Tuesday's Tip: Walking a Heavy Puller
For many pet owners, a literal walk in the park with their dog is also a walk in the park figuratively. Most toy breeds, in addition to non-working breeds and other smaller dogs, will meander along at their owner’s side while taking in the outside world. There is probably lots of ground smelling involved and there are several pauses as such a dog cruises down the street.
However, for a lot of other owners, a dog walk requires several sets of bicep and tricep exercises. Labradors, Pit Bulls, Vizslas, Rottweilers, Retrievers and many other larger dogs can treat the outing like they’re towing their owner rather than being walked. Without proper discipline and consistency, this routine can result in a dog that is never really under its owner’s control. The sight of a squirrel in passing is all that’s necessary to demonstrate just how little sway some owners have over their dogs.
Control over a heavy puller requires two things: discipline and consistency.
Regarding proper discipline, the dog owner must have the right tool along with the right plan of action in order to mediate heavy pulling. A special collar or harness is the mainstay of a successful walk concerning such heavy pulling breeds.
The Sprenger Prong Collar, while appearing to be a medival torture device, is actually much more comfortable and effective than the “choke” collars they replace. While both types of collars constrict when the leash is pulled, the prong collar is unique in that it applies all of the pressure evenly via the smooth, spaced, metal prongs. Conversely, choke collars apply the full pressure to a dog’s windpipe and throat, which can lead to long term harm beyond just being ineffective.
The Gentle Leader also takes a different approach to the conventional harness or leash. Fitted to a leash from either a dog’s muzzle or chest, the Gentle Leader also makes use of better leverage by disrupting a dog’s natural movement when they attempt to pull. Instead of jerking the owner along while wearing a regular collar or harness, a hard puller sporting a Gentle Leader has its neck, head, and/or their front end turned to the side when they pull too hard. By disrupting the dog’s gait when it pulls, the owner gains the dog’s attention.
Neither the Sprenger Prong Collar nor the Gentle Leader should be worn unless the dog is on a walk. Owners should not lean against their dog nor should they apply constant pressure to combat the pulling. Instead, when a dog pulls while wearing a Sprenger Prong Collar, the owner should issue a command such as “NO PULL!,” and immediately apply a brief but intense pull on the leash. A Gentle Leader requires a less forceful pull, as it gives a dog almost no leverage by design.
By issuing the no command followed by a quick correction on a regular basis, the owner will establish consistency. In order to maintain consistency, no heavy pulling should ever be tolerated after training has begun. When results begin to be achieved through consistency, it’s best to start incorporating other levels of discipline into the walk, such as having the dog sit every time the owner chooses to stop. The guiding principle behind every successful dog walk is that the owner must dictate the speed and direction of the walk rather than the dog.