Walking together is one of the best ways to build your bond with your dog.
Walking with your dog should be a joy, rather than a chore. Follow these 3 tips for an experience that is as comfortable as strolling on your own private beach with your dog.
3 Top Tips for Luxury Leash Walking
It’s essential to have a leash that is:
- Safe for you, your dog and anyone who approaches
- An appropriate length, width and clip weight and
- Feels comfortable in your hand.
Believe it or not, just any old leash won’t do the best job. Whatever doesn’t feel right with your leash, will totally interfere with your ability to enjoy just walking together with your dog.
Changing your leash to something that feels better in your hand immediately changes the dynamic and sets the stage for a better experience with your dog.
Let’s look at each of these tips in more detail –
1. SAFETY is the absolute top priority when selecting and using the right leash for walking your dog. Before each walk, check your leash for weak areas. Do not use any leash that is frayed, worn or partially chewed.
Retractable leashes are a definite No-No for walking your dog on the street or in public areas. Click here to read about the perils of retractable leashes.
The Bottom Line – When choosing a leash, put safety first for you and your dog.
2. APPROPRIATE LENGTH, WIDTH AND WEIGHT – Your leash length and width, and clip weight should match what the leash will be used for at the moment. One of the most common leash myths is that a thick leash with a large, heavy clip is the best way to control your dog. This is Wrong! – Bigger is NOT better.
Newsflash – The leash is about connecting WITH your dog, more than connecting TO your dog.
Your dog’s leash should be long enough to enable your dog to choose to walk with you, yet short enough to prevent you or your dog from getting tangled in it.
The clip should be easy to attach to your dog’s collar and strong enough to avoid failure in any situation. It should not feel like an anchor that weighs down your dog’s neck.
3. FEEL – Material, weight and shape matter. How the leash ‘feels’ in your hand is as important as the mechanics of walking with your dog in the desired position.
Choose a leash that is made of buttery soft material (like leather or biothane). It should rest easily in your hand without feeling bulky. A leash that feels right for you is the lifeline that builds your bond with your dog. Ideally, you want a leash that feels like it’s connected to your dog mentally rather than physically. When this happens your dog is better able to focus on you.
A flat lightweight leash made of leather, biothane, cotton or cotton blend will feel soft on your hands and comfortable for your dog. Some leash material is harsh on your bare hands. For example, if your dog bolts after a squirrel, cat or another dog, the risk of ‘rope burn’ is high with a leash made of nylon.
Thick round leashes often have bulky, foam-covered handles. The bulk may restrict your ability to effectively ‘whisper’ to your dog through the leash when needed.
When not used properly a leash can be perceived by your dog as an unwelcome or threatening restraint. Your dog may intuitively pull against or lean into whatever restrains or prevents it from getting to what it wants.
Click here to see what NOT to do when walking your dog on leash.
Karen’s Top 3 Choices
The following are my top three ‘go-to’ tools when training and walking dogs.
- Flat leash made of leather, biothane or cotton, 6 feet long; 3/8 Inch wide. This leash type is my preference for walking on the street because it works best for my hands. It feels almost like it’s not there, which helps me to ‘whisper’ to my dog through the leash.
- 3-in-one leash, 8-foot long (a Halti, collar and leash – all in one). This 3-in-one leash is beneficial to help dogs that can’t seem to focus on their handler. The material is a soft silk-cotton blend that is soft on your hands. This handy training tool will give instant relief to you and will provide a stress-free way for your dog to understand the rules of engagement when walking with you.
- Long line made of leather, biothane or cotton, – 10 to 15 feet long, 3/8 inch wide. For walking in a safe, open area such as a park.
NOTE: Seek guidance from a professional trainer to learn how to best use your chosen leash to ‘talk to your dog’ and to get the most enjoyment on your walks together.
Benefits and Cautions when using the ‘Top 3’
6-foot regular leash
Benefits: Easily attaches to your dog’s collar. A flat leash made of leather or biothane is soft on your hands, easiest to hang on to, non-stretchy, and compact enough to store in your pocket if needed.
When used properly, this leash is like a telephone line to your dog’s brain. This is my favourite leash for street walking, shopping in stores and attending events with my dog.
Cautions: The clip size should be suited to your dog. Don’t put a mini clip on a Mastiff and likewise, don’t put a giant clip on a chihuahua.
Proper grip and hand position/movement are critical to your success with this leash. Hold the handle and extra slack loosely in your hand that is furthest from your dog (outside hand). Use your inside hand to guide only when necessary.
Click here to learn how to avoid the most common mistake when walking your dog on leash.
3-in-one leash (Head halter, collar and leash in one)
I prefer these leashes to be 8 feet long so that when the nose piece is installed, there is enough slack remaining to give your dog a choice to work like a regular leash (as described in #1).
Benefits: No other collar is needed. The 3-in-one leash type is helpful for training young puppies to stay in the desired walking position. It provides a gentle way to manage unruly dogs to make your walks together enjoyable while keeping everyone safe.
Cautions: This leash can take some practice to install properly on your dog and to get your dog comfortable with the feeling of the loop over its nose.
Teach your dog to love this leash by using plenty of food rewards at each stage of the installation process.
Check out Prince walking with this leash to how to teach your dog to love this leash.
Long line – 10 to 15 feet.
Benefits: The long line is easily attached to your dog’s collar.
Starting your puppy on a long line is an effective way for your dog to learn to follow you and to play the check-in game. It is a fast track to off-leash freedom. Your dog will learn that choosing to stay close to you brings rewards, safety and comfort.
Cotton or biothane are the easiest materials to maintain and to protect your hands. Biothane is easy to clean after being dragged through the mud and other ‘undesirables’.
Caution: The biggest challenge when walking with a long line is to prevent the line from becoming tangled in your feet.
Click here to see how to use the Waterfall method to get started with walking safely with a long-line.
Long Line Walking Games
The Follow Me Game: Start in a safe, open area, with minimal distractions. This will help both of you To get the most out of long line walking. It will quickly teach your dog the benefits of following you, Hang on to the end of the line. Focus on a landmark (e.g. a tree) ahead so that you know where you are going. Use your landmark to set a pattern for walking and ‘just walk’. Your dog will learn that following you leads to interesting places.
The Check-In Game: Giving your dog a treat when they ‘check in’ with you, will teach them that staying close to you earns rewards. Initially, reward frequently and as your dog understands what you want, gradually replace food rewards with verbal praise.
With practice, your dog will learn to walk near you without any tension on the line, thus creating a seamless transition to a 6-foot leash.
Click here to see an example of poetry in motion when walking your dog with a long line.
For walking on the street, I prefer a leash that is 6 feet long by 3/8 inch wide, and made of leather or biothane. For teaching a dog to follow me and for safely walking in an open public area such as a park, I prefer a 15-foot long line of the same width and material.
Try different leashes/long materials and widths to find what is best for your hands. You want a material that feels almost like it’s not there so that you can ‘whisper’ to your dog through the leash, without saying a word. Try out a few different options before deciding what will ultimately become your favourite leash.
The goal is for the leash to be comfortable for you so that you can connect gently with your dog without saying a word. This approach gives your dog the freedom to ‘choose’ to walk beside you when asked, and to ‘go sniff’ when allowed.
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