Ask the Dog – turning leash walking into a dialogue

Walking on a leash is a special situation in which different challenges are typically presented. Walking on a leash is normally a daily occurrence for a dog, yet it often has very little decision-making power over the events that take place during the walk. The dog and the handler holding the leash may have different interests and this prevents dialogue from forming. A dog may experience frustration and the handler disappointments, when the dog does not perform as expected.

Walking is facilitated by the dog’s genuine motivation and its utilization. The dog should be taught that it can take the initiative during the walks and will be listened to. Increasing a dog’s ability to take the initiative increases its self-confidence and sense of security, which often reduces the occurrence of unwanted activities during the walks.

At best, the dog and the owner move together as a team, so that both have opportunity to have an impact and so that communication works in both directions. Instead of teaching the dog to obey and training walking as a technical performance, one should teach the dog to communicate, express its wishes, and even resist the handler. The relationship between two individuals is built on interactive situations.

A typical problematic situation with a leash is that the dog may bark or growl. In order to find a successful solution, it is worthwhile asking the dog, through various exercises, what motivates it. Is the dog perhaps motivated by fear, in which case the greatest relief for it is to increase the distance between it and the object of the fear, or perhaps it is frustration, in which case getting closer and preventing disappointment are the best rewards.

Asking the dog, in a leash context, helps to increase the dog’s active capacity, i.e. to increase the dog’s sense of ability and control. In this way, the dog’s fears about various environmental stimuli can be alleviated and, as a result, the feeling of frustration is reduced when the dog is given the tools to communicate to its handler in desired ways.

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