When we ask our dogs to do something for us, we should first ask ourselves, “What am I doing for my dog to meet his/her needs?”
We expect our dogs not to pull on leash, a short piece of material with limited range, to respect that boundary, and to walk nicely and ignore all distractions when often walks each day amount to nothing more than a quick potty break or a walk around the block (not much time to exercise or sight-see – let alone practice leash walking skills).
Dogs might spend a lot of time at home in a crate or alone around the house and have pent up energy – physical and mental – that needs working out. Walks should be about the dog and meant to give the dog what he/she needs: time to sniff, expenditure of energy, exposure to sights, sounds, and scents; and THEN we can start thinking about reeling our dogs in and requiring them to “do what we want”.
Don’t ask your dog to walk nicely on leash and not ask why he or she may be pulling so much in the first place.
The Symmetry Method is so much more than just teaching a dog not to pull – it is about helping humans understand what they can give to their dogs so that the dogs feel good about keeping close by and not pulling on the leash in the first place. Walks CAN be enjoyable, you CAN have a walking partnership with your dog! But checking some facts first and making sure your dog has adequate enrichment and exercise is paramount to success. The Symmetry Method can help! Read on!
Symmetry in everyday language refers to a sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance.
I love the word “symmetry” when thinking about loose leash walking. It conjures up an image of a team of two beings flowing together and enjoying an activity where one compliments the other; the two are one equal pair in the activity. I adore walking my dog – it is my meditation, my stress relief, my time to bond with my dog. I know for many of you, walking your dog is literally a drag. But I would like to help you with that!
Walking your dog should be a mutually-enjoyable activity for you and your dog, not something that entails being dragged around the block with fingers crossed your dog goes potty as quickly as possible so you don’t fall on your face or break a bone. Yes, these are real concerns for many people who have had no luck teaching their dogs not to pull.
In the past, choke chains, prong collars, all manner of “no-pull” harnesses and other pieces of equipment meant to “stop pulling” may have been tried, but I’d like to offer you a new method and a new perspective on teaching your dog polite leash manners. Let’s take a look at exactly what “loose leash walking” and our expectations of our dogs are.
It sounds simple enough – loose leash walking; you just want your dog to walk nicely on leash and NOT PULL. But really looking at what we are asking of our dogs when we say “no pulling!” is important because what is being missed is the reason why your dog is still pulling.
Here are some of the behaviors we are really asking of our dog when we say we want “no pulling” (which isn’t a behavior, and too broad a concept to be of use in the training process):
- Walk at all times with the leash slack
- Ignore distractions like: other dogs, people, bikes, cars & noisy trucks, small animals, sounds, etc
- Stay by my side/on the same side
- Go potty when/where I want you to
- Follow me when I move
- Stop when I stop
- Pay attention to my cues whether verbal or directional with the leash guiding you
- Turn left or right or do a U-turn when I do any of those things
Can you think of anything else you may be asking of your dog when you use the umbrella term “no pull/loose leash walking”?