen some very nice webbed, nylon leashes that are durable and sturdy.  The webbing gives the leash a round shape that is easy to hold and won’t tear your skin.  My first gripe is a flat, nylon leash that can cut through your hand when a dog makes a quick jerk or lunge.  They often seem slippery and the grips are not comfortable.  My second gripe is those flexi-leashes or whatever they’re called.  They remind me of a broken fishing reel, it can be let out, but can’t be pulled back in!!  I think they are a danger to mankind and dogkind for that matter.  Your dog goes free-wheeling down the street as the tiny nylon string unwinds and if some sort of danger arises – say a loose dog approaching- you have no way of getting your dog back to you and to safety.  Add to that the risk of nylon burns if the leash is dragged across your legs, the major hassle of unwinding the spaghetti of  leashes if walking two dogs and the possibility of severing a finger if the nylon string wraps around it and the dog really pulls.  Phew!  That should convince you.   I have used a great leash from Cesar Millan.  It is a diamond-braided rope similar to a mountain climbing rope.  The unique feature is the padded hand grip.  It is ergonomically designed to give you the Cadillac of walks when it comes to comfort and as a dog walker, I am all about comfy walks!!

This Big Guy won't jerk you around!!

Dog Walking- Why Does My Dog Pull Me?

Who's walking who here?

Oh, if I had a dollar for every time a dog owner asked me that question!  The reason your dog pulls you is… you LET them.  Simple.  You grab your precious pup, hook on the leash and away you go.  Flying down the street like a madman trying to keep up with your dog and hoping it looks like you are somehow in control.  Not likely.

Control is the key here and if you have not taken your pup to obedience training, then you should at least do some reading to find out about the walk.  I have to say, there is no greater joy than walking with your dog.  The key phrase here is “walking with your dog”.  Your pup will go where ever it wants as long as you allow it to.  I know that the cute pup is too adorable for you to even consider restraining it, what with puppy enthusiasm and all,but consider the future consequences.  Teach your pup early what you expect it to do on your walks.  The first step is choosing a collar.  The collar, or restraint, used when walking may be different from what your pup wears all the time.  I have clients that I walk using a harness while the collar stays in place.  I also have dogs that wear choke or pinch collars on their walks in place of their everyday collars.  It all depends on the dog and the level of control you need during your walks.

If a dog has learned that it can pull it’s owner around on it’s walks, I usually want to intervene with a restraint that will let the dog know that I am in control.  I would begin with a choke collar.  This is the chain link collar with rings at each end.  The chain is slipped through one ring and forms a circle that is loosened or tightened by a quick snap of the leash- also known as a “correction”.  Many people think a choke collar is meant to actually choke the dog, not true.  The action of quickly snapping the leash to bring in the excess chain and tighten the hold on the dog causes a sound that the dog learns is the correction.  When walking your dog, be sure that you are always working with some slack in the leash.  This makes a correction very simple.  As you walk; your dog should walk at your side, not out in front of you.  When the dog starts to lead you, you quickly drop the slack, turn around and head off in the opposite direction.  This will cause the choke to zip through the ring making a startling sound and the dog will be forced to turn and follow you.  You may have to repeat this maneuver several times before your dog figures out that you are leading and he/she is to follow you.  There are certain breeds that need a greater restraint when on a walk.  My first dog was a Chow.  She was beautiful and headstrong, both characteristics of the breed.  Chows have thick fur at the neckline and fewer nerve endings in the skin of the neck because they were initially bred as protectors.  If they were to be engaged in a fight, the extra fur and less sensitive skin worked to protect them.  It also means that a correction may need to be a bit firmer in order for the dog to recognize it.  I used a pinch collar in obedience training with my chow.  The pinch collar is cousin to the choke with the addition of prongs to the inside of the collar.  The correction is made in the same manner as a choke, a drop of the leash slack and abrupt change of direction to engage the prongs and get your dog’s attention.

Walking with your dog should be fun and you can make that happen by employing some simple training tips and using the right equipment.  For a tutorial on choke and pinch collar use, click below!