Your Pet Question:
How do I get my dog to stop pulling on his leash?
John Hope, Halifax, NS
The Expert Says:
To be the alpha in your dog’s eyes, you must be calm and assertive. You cannot get angry or emotional. Among dogs, if a pack leader becomes emotional when trying to deal with other dogs, that’s seen as irrationality. And when a pack leader is seen as irrational, they are replaced in a heartbeat. Every day, the pack leader leads the dogs out of the den for hunting, like we take them out walking. It’s important that the alpha leader leads the hunt, so that the dog doesn’t get out front. If it gets out front, it’s leading. You can’t let your dog get out front when you walk it, because that tells it that it gets to make all the decisions.
The best way to communicate with a dog when you walk it is with little tugs, but you can’t pull your dog straight back. It can’t be punishing. Use a flat collar, not a choker. Keep it snug enough that you can only get one finger underneath it. Use a six-foot leash. Walk it on your left side in the eight o’clock position. The dog doesn’t get to stop and sniff wherever it wants. You’re the leader. And it doesn’t get to go to the bathroom wherever the heck it wants either. In the wild, pack leaders decide where the pack is going to drop its scent. Don’t look at your dog, look straight ahead, proud. And stay calm. If your heart rate goes up, your dog’s heart rate goes up. They hear your heart rate just as well as what comes out your mouth, but they understand it better. If you get irrational, boom! You’re not qualified to be the leader.
Danno Schut, owner of Happy Dog Obedience Training and Consulting in Toronto