A long leash is a must-have dog essential for dog training and dog ownership. Right up there with food, toys, treats and a collar. It's my favorite way to let a dog be a dog, while still progressing skills and addressing development.
A long leash is good for almost every dog. A puppy can benefit from a long leash for socialization, a nervous dog can benefit by gaining independence, and an owner can use it as a reprieve from leash walking training. You can use a long leash as a tool for training, exercise, and safety. What a bang for your buck!
So if you already have a long leash, let's see if you can utilize it even more, and if you don't have a long leash yet, it might be just what you need to help your young, nervous, bored, smart, or energetic dog!
Check out these five ways you can use a long leash:
1. Confidence Building
Whenever I train a nervous dog, I recommend the owner get a long leash. A long leash is great for a walk on a trail or on an aqueduct. When you take your dog on a walk with a long leash, you naturally fall into a type of walk where your dog is exploring and you don't have to do much besides walk. The direction you are giving your dog is to be a dog - sniff, explore, mark your territory if you want to!
For a nervous dog, they can get caught up with questions like "what should I do?" or "where should I go?" and when they are on a long leash, they get to minimize a lot of that uncertainty because they get to follow their nose and their intuition. Any activities that let your dog be a dog - as opposed to a dog that is forced into our lifestyles - help their confidence.
A long leash also helps nervous dogs because they can gain independence. They are naturally going to be farther away from you. Sometimes just a 15 foot leash is farther from you than normal. Nervous dogs often need their owners to tell them what to do but on a long leash, they can make some of their own decisions about where to go and what to do. And, that independence translates over to being obedient without your direction or presence.
Socialization is about exploring the world. Our job as dog owners is to help our dogs have positive experiences when they are exposed to new textures, events, people, weather events, noises, dogs, etc. and a long leash can be a great tool for allowing our puppy to explore more than they would on a short leash.
Let's say you bring home a new puppy and you want to take them on a walk and they sit there and do nothing. You're thinking, "well this is not what I had in mind!". Well your puppy is also thinking, "well this is not what I had in mind!" They are too young to walk next to you on a leash (because of lack of training and control, which is ok because they are puppies) but you want them to get some exercise and you want to get out of the house. So what do you do?! Well, you switch the leash to a long leash and you follow their lead. You let them walk back and forth. You let them sniff the bushes and roll in the leaves. Now, a frustrating walk has turned into a productive walk, both from an exercise and socialization point of view.
3. Use as a leash walking tool
When you walk your dog on a short leash, your goal is a loose leash. If you are training leash walking, a long leash can be your break from instructing your dog to walk next to you. It allows you to have purpose to your walks which you can then communicate to your dog. For example, you put on the short leash, get your treats and are very consistent about correcting your dog when the leash is tight. Then later that day or the next day, let's say you don't feel like training. You get the long leash and go for a walk without having the leash get tight all the time.
The most important thing while training leash walking is to not reinforce bad behaviors like pulling. While they are learning, a five foot leash doesn't leave them a lot of room to walk without getting corrected for a tight leash, but a 15 or 30 foot leash allows you to go for a walk without your dog pulling you.
4. Train from a distance
Who wants to take their dog off leash?! Well, the long leash is the perfect tool to see if your dog can respond to you from a distance. In order to train your dog to be off leash, they have to pass the test of the long leash. I would advise a 15 and a 30 foot leash. Start with the 15, then advance to the 30.
Even if you aren't training your dog to be off leash, life is about communicating and responding from a distance. Leave it and Come are commands that are often expected from 20 feet or more away. A long leash allows you to practice those commands from a distance but with the control of a leash.
A long leash is good for kids in two ways: keeping them safe and allowing them to participate.
Picture this... You have a new puppy or a young dog and children. The children are running around in the backyard. The puppy is nipping at their heels. Jumping on them. Biting their shirts. The kids are all laughing, they don't stop running around, and the dog keeps going back for more. A long leash is a great tool to make sure your dog does not reach the kids. Kids have a way of reinforcing bad behaviors so keeping the dog on a long leash is a great way to practice keeping your dog calm and paying attention to you, the owner, in the presence of distractions. All while making sure your dog doesn't learn that mouthing and jumping gets them more attention.
Participation: Remember, long leash means distance. And any length leash means control. Kids who are a little nervous, or perhaps a little young to be training, can hold the leash whether you are moving or not! They can throw treats on the ground instead of having the dog grab it out of their hands, and while a short leash might cause frustration for the dog reaching for the treat, the long leash allows the dog to eat the treat a couple feet away. Always supervise kids and dogs.
In conclusion, a long leash is a great tool for dog training and dog ownership. It can help nervous dogs build confidence and gain independence. It can help puppies explore. It can help dog owners avoid reinforcing bad behaviors. What a tool to keep in your tool belt for living a happy and fulfilled life with your dog!
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