dog lead

Is walking two dogs the same as walking one dog?

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Emphatically not! There are lots of reasons:

Going on a walk with one dog is a companionable affair. Just the one dog to consider. Just the one relationship. Just one speed. 

Add another and you have your attention split between two dogs. And the two dogs’ attention is split between you and each other. They will interact and react together. So immediately you have some unpredictability in the mix. And there’s great scope for the leads to tangle and for the dogs use you as a maypole.

Add to this the fact that you’ll need to set a pace to suit both dogs - not so easy with one old’un and one young’un. Or a big dog and a small dog. Perhaps you have one surging ahead and the other lagging behind. You have to pick up poo with what - your third hand? - while you try to stop the dogs stepping in it.

You have to decide which hand is holding which lead. You have to work out which lead is attached to which dog. And where do you put your treats?

And if one of your dogs is reactive to other dogs, then you are setting up a learning laboratory for your second dog.

Monkey see, monkey do. Reactivity is highly catching.

And it may result in a “redirected bite” when the frustrated dog lashes out at the first thing that gets in the way - the other dog? your leg? 

Remember that if you’re introducing a new puppy into the household along with your reactive dog you also need to be following a lot of other guidelines that you’ll find in this post.

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So it’s not as simple as just grabbing the leads and going! You have to put some thought into this. But a little simple planning goes a long way.

Start with individual dogs

The first essential is to work with one dog at a time. If your loose lead walking with one dog is not stellar, there’s no chance of it suddenly improving when you add another dog. 

Following a step-by-step program like the one you’ll find in Let’s Go! Enjoy Companionable Walks with your Brilliant Family Dog will quickly give you skills with your lead that you didn’t know existed (there’s an art to good lead-handling), and a relationship with your dog that you may have only dreamed of. 

So get that going first, with each dog. You can’t expect them to learn from each other! Well … they may learn from each other, but they may learn some things you’d rather they didn’t. And once they’ve learnt those things, it’s hard to unlearn them (though it can be done, of course). 

And while you’re doing all these solo walks you’re building a huge relationship with both dogs. If you build a relationship with your first dog, then toss another dog into the mix you’re never going to give that new dog the chance to interact with you individually on a walk.

Once you have got each dog knowing exactly where he should be when on a loose lead, you’re ready to put them together. 

I colour-code my dogs, so I know exactly which lead is connected to which dog at any time. This really does make life easier, so look at changing your dog-gear - at least the leads - so you can do this. 

Want to be able to loose lead walk your dog kindly and without frustration? Daily training videos will get you there!

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Who’s where?

You also need to establish which side you want each dog, so they don’t criss-cross in front of you, tripping you and each other up. Even if you’ve taught each dog to walk on, say, your left side in solo walks, once they have grasped the principles of keeping the lead loose and staying beside you it’s very easy to flip one to the other side so you have one on each side. Of course, you may prefer both on the same side, but this can lead to jostling and differences of opinion about whose nose should be an inch ahead of the other’s!

Then again some people like their multi-dogs to be out in front of them, like deerhounds. This is fine as long as there’s no tension on the lead. This can be a useful strategy if walking through crowds or narrow streets.

Your focus when on these early walks - well, any walks really - is on helping the dogs to keep the position you have taught them individually.

Using gentle hands on your drooping leads you’ll be able to connect with them without the need to yank or pull at the lead. Frequent rewards given to the dog who’s getting it right will quickly focus your other dog’s attention on how he can get this bounty too. A little competition can go a long way!

While there is no time when my dogs cannot earn a reward for doing something I like, when I have four in hand they may have to be content with a smile and a word of encouragement each time they check in with me. Delving in the pocket for treats with four leads to hold is not so quick! 

What should my dogs wear?

For preference I like to walk my dogs on a well-fitted non-aversive harness with two connection points and a double-ended lead. If you choose a lead with a “freedom” handle this is very easy to manage with one hand. See the video here to show you what I mean: www.goodfordogs.co.uk/products *

There are lots of gadgets about for stopping dogs pulling. Many of these are aversive - they work by hurting. And also many of them promise a quick fix. None of them, however kind, is a substitute for teaching your dog where you want him to be when walking!

So slapping on a headcollar without any prior desensitisation is likely to end up with a dog who is forever yanking the lead while he tries to scrabble the offending object off his nose. You can certainly use a non-tightening headcollar - if your dogs have been acclimatised to it first - and it can give you that extra bit of control you may need in extreme circumstances: e.g. walking four dogs across a showground full of excited dogs and activities. The headcollar also comes into its own to help with a reactive dog who has a tendency to lunge out at passers-by.

