What’s in a leash?


You’re grabbing the leash to take your beloved pup out for another relaxing morning walk around the ‘hood…

But your vision of a blissful walk with your canine trotting beside you with a loose leash is shattered once again. Instead, your reality is pull, tug, wrestle, wrangle, frustration, frustration, frustration…stress.

Unfortunately, the solution for many dog owners is to tolerate the pulling as long as it takes until they arrive at the trailhead or dog park and can release the leash…dog can explode and human can massage shoulder.

There is a better way!!

Admittedly, polite leash walking is one of the more challenging skills to teach – mostly because there are two ends of the leash involved.

I have discovered that when it comes to loose leash walking, the focus is often on training the dog only, but it’s important to train the human end of the leash, as well. The leash is a tool and using a tool with skill takes practice.

Take a minute to think about how you respond to your dog when he’s pulling…what are your hands doing? Are you pulling in protest of his pulling? Do you sometimes give in and other times hold fast?

Consider this – I have a router and lathe in my garage. I tried to use them but they didn’t work. I was going to make new furniture for my home, but now I won’t. The tools are not at fault. I didn’t take the time to learn how to use them and quickly gave up. Should I find a new tool or use the perfectly good ones I already have?

That being said….there are “better” setups for attaching your tool – the leash – to your dog so it works more effectively.

A well fitting harness with front and back attachment is my first choice for walking almost any dog. In some cases, introducing the harness alone can be a magic cure! And in other cases, it’s the human end of the leash that needs help. But in most cases, it’s both – dog and human need to learn some new behaviours.

It’s easy and understandable to get frustrated and attempt some of the following to coerce your dog into doing what you want:

  • Use a short leash
  • Raise your voice
  • Pull back every time your dog pulls on the leash
  • Jerk the leash
  • Shock, pinch or choke (using harmful “training” tools)

These methods may temporarily end the pulling, but most likely you’ll end up with a shutdown and scared dog. And there are other negative side effects that often follow this type of training, such as anxiety, that shows up as agitation or leash reactivity.

Dogs do what works and most will look for an opportunity to pull again even for a few extra or faster paces.

As I ALWAYS teach my clients…the best method is to teach your dog what TO do. And learn what motivates your dog in order to set everyone up for success!

If the environment is more motivating to your hound than staying at your side then, guess what, the environment wins. Your dog may need more than just words of praise to motivate her to walk by your side and match your pace. Find the motivator! Is it food? A favourite toy? A pat on the head? Or explicit permission to sniff the next pee mail post?

One of the most useful tips I ever received was from a 12-year-old girl. When she told me that her dog walked nicely on leash I asked her what she thought was the key to her success. She said that she acted as if she didn’t have a leash. Engaged walking = engaged partners.

Paw in Hand has a toolbox full of options! You CAN have that blissful morning walk with your dog and we can help.

Side by side and Paw in Hand.