TEN REASONS TO TEACH YOUR DOG TO WALK POLITELY ON LEASH
1. Your dog's safety
Pulling dogs can run straight into the path of a hazard, such as an unfriendly dog, a bicycle, or a car unexpectedly exiting a driveway. When your dog is trained to walk politely on leash, he is less likely to move abruptly into danger.
2. Your safety
Pulling dogs make it more likely you will trip and fall. When your dog is trained to walk politely on leash, she is less likely to pull you off your feet.
3. Your dog's health
Dogs who pull on leash can cause themselves all kinds of physical harm. If you walk your dog on a collar (whether it is flat, choke, or prong), the repeated pressure on his throat can cause a variety of problems, including damage to the trachea. If you use a walking harness, your dog can experience shoulder problems or other issues (the exact type of physical stress depends on the specific type of harness). If you use a head halter, your dog may strain his neck or spine. A dog who walks politely on leash will not experience these problems, regardless of the equipment used.
4. Your health
Constantly pulling your dog back, and being yanked around by your dog, can stress your wrists, arms, shoulders, and back. A polite dog puts no pressure on the leash most of the time, which makes for less strain on your body.
5. The safety (and health) of your friends and family
There may be times when you have to ask a friend or family member to walk your dog. Even if you are personally able to handle it when your dog pulls on leash, your friend or family member may not be able to handle the pulling. This is true even if your dog is small. There was an incident in a family I know where a 15 lb. dog pulled grandma right off her feet, injuring her badly. When your dog is trained to walk politely on leash, anyone who is old enough to be trusted to walk alone (no toddlers, please!) can walk your dog safely.
6. The safety (and health) of strange people and animals
A dog who pulls on leash can get in the way of other people or animals, scare a human into stumbling or falling over, or startle a dog into pulling the leash right out of her human's hand. It's all very well to say your dog is friendly as he launches himself (and you) at a strange person or animal, but if that person or animal is afraid, your dog's intent does not matter. Teaching your dog to walk politely on leash reduces the likelihood of these kinds of accidents.
7. Your dog's diet
It's hard to see what's on the ground near your dog when she is far ahead of you pulling on the leash. Many dogs "scavenge" as they walk, and your dog may occasionally decide to ingest something inappropriate. If your dog is walking politely at your side, you are much more likely to spot the inappropriate "edible object" before your dog is able to get it, which gives you a chance to cue your dog to leave the object alone before she even puts it in her mouth.
8. Your enjoyment of the walk
A dog who pulls on the leash is no fun to walk. You spend the entire time worrying about where the dog will pull you next, and struggling with the leash. A walk with a well-trained dog gives you the opportunity to enjoy both your dog's company and the area in which you are walking.
9. Your pride
Let's face it – it's embarrassing when other people see you being pulled down the street by your dog. "Why can't that person control his dog?" or similar thoughts are likely going through the heads of the people staring as your dog yanks you around. When your dog walks politely on leash, you can walk your dog with your head held high.
10. Your connection with your dog
Best of all, training your dog to walk politely on leash using pet-friendly methods involves many sub-skills that improve your connection with your dog, and are useful in other situations. It's also easier to reach down and pet your dog during walks if she is walking politely beside you (as opposed to six feet ahead of you and pulling).
With all these benefits to teaching your dog to walk politely on leash, why continue to deal with pulling?
In the following weeks, I will discuss various aspects of polite leash walking, including equipment, training, and trouble-shooting. I look forward to seeing you here.