Red Light Green Light
When I was a kid, we played outside. In the summertime, my mom would often kick us out of the house and instruct us to come home for meals and bathroom breaks. We made up games and played games passed down from kid to kid. I've recently been reminded of a game we played called "Red Light Green Light." A friend would say "green light" and we'd start running towards her. When she said "red light" we skidded to a halt.
Try playing "Red Light Green Light" while walking your dog. A loose leash means green light, continue walking. A tight leash means red light, stop walking. Every time you follow a dog who is pulling, you are rewarding that pulling. As Dr. Bob Bailey says, "You get what you reinforce, not what you want."
It's going to feel like you're in stop-and-go traffic. Yuck! Your walks are going to take longer than you would prefer. Boo! Mitigate your frustration by taking shorter walks, tiring your dog out with a game of tug or fetch before taking a walk, and practicing loose leash walking inside your home. Stick with it. The more consistent you are, the sooner your dog will learn that pulling means destination nowhere.
If you have a young dog, you have the advantage of teaching good habits from the start! If you have an older dog, don't worry. Changing your habits and routines now will help your dog find the path to reinforcement.
Make sure all family members and dog walkers who walk your dog practice "red light green light." Consistency is key.
Do you have a childhood game that lends itself to teaching your dog good habits? We'd love to hear about it!