Labrador retrievers are very energetic and are outgoing so when you own one, you cannot just keep him within the four corners of your home. For your dog to be physically and psychologically healthy, you have to give him some time to go out and run free. I mean not that free because you have to keep him by your side and to make him do just that, you have to learn how to walk your dog in a leash.
With all the people we see walking their dogs around, it is easy to assume that lead handling is a simple task. If you have already taken your dog outside, you would know that this is not true. When your Labrador retriever sees or smells something that interests him, he would run in that direction with much strength and excitement that you may have difficulty in controlling him. For this reason, lead handling is best started when your Lab is only 8 weeks old and this can be really difficult. Below are steps which you can follow if you want to master the skill of walking your dog outside.
1. Lead training requires preparations.
Like everything else in life, if you want to be successful in doing something, you have to prepare for it. Walking your dog outside also takes some preparations. First of all, you have to attach a harness on your dog. A good harness would be an adjustable nylon one that would not limit the growth of your dog. Attach the leash of your choice, a strong one with a right length of course, to the harness. It is also advisable if you can put a collar for your dog not only for easy identification but for easier collar leading transition later on.
2. Practice removing and putting back the harness.
When you have just put on the harness of your dog, he is likely to start wriggling and squirming. When he does, do not remove the harness. This is just normal as your dog is merely adjusting to the uncomfortable object around him. You have to be patient with your dog and maybe give him praises to encourage him that the harness is okay. When he habituates on the harness, you can start removing and putting back the harness until you can finally do it easily.
3. Starting lead training at home.
When at home, always keep the harness with your dog. That way, you can gradually attach the leash on your dog. For starters, you can attach the leash when your Labrador retriever is feeding or when he is tired. Do not pull the leash all the time. You can just let it hang on your Lab’s side for some time and occasionally pick it up and follow your Lab around. Just a reminder, do not pull your Labrador retriever with it and just keep the leash slack.
4. Going out for the first time.
When it is your first time to walk your dog outside, make sure that you choose a place with little distractions so that your Labrador retriever will not go running everywhere. It would also be wise when you walk him after he has played already so that he will be less energetic, thus, making it easier for you to handle him. Walk with the Lab on the left side and the lead on your right hand. On your left hand, hold a toy that could encourage the Lab to follow you. Walk for a few meters leading the dog with the toy all the time then pause for a while to let him play with the toy and give him some praises. A few more days doing this training and your dog will learn to follow you when you walk and stay on your side when you stop walking.
5. Move forward when the Labrador retriever pulls you.
Labrador retrievers are easily excited and when they are, they will start pulling in different directions. When your Lab starts to do this, you don’t have to move forward too, else the Labrador will learn that the leash is the thing that let him move forward. If you let him play with the toy and give him praises, with this tugging and pulling behavior, this would definitely put your lead training to waste. Always make a point to stop moving. In cases when your Lab stops pulling and the leash becomes loose, encourage the dog to come to you and then you can start walking side-by-side again.
Isn’t that just easy? If the following steps don’t work, seeking professional help, using a no-pull harness or using a Gentle Leader could be your option. But then, Labrador retrievers are really smart dogs and they can easily learn what you want them to learn when you are just patient and consistent.