Thoughtful Thursday: Walking Your Dog

Ah, walking the dog. It can either be the most relaxing time of the day or the most stressful. Does your dog check-in with you, happily smiling at every person or dog that goes by as you sip your coffee and listen to your iPod  Or do you feel more like a ninja, ducking behind trees, bushes, and cars so your dog doesn’t see what is coming your way? Does he pull like he’s preparing for the Iditarod? If you aren’t having enjoyable, relaxing walks with your dog, there are a variety of positive training methods and tools that can help! This week’s Thoughtful Thursday question was: “What equipment do you use to walk your dog? What have you tried that hasn’t worked for you? Have you spent a lot of time training polite walking, or is your dog pretty good on their own?”

JH Alumni Addy sporting an Easy Walk harness

JH Alumni Addy sporting an Easy Walk harness

Our favorite tools? Front clip harnesses such as the Freedom Harness, Sense-ible Harness, and the Easy Walk (though some dogs can slip out of it – make sure it fits well!). We love them because they don’t hurt the dog’s neck or throat and you have control over their entire upper-body, which is great for reactive dogs! Many of our fans agreed: Juliana Willems: front clip sense-ible harness! works like a charm on pretty much any dog i have. similar to the easy walk but doesn’t have a squeeze-together mechanism, which i like because i worry about my dog’s shoulders Joanne Pazmino: Freedom Harness!!! It’s great for any dog as well. You have the option of clipping it in the front, on the top/shoulder area or both at the same time. Plus it doesn’t rub underneath the arms like a few other front-clip type harnesses can do. I use it on my own dogs and always recommend this to my clients. Jennifer Lee: It took forever but Jax finally learned to walk like a gentleman with his easy walk harness. Now he can walk on a loose leash with his Martingale collar. We tried a gentle leader (mouth harness) but he would drag his nose on the sidewalk to get it off. Also the tips I learned from Meghan Longhurst (Canine Lifestyle Academy) really worked wonders Danielle Windsor: Front clip Freedom Harness and training treats in the pocket. I used to not be able to walk him. We tried a trainer once that made me use a “training collar” which is a choker chain and it wasn’t for us. Yanking my dog around caused for an aggravating walk for both of us and I don’t care what anyone says “creating bad memories” to discourage future behavior is not positive training. After training with the harness and treats, he walks politely in just his collar.

JH Alumni Molly practicing polite walking in her Freedom Harness

JH Alumni Molly practicing polite walking in her Freedom Harness

So, what about “training collars” such as prongs, slip collars & choke chains, or electronic collars? All of these tools work by causing pain and/or discomfort to your dog. Any time you use something that causes pain and frustration you can exacerbate or even create fear and aggression issues. Do they work to stop pulling? Sometimes! But we don’t feel the risk is worth it since we have tools that work without any side effects. Head halters such as the Gentle Leader or Halti are also an option, but we only recommend them when no-pull harnesses are not working and the dog is much stronger than the human. They can take some getting used to, so contact a positive trainer (http://www.jasmineshouse.org/recommended-trainers/) for help desensitizing your dog to a head collar. For the most part, these tools are for management – they keep the dog from pulling but don’t teach them anything. To teach your dog to walk nice on a leash, check out our training page: http://www.jasmineshouse.org/resources/training/leash-walking/ You can also check out this awesome article with a bunch of video examples at the end: http://www.dogster.com/dog-training/train-your-dog-for-perfect-loose-leash-walking And remember, if you have a barky dog, we have classes for that! http://caninelifestyleacademy.com/barky-dogs-reactivity-program/

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