Dancing with the Stars & Loose Lead Walking
What does Loose Lead walking and the TV show Dancing with the Stars have in common?
You might be thinking, sequined costumes and over-exaggerated expressions. Not quite, although that would be interesting sight to behold.
What these two have in common are the stages of Forming, Storming, Norming, Conforming and then Performing as a team.
Think about it, whether it’s walking your dog or dancing with another person, a team is formed.
Stage 1 – Forming
A combination of excitement and nervousness abounds. You’ve just been introduced to your new team partner. You’re keen to learn about each other and excited about being together.
If you have a new Pup on the scene, introduce a lead when at home. Take it for walks on the lead around the house and yard.
If you’ve taken on an adult dog, that is pulling on the lead, be prepared to go right back to basics with (re)training loose lead walking.
Think about getting some professional advice. For Puppies, attending a Puppy Course is a great way of learning some of the basics. For adult dogs, a professional Trainer should be able to help point out some strategies as to how best to work with your fur kid.
Stage 2 – Storming
The relationship has started and after a few trials, things aren’t going as planned. Your fur kid is wandering all over the place and constantly walking across your path – sort of the equivalent of dancing by accidentally standing on each other’s feet. Or your fur kid is taking the dance lead, by pulling on the leash and taking you in every single possible direction (except the one you originally intended).
If you fur kid has never been trained to loose lead walk before, don’t expect instant miracles. Things don’t always go according to plan.
Never reprimand your fur kid for not doing something you expect. Dogs can quickly start to display fear, withdrawal, anxiety and even aggression by associating with regular negative experiences. Spare a thought for those times you might have seen an owner for reprimanding their dog for not coming back to them immediately when recalling. If the dog experiences that consistently, then the last thing they want to do is come back for fear of being punished.
Success is gained through patience, repetition and fun. Rinse and repeat.
Stage 3 – Norming
Your now at the stage, where you’re wondering what ‘Normal’ is going to be? Constant lead pulling and tripping over each other – will that be the way forever? “Norming” comes down to how you define and what an enjoyable walk with your fur kid looks like. Loose lead training is a 2-way street. It requires co-operation from your dog but also a level of understanding from you as to how to achieve this team work. You’re beginning to see some moments of co-ordination and co-operation between the two of you. However, there’s still a little way to go.
If needed, get some advice from a certified Trainer. Guidance on how to set yourself and your fur kid for success will be valuable. Having someone to work with observe and provide feedback will help get you to better understanding “Norming” faster.
When out walking your dog, start to take note of things such as what high level distractions it becomes fixated on. What and how will you manage your fur kid when these distractions pop up?
Stage 4 – Conforming
Taking it back to our Dancing analogy, you and your partner have worked out what the dance should look like. You've both started to appreciate the benefits of working together. You’re taking a lot of the lead by providing positive guidance and reward when there are moments of success. Both of you are enjoying the walk and keeping each other in-check to reinforce what conforming to what a relaxed and pleasant walk should be.
Remember to walk your fur kid with a mindset of having fun. It’s a walk that has benefits for the both of you.
Learn to compromise – if your fur kid has walked well alongside you while you’re out, then make sure that if it wants to stop and smell the grass or tree, then compromise. It’s their walk too!
Set up for success – reinforce all the good things your fur kid is doing with a “Yes”, a pat or a treat. Reward them for conforming to the desired behaviour being displayed.
Stage 5 – Performing
The time spent in the ‘Conforming’ stage has been long and tested your patience and resilience. At times, it has felt like 1 step forward but then 2 steps backwards. However, the time and effort has paid off. You both have a great understanding of what is expected OF EACH OTHER. You are now team. No-one is stepping on toes or thinking they alone should be taking the lead. The walk is a consistently enjoyable and you’re now the envy of others being taken for a walk by their dog!
Don’t take your fur kid for granted now that it walks well on the lead. Show that you appreciate them by still providing praise and reward.
If there some instances where you think your fur kid has gone backwards with their loose lead walking, then go back to Stage 3 or Stage 4 and start again.
Training never stops – keep it going as dogs love to please. There’s not a lot better than having your fur kid wag their tail at you when they know exactly what you expect from each other
At K9 FUNdamentals, we only train utilising force-free methods. Our aim is to not just help your fur kid but also work with you as the owner to enhance and strengthen the bond. Training should be fun and rewarding for both you. If you would like to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact us.