But I would not see it as an aid to get loose lead walking, and the lead would never be tight so that the dog is forced to pull into it.

So by all means enjoy walking your two or more dogs together! But be sure they know exactly what you want before you start, and remember to walk them individually too on a regular basis, to reinforce that bond that develops between you and your dog, one-on-one.

 

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But I have to keep my dog on a short lead, or else … [insert disaster here]

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Your dog has lunged or leapt up at someone, has pulled towards another dog as if with evil intent, tugs you towards whatever he wants to sniff.

So you shorten the lead and keep a tight hold on it. 

I understand. I can see why this habit has developed.

But did you know that if you do the very opposite as soon as your dog sees something you think he’ll pull towards, he’ll actually relax and stop pulling?

Really!

Tightening the lead when your dog sees something that worries him triggers the “fight or flight” reflex. He’s trapped so he can’t flee. So his only option (he thinks, in his moment of fear) is to launch an attack. This is usually confined to noise and bluster and no damage is intended.

But it can result in a “redirected bite” where your dog’s frustration at being restrained causes him to grab the nearest thing - his lead, your hand, your leg …

(If your dog has actually bitten and caused damage, see note further down.)

The right tool for the job

Struggling to control your dog with a lead 3 foot or shorter is making life impossible for both of you.

Your dog only has to move an inch or two away from you to make the lead tight.

And if you have the lead wound six times round your hand and held in a vice-like grip, he is feeling pressure the whole time. When you walk hand in hand with a friend, you don’t grip their hand tightly and clamp it to your side. You don’t frogmarch them along the road without allowing them to pause and look at anything!

For this week only, enrolment is open for From Growly Dog to Confident Dog! Go and check out all the elements of the course that could transform life with your difficult dog

So give your dog some freedom, and relieve your shoulders of the ache.

Get a 6-8 foot long lead. Choose one made of Softex or other such material which is soft on the hands, with no sharp edges to cut or burn. 

Some of the best ones are called “training leads” and have a trigger clip at each end, with several rings down the length of the lead you can connect them to. This gives you three different lead lengths, and the ability to fix it round your hips or bandolero-style across your body, and have hands-free walking.

You can get them in lovely colours too! 

You can certainly have a leather lead if you prefer, but you may have to work it to soften it enough to be easy to gather and slide through your hands. A lead is only as strong as its weakest part, so check that metal parts are welded, stitching is sturdy, and there are no rough edges.

Now you can give your dog a bit of freedom! 

 

  • He can pause to sniff (wait a moment then suggest he comes with you)

  • He can assess people passing or dogs approaching without feeling trapped (keep your hold on the lead soft)

  • You will relax!

  • Your dog will relax!

 

If you need to keep your dog leashed when you’re in a larger area, away from the road, a 15 foot line is ideal. You don’t leave it trailing on the ground to get all muddy and wet and yucky, you gather it in your hands so that you can gently let it out and gather it in as necessary. There’s a safe way to do this, so that your fingers don’t get broken when your dog lurches forward, and you’ll find detailed instructions in the online course: From Growly Dog to Confident Dog

Of course you must ensure the safety of others. So if your dog has bitten and caused damage you need to a) start teaching him to enjoy wearing a muzzle, and b) look for a force-free professional to help you.

 

Puppies

For a young puppy I like to use a “house line” - an 8-foot light line with no handle. This one can be left trailing in house or garden, and provides an easy way to capture your racing puppy! It's also great for roadwalks, to give your puppy the freedom she needs to explore her environment without being hauled about by the neck. 

So when your little pup plonks her bottom firmly on the pavement and says “Not moving,” you can wait at the end of the (slack) lead until she’s assessed the danger of the crocodile pit she thought she saw in front of her and decided to move again.

I had an email for help from a new owner, complaining about her 10-week-old puppy’s stubbornness when walking on the road. I suggested she re-read her email, replacing the words “stubborn” and “obstinate” with “fearful” and “worried”. She got the point straight away and started treating her little pup with the same kindness and patience as she already extended to her children. 

 

There’s no need to become the “master” of a dog

They are family, not staff.

I feel like crying whenever I see a puppy being dragged along the pavement - sometimes upside down. Yes, really. This happens.

Would you drag a frightened toddler along the pavement upside down?

Just give her a second or two …

 

Lead Skills are important for all dog-owners to learn. And if you have a shy, fearful, reactive, or aggressive, dog, it’s even more important that you can make the connection with your dog that a lead affords, and send only good messages down it! Think how soft-handed equestrian stars are. 

 

For this week only, enrollment is open for

From Growly Dog to Confident Dog!

Go and check out all the elements of the course that could transform life with your difficult dog.