If it takes your dog an hour to walk around the block, a simple training technique can help get his motor running.
At Doggie Academy, owners sometimes contact us because their dogs refuse to walk on leash. It’s most common with puppies, though occasionally it happens with older dogs, including new rescues who are unaccustomed to walking on a sidewalk. In many of these cases, particularly with puppies, the dog is on sensory overload. He’s taking in so much information that he can’t focus on the actual walking. In other cases, the dog might be overwhelmed or anxious in an urban environment, making him unwilling to venture further from home. Or, perhaps, the dog is just perfectly comfortable sitting there on the sidewalk, taking in a sunbeam or watching people pass by.
First, before you pull him along, ask yourself why he’s put on the breaks. He stopped for a reason, after all. Rule out health or environmental causes like extreme heat or cold. If he appears to be overwhelmed, or simply a puppy experiencing the sidewalk for the first time, let him have a minute (or several minutes) to get his bearings. Put your own expectations of how he “should” be walking aside and rather, try to understand what your dog is feeling. Avoid pulling, which generally makes your dog put on the breaks even harder, exacerbating the problem. When getting a dog comfortable in his surroundings, slow and steady progress is the best course of action, even if it means venturing only a little farther every day.
There are times, however, when you really need your dog to move faster. Hand Targeting is a simple technique to get your dog off his rear and willingly following you. Instructions to teach a basic Hand Target are in a previous blog post. Once he’s learned it, follow these steps to get your dog unstuck as you walk:
This photo of Beans and me shows how you keep moving forward as you hold out your visual cue. This technique even gets a chronic sunbeamer like Beans up and running without a struggle.
Kate Naito, CPDT-KA, MS, is an author and dog trainer with Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY.