Oh leash walking. How I wish it was easier to train with Zoe! Zoe is very environmental and nervous so it's not our most fun way to spend an afternoon. Zoe has a hard time focusing on keeping the leash loose because everything out in the world is so distracting and some things can even be a cause for concern! Phoenix is a lot better on leash and never got a chance to develop any bad habits even though she's generally great on leash by herself we still have some work to do with walking both of them together. They do tend to egg each other on when I walk them together and Zoe's anxiety rubs off on Phee. I would so much rather be training tricks or even training competition style heelwork than strapping a leash on my dogs and stopping every 2 seconds to "be a tree".
It's definitely not Zoe's fault that she pulls on leash, you see, I never fully committed to training her to walk well. For the first year and half she was with me, I used a flexi leash. I knew the hazards of using them but I thought that I was better than other dog owners because unlike most dogs my dog was trained. I could stop her on cue and have her come back to me. No problems at all there! She was under control. Yeah right. I was a little delusional and a lot dumb. I wish I could go back and give myself a stern talking-to. Flexi leads work by giving the dogs more lead when they pull. They pull and they get to go where they want and sniff all the things. So basically they get a huge reinforcement for pulling and it's the best thing ever because they get to where they want to go.
Fast forward a few more years and Zoe still struggles with leash walking because I allowed her to develop so many bad habits and didn't commit to fixing them. My excuse is that I got Phoenix and her issues were more important. It's a valid excuse and it is what it is.
One of the biggest problems with Zoe's leash walking is that she is very "environmental" and hyper vigilant. Certain places can cause her to be anxious and forget what she's supposed to be doing. We did take Deb Jones' "Focus" class through the Fenzi Academy and it was helpful. I am using some of her techniques to work on Zoe's issues. I would almost consider Zoe sort of reactive in the environment and I probably need to treat her more like a reactive dog. Just because she's not barking and lunging on the end of her leash doesn't mean she isn't fearful, she's just not "verbalizing" it.
To get really amazing loose leash walking you need a dog who is very gear aware, the dog also has to be aware of where they are in relation to you. They have to be taught what to do when they feel leash pressure and they need to know where they are supposed to be walking. It takes a ton of consistency to get loose leash walking and I struggle with it. I am planning to do some more posts on how to get your dog to be "gear aware" in the near future. These are all based in positive reinforcement, no leash corrections allowed. Any time the girls get a new harness to try out or a different length of leash they forget what they are supposed to do. Mostly just Zoe. Zoe also tries to get as far away from me as possible as a result of being allowed to wander around on the end of her flexi lead.
This year one of my goals is to really commit to Zoe and working with her on the issues she has. I will definitely have more posts about it soon and what we are doing to get the leash walking better! Right now I'm still resting Zoe for that paw thing that's going on so I'm going on walks with Phoenix only. The walks with Phoenix have been completely eye opening. She is nearly perfect on leash without her sister around! I will post more about that, too!
I will keep everyone updated on how everything is going.
What methods did you use (or are using) to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash?