Our puppy Brewster used to be the WORST on the leash. He would get distracted by everything, pulling in every direction, and trying to eat anything he could find off the ground. And then sometimes he would just lay down mid-stride, bringing the walk to a sudden halt. We would have to constantly encourage him to keep going, and it would get so frustrating at times that we would leave him at home, even though we’d rather be taking him with us.
We learned some good tips in our SmartyPup 201 class to train your dog to be better at loose-leash walking, which we’ve been putting to use; and although it’s taken a long time and a lot of practice (and patience!), we’re finally seeing improvement. The trick is to pick a side that you want your dog to walk on (we chose left), and hold a treat near that leg to keep your dog walking by your side. Our favorite is jerky since it’s easy to break pieces off and hold them out for your dog to grab. This is definitely harder with a small dog, since you have to lean down a lot, but I’d say worth the back ache if it will eventually train your dog to walk right!
When they start doing a little better on the leash, you can then try weaning off to periodic treating, so your pup will want to walk close to you just in case he gets a piece of jerky. And eventually, the goal is to be able to stop treating altogether, and your dog will just naturally walk by your side.
We’re still in the periodic treating phase, where he chooses to walk by our side most of the time, and we periodically reward him for that good behavior. He even looks up at us sometimes while he’s trotting along to see if we’re noticing what a great job he’s doing and are going to give him a treat. It’s pretty adorable, and although it’s still a work in progress, we feel much saner being able to walk more than two blocks without wanting to rip our hair out.