Walks can be a thrilling time of the day for your dog. It’s when they get to go out and start exploring. They see other dogs and people, as well as experiencing a lot of new sights and smells – even if you take them on the same route each day, it’s still very exciting to them!
Your dog may become overexcited during these times, so it may be hard to control them, especially if they are bigger dogs. It is important that your dog knows you are in charge, so let's go over some steps on how to train your dog to be calm on walks.
Often, when our dog starts to bark, lunge, or pull, our first reaction is to jerk them back. However, that is not very effective. They still get to go where they want to, so the first step in training your dog to be calm on walks is to work with them on leash manners, including not pulling or lunging.
When your dog starts to pull, stop. Hold your ground and do not move. This will teach your dog that you are in control and that they cannot pull you where they want to go. This is especially important with bigger dogs as they may be stronger than you. Once your dog stops pulling, you may start to walk again. As soon as they begin to pull, stop again.
Another tip is to walk in different directions. You can start to walk to the left or the right, taking turns you wouldn't usually take instead of going straight. This will help your dog to start looking at you when they are walking. If you need to pull, jerk to the left or right.
Consider what you are walking your dog with. Are you using a back clip harness? Even though it may be better for your dog, it makes it easier for them to pull. You may want to switch to a collar until they stop pulling, though a collar may be easier for them to slip out of. Test out different methods that work best for you.
Calming your dog on a walk will be much easier if they understand simple commands, like sit, stay, and down. Start training your dog inside with little distractions. Once they master the command, start to work on it outdoors, first, without any distractions. The goal is to desensitize your dog to their environment and help them listen no matter where they are. This will help when there are other dogs or people they need to ignore.
Practice with your dog before they see people, and work to keep their attention when the distraction gets closer. Make sure they are rewarded with treats or praise to help them understand they are doing a good job. The more you practice, the more your dog will listen in the heat of the moment.
Most dogs are food motivated, so if all else fails, make sure you have treats ready! These can act as great distractions, getting your dog to come to you to get a treat. These should also be used when they follow commands or are simply walking without pulling. Positive reinforcement works wonders when you are trying to train your dog to be calm on walks.