Using a leash as a dog training tool has been made famous by the Dog Whisperer on his popular TV series. This simple tool can transform any problem dog into a great pet because it transforms a problem dog owner into a great master!
The secret to a good dog is lots of attention as a puppy. Playing, throwing balls, catching a frisbie, pulling rope are all great fun, but it is the walk with the leash which will have the most benefit for the dog/owner relationship. Even if your dog is older, and has developed some problem habits, the daily walk will help bring it into alignment.
It’s always important to understand dog psychology in training your pet. Your dog does not understand English, and does not have the same desires for comfort and freedom that you have. Having a conversation about right and wrong with your dog does very little to train her! To a dog, comfort and freedom comes from understanding what is going on, feeling a sense of connection with the pack, and knowing who is boss. A good owner communicates these things to their dog through actions.
If a dog does not have a definite sense that someone else is in charge, then they will naturally try to take charge: always with a detrimental result. Always remember that the dog is living in a human world; they have to live by human rules and needs. Dogs will never completely understand cars, neighbors and cats! Because of this, the dog can never be in charge. The dog simply does not have, and can never have, a deep enough understanding of the human world to be the boss.
A good example is the visitor. When someone comes up to your house they are almost always friendly. In fact, it could be your closest friend. But still dogs bark and growl and act protective of the pack’s territory. You can’t have a discussion with the dog about it, because they will never get it. Instead, they have to learn that you are in charge and that they are not running the show.
Walking a dog with a leash should be done in a masterful way. If the dog is pulling or wandering off to the side during the walk they will not be gaining much benefit. Be the boss and make your dog walk at your side, slightly behind, and make them pay attention to you.
Many dog breeds, particularly the more aggressive breeds, will want to be in charge on the walk. A good way to counter this behavior is to walk unpredictably. If they never know exactly which way you are going, when you might start or stop, or how fast or slow you will go, then they will learn to pay attention and watch. That is exactly what you want, to walk along with a bright eyed dog watching you for direction. This kind of a walk will actually bring a sense of harmony to your dogs mind because they will have a firm sense that you are in charge.
My dog is a Blue Heeler, a very dominant breed. Even though we live out in the country where it would be perfectly safe for him to walk off a leash, I still take him for a leashed walk every evening. You would think that he knows the difference, but he doesn’t. He acts just like a dog in the city. When I grab the leash and get ready to go on the walk, he jumps up excited, bows his head so I can put on the leash, and smiles at the door waiting for me to open it and head out on the walk. It doesn’t matter that he has been running around the yard freely all day. We might have even taken several walks that morning without a leash. When I grab the leash he never thinks, “Geeze, what is she thinking? I know my way around here. I’ve been running around all day!” Instead he is just excited for a walk.
Dogs like to spend time with their people. That’s all that really matters. The leash may not be completely necessary, but it helps bring his mind into focus, and keeps us happy in our little pack: with me in charge.