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Loose Leash Walking: Finding a Peaceful Connection Together

Walking with your canine companion. Dog happy loose leash walking in picture.

If you’ve ever found yourself being pulled by your enthusiastic furry friend during a walk, you know the struggle is real. Not only is it frustrating, but it can also pose risks to both you and your dog. In the world of canine rehabilitation therapy, post-surgical care, and everyday behavioral wellbeing, the importance of finding the balance as a team loose leash walking is often overlooked.

Some parents dread grabbing the leash. Their dog seems to lose their minds every time it comes out, and it takes a marathon level effort to wear their companion out enough to find a rhythm together… it is exhausting and parents just don’t feel like they have the bandwidth for that all the time.

Some parents struggle with the internal emotions their disconnection with their dog during walks brings. And this is all totally natural. But we can shift things in a way that will cultivate connection and lead to peace instead of the current downward spiral of dissociation, frustration, anger, and blame (even self blame happening in the back of the frustrated parent’s mind needs to go also).

Some parents want to walk their recovering dog, but before the injury walks were a struggle… now the partner in this dance is feeling different on different days, and how the walk goes feels. On the “good days” sometimes your walking companion is too much to handle safely. On the “bad days” sometimes your fur friend is slower but intensely vigilant of surroundings, reactive to things they hadn’t struggled with before, or even touchier with their human walking partner.

There are science backed behavior modification methods to help pet parents and their canine companions connect through any of these situations. In this post, you will get some basic concepts introduced that may be all you need to get the ball rolling the right direction. Often, it helps adding a certified behavioral professional to your team when anxiety, physical/behavioral trauma recovery, or reactivity is a part of the struggle.

Understanding the Dance of Loose Leash Walking:

“Loose leash walking” is more than just a training technique; it’s a dance between your dog, you, and the environment. In my eBook, “Finding the Loose Leash Connection in Dog Walking,” I delve into the intricate factors that contribute to successful loose leash walking, creating a harmonious and enjoyable experience for both pet parents and their canine companions. Check out this version of the eBook that was recently updated in preparation to open up for behavior modification therapy patients again before the new year!

Personalized Preferences in Walking Dynamics:

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to loose leash walking preferences. Some prefer their dog on the left, others on the right; some want their dog by their side, while others don’t mind them taking the lead. The key is to find what works best for your team, considering factors like the purpose of the walk, the location, and your dog’s size.

Also consider if this is a recovery walk that needs support and safe guidance to avoid hazards, an energy output walk with a young dog needing sensory input, or see if there is a training goal with this walk working towards basics.

Unraveling the Reasons Behind Pulling:

Understanding why dogs pull is crucial. Whether it’s a learned behavior, over-arousal, reactivity, or fear, recognizing the root cause is the first step towards effective loose leash walking. In the city or the great outdoors, creating a calm walking environment requires patience, consistency, and a keen awareness of your dog’s unique needs.

The Candle Concept:

Think of your dog’s concerns or discomfort as candles. Each candle represents a factor contributing to your dog’s reactions. Some candles are easily blown out through training and adjustments, while others may need more persistent efforts. By reducing these “candles,” we can decrease the overall heat and anxiety associated with walking.

Changing Associations for a Positive Walk:

For dogs with triggers or anxieties, changing associations is key. The Open Pouch/Closed Pouch method can help shift your dog’s emotional response from fear to curiosity. By reinforcing positive associations with triggers, you’re creating a relaxed and happy mindset for your furry friend.

Emergency Strategies and Pattern Games:

Challenging situations can arise during walks, and having emergency strategies in place is vital. Pattern games provide a structured and familiar environment, allowing your dog to focus and reorient in distracting situations.

Teaching the Art of Walking:

Surprisingly, the best way to begin loose leash walking training might be without a leash. Starting leash-free eliminates potential distractions and fears, setting the stage for successful learning. For a deeper dive in teaching cooperative walking Get the eBook Here!

Basics Skills for Success:

  • Decoding Canine Body Language: Learning to read your dog’s body language is a game-changer. Before barking or lunging, dogs communicate subtly. Understanding their cues allows you to intervene before situations escalate.
  • Choosing the Right Environment: As your dog progresses in loose leash walking skills, carefully choose training locations. Let your dog acclimate to the surroundings before training begins, ensuring a calm and positive experience.
  • Harnessing the Environment for Success: The environment can be your ally during walks. From using physical barriers to creating distance, understanding how to navigate unexpected triggers enhances safety and keeps your dog’s focus on you.

Mastering the art of loose leash walking is an investment in the physical and mental wellbeing of both you and your dog. It’s not just about preventing pulling; it’s about fostering a connection, creating positive associations, and enjoying the present moment together. So, gear up, understand the dance, and embark on a journey of relaxed, joyful walks with your canine companion!

Written by Dr. Emily Hall, DVM, CCRT, CPAT-KA

email: tulsarehabvet.com

Every dog is an individual and should be treated as such. If you have questions, please reach out via email.