If you lived in the countryside or rural areas where it was ok to let your dog run free, there may come a point where your pooch has to learn some "in town manners"
Even if you never need a leash where you live, there will come a time such as a Veterinarian visit or an emergency where they should be trained to use a leash. But just how do you teach an old dog new tricks?
Start slow and with the right equipment. This is not the time to simply hook him to a lead and expect him to walk by your side. You need to stay in control so the worst thing you can do is hook him up to one of those extending leads that have him miles in front of you, all that will do is give him control instead of you and you will go for a run whether you want to or not.
Many senior dogs are still quite active and can give you a run for your money if they get excited enough or see something they want to look closer at. I remember chasing my 12 year old dog through a field because she saw a squirrel and she could outrun me.. Here are a few steps that will have him walking nicely by your side.
Tire a Wired Dog If you have an older dog that is still very hyper or active, then the best way to start this exercise is to get him tired out. Play catch with a ball, in the yard or play games with him so that he is not going crazy with energy. When you first get home from work, it would be best to get him tired and spend some fun time with him in a secure yard, especially if he has been cooped up all day. You are more likely to get his attention and cooperation if he is calm.
Once you have FIDO tired out and happy, you can start your leash training. You don't want your arm ripped out of its socket by an excited dog. This will just cause stress and they will not associate this exercise with fun!
Harness When you start leash training, even on an older dog, you need to have control. It can be hard to control a dog with just a collar and a lead. Using a harness will give you more control especially when it comes to them pulling on the leash. Depending on your dog, depends on the size you get. You can get a simple strap harness as the one below, or a fuller vest style.
By adding a harness that works for your dog, you can simply attach the lead to this harness and there will be no choking or pain to your dog which can happen with many collars, or sometimes if the dog is strong enough, the collar simply slides off. This is one of the best ways to gain control of your dog.
You might want to start by letting them wear it around the house to get used to it. Give them treats when they behave wearing it, and this way, they will associate this harness with a nice activity such as a walk. We had very strong dogs even into their senior years, and many times this was the only way I felt confident using a leash. You are spreading the load out to their chest area rather than just their neck, so it is better for you and them. No more tug of wars!
Short Leash Once you have them used to the harness, you want to either shorten or purchase a short lead. If you give your pet too much leash they have control of you. If they see a squirrel or cat or something interesting, they will bolt and you will end up bolting with them! To begin getting an older dog used to a leash he has to understand this is your gig.
Short Leash for Training Using the harness and a short leash will give you control and you can walk your dog by your side. You can react quickly if he tries to run. He won't be able to get the momentum to bolt with a short lead. You can purchase a short leash or shorten your own.
Walk Around House and Yard First Once you have the harness on and they are comfy, try attaching the leash and lead on. Keep your dog by your side every time he tries to go a different way, gently pull him back in. I find if you shorten the lead or get a specific short lead, you have control over his movements. These are really a good idea in town or if there are many people around. You don't want to get tangled or lose control.
You will feel more confident with a shorter leash in the beginning.
Even old dogs can pull and sometimes dart. You want both of you to enjoy the experience and he will eventually figure out he has to look to you to decide on the direction of movement.
Once you know he is calm, then head outdoors around the block, and give him a treat when you get back and tell him how well he did. He will have to get used to some new commands too.
Single Word Commands If he is already house trained and knows the basics, you will have to add some more words for commands. Keep them single words, it is much easier for an older dog to learn single word commands. Such as "heel" or whatever word you come up with to keep him by your side at the same time as a gentle tug back.
Like with anything new, practice. Every day try and take him out on the leash. He is less likely to try and turn and bite the lead if you do have it hooked to a harness and he will pretty quickly learn that this is something fun to do. When he is home in a secure yard or even at the dog park, let him free, but he has to get used to the idea that being put on a leash is not a bad thing, that it leads to fun.
Old dogs can learn new tricks!
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