Leash Walking

Walk With Me

If trainers made a Top Ten list of most common behavior complaints, pulling would be pretty close to number one! Why do dogs pull? Well, for one, we walk too darn slow on two legs! You don’t often see a dog pulling a jogger. But more importantly, dogs pull because they want to get from Point A to Point B, and they’ve learned that the harder they pull, the faster they get there!

There are two parts to teaching your pit bull to walk with you politely. First, you need to teach him to pay attention to where you are, and to stay within your general area.

  1. Start with your dog standing in front of you, and mark and reward for *not* pulling. Yes, that means rewarding standing still – it’s not pulling! As long as the leash is loose, mark and reward as many times as you can in 60 seconds. Aim for 30 treats! The more rewarding you make “being with you”, the more she will choose to be there on her own.
  2. After your 60 seconds are up, take one enthusiastic step backwards and mark and reward you dog as soon as he steps forward to follow you. Continue this for 20+ rapid steps – the more enthusiastic and quick you can be, the faster this exercise will work!
  3. When you can take 5 steps in a row – rewarding between each one – without your dog losing focus, start mixing in two steps before rewarding.
  4. If you can take two steps back, 5 times in a row without your dog losing focus, start to move around more randomly. Take one step sideways, reward for following. Two steps back. Two steps sideways. Three steps back. Etc etc, until your dog is happily following you around no matter which crazy direction you go. It should look like a dance.
  5. Now you are ready to walk forward! Mix in steps forward with your crazy dance. Slowly start to replace your backwards and sideways steps with forward steps, until you can take several steps forward without the dog losing focus.
  6. Start walking forward most of the time, with only some direction changes. Add in right and left turns and u-turns. Reward every 2-3 steps.
  7. Continue by weaning them off of the constant rewards. Reward after 2 steps, then 4 steps, then 3 steps, then 6 steps, then 1 step. You can also mix in other rewards, such as sniffing a lamp post, or being released to tug or chase a ball.

Next, teach her that pulling is counter-productive – the only way to get where she wants to go is by walking nicely (this game is often called “penalty yards”):

  1. Set up something your dog wants to get to as the “goal”. It can be a pile of treats on the ground, a toy, or a person he wants to say hi to. Put your start line about 20 feet away, and mark it with something so you can get back to it.
  2. Stand with your dog at the start line, and get her attention. Reward her a few times for standing with you, then say “let’s go!” and take a step forward.
    1. If her leash is loose, continue walking forward.
    2. The second her leash gets tight, jog quickly backwards to the start line. *Timing is key.* If you can time your backwards motion exactly when the leash tightens, your dog will learn much much faster.
  3. Continue in this manner until you are able to reach the goal. It will happen much faster than you think, believe me!

Now you can take it on the road! On walks, make sure to continue to reward polite walking with treats and opportunities to sniff. If and when they pull, turn it into penalty yards. Your dog will quickly learn that walking nicely is the only way to get what they want!

If you need better control over your pit bull while you are working on polite walking, check out the Freedom No-Pull Harness. It’s our favorite!


CLALogoCMYKTo contact Canine Lifestyle Academy:
Website: www.caninelifestyleacademy.com
Email: Meghan@caninelifestyleacademy.com
Phone: 443-386-0480