Did you realise that what you do at your end of the lead can affect your dog’s behaviour ?
I often come up with blog ideas while walking my own two dogs, and this morning’s walk certainly helped. I was wandering down a country lane, one dog on lead (we were doing a little training), the other, my little old lady of 13.5 years, ambling along behind us.
The path is rarely used by cars, but I always keep an ear out, and this morning a farmer can trundling along in his land rover. Taz was a short distance away, but she seems to blend into the hedges and I was worried that he hadn’t seen her. Cue me, waving (maybe a little manically) at him and turning back down the lane to pop her on her lead. Because I turned quite abruptly I caused tension on Amos’s lead. Amos (who is quite anxious anyway) interpreted this as there being something Mum was worried about, so he had better worry too.Even after the farmer has past he was tense and a little barky.
He calmed down quickly, but it made me think. He never usually barks at cars; it was the tension on the lead that caused his heightened alertness.
Next time you are out with your dog and spot something that causes you to twitch the lead have a look at how your dog reacts.
Some will take it in their stride, others, especially if they are anxious generally, or have a tendency to react, will change their body language and behaviour. They may tense up, or bark and start scanning the horizon for a ‘threat’.
Instead of tightening the lead, try and take a deep breath and carry on as before. Singing to yourself can help lighten the mood (the Beatles are a personal favourite!). If you really struggle to keep a loose lead (the tightening is often an unconscious action), tuck the thumb of the hand that is holding the lead into your waist band. Yes, you may look like an escapee from a line dancing class but you won’t be able to put tension on your dog’s lead!
I was talking to a client the other day about exactly this. We have been working on her dog’s reactivity to other dogs. The training we have done has certainly helped, but, so has the fact that she is more relaxed when walking with her dog. Instead of tensing herself, and the lead, when they see another dog, she now consciously tries to relax and it is paying dividends.
If you need any help with loose lead walking or reactivity get in touch.