Walking on lead
I am going to talk about generally walking on lead this week and will focus on specific problems with lead walking next week. I’ve just been reminded of the excellent Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme. Looking at the requirements for the different levels perfectly sums up what we need our dogs to do while they are on lead.
At the ‘puppy‘ stage of this scheme, walking on lead requires the following:
Walking in a Controlled Manner
With the puppy on lead, and without distractions, the owner and puppy should walk for approximately 20 paces and include a
turn. They should demonstrate that this can be done without undue inconvenience to themselves or others. A tight lead does
not necessarily result in classification “Not Ready”.
You can see in the video that Quin is not perfect, far from it! But he is under control and relatively calm. That’s fine for his age and experience level. I’m pretty happy with how he is generally.
What do you need from your dog?
I think before we talk about walking on lead, you need to think about what you want from your dog? Most of us want the following:
- to be able to clip the lead on easily
- to be able to walk along calmly with our dog beside us
- being able to stop or turn without having to yank or pull the dog
- crossing roads safely and calmly
- not having to walk too quickly, or too slowly.
In addition we ideally want to be able to go past obstacles and other people and dogs without a big reaction.
Go off lead
In my opinion, your dog should be able to go on lead for as short a time as possible, if at all. I feel like this because I have Border Collies. BCs are terrible on lead, even when they are highly trained in obedience. They are just too fast, too keen and too impatient! I remember going to an obedience show and seeing people being tanked around by their Border Collies – it was shocking!
As a result, I let my dogs off lead as soon as possible. Around half my walks involve a 5 minute drive to the woods, or fields. They go straight in the van, then out and away! For my other walks, they are on lead for 5 minutes through my housing estate and then away! To be absolutely honest, they are only lead so they don’t poo in people’s gardens. They don’t pull my arms off, but 5 keen Border Collies don’t walk slowly!
Lead or harness?
These days, we are thankfully much more aware of our dogs’ welfare. We sadly haven’t made the sale of prong collars illegal here yet (sign the petition please?) However, we are aware that even a normal collar and lead can cause discomfort and choking.
The trend is therefore to use a harness. However, these come in many different styles and don’t always fit well. There is also an issue that some harnesses can restrict movement or cause discomfort in other ways.
Personally, I don’t use a harness for a number of reasons:
- dogs in a harness are more inclined to lean into it and pull. This is fine for canicross, but not great for everyday.
- harnesses are a right faff to put on and off. If you have more than one dog, who can be bothered?
- if a dog is off lead, why do they need a harness?
However, if you have one dog, who has to do a lot of on lead walking, then a harness is far better for your dog than a simple collar.
NB: if you do use a harness, remember that you MUST include a name tag. It is a legal requirement to have identification on your dog and you can be prosecuted if you do not have this. I use Indigo Dog Tags as they are easy to clip onto a flat lead, such as my beautiful Silverfoot Dog Collars (only the best for my dogs).
I understand why people use these, honestly I do. Extendable leads are great if you are too scared to let your dog off lead. You can let them wander about and sniff, but you can still hang onto the end if you need to. Again, I don’t use these – I feel they are just an accident waiting to happen. The thin, nylon line is perfect for cutting into skin, getting caught around legs and causing a trip hazard. As with harnesses, you are really encouraging your dog to pull. The dog leans into the lead to extend it.
NB: Even a medium dog such as a Springer Spaniel or Border Collie is able to cause a fair amount of damage and/or pull you off your feet.
A much better solution is a longline. These allow the dog to wander about, with no pulling required and a ‘safety line’ for you.
Walking on lead – conclusion
Teaching your dog to walk nicely on lead is a real challenge! There are a number of options to help you manage this. I’ll talk about how to manage problem behaviour in the next post. The best solution is simply to let them off lead!
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.