Here is an earth-shattering fact: in the winter months, Minnesota is cold, snowy, and icy. Didn’t know I was a dog trainer and a weather person, did you?
Okay maybe that wasn’t such surprising news to you (as in, I know it wasn’t), but maybe one hard to swallow fact is that your dog still needs a walk when it’s cold. Hopefully, every day. At least a few times a week with supplemental indoor exercise when its really too cold.
A lot of clients recently have come to me with leash walking problems:
“Fido pulls like a steam train! I can’t get him to stop!”
“Cookie just can’t focus outside, treats don’t work. All she wants is the squirrels.”
“I’ve tried everything. I can’t take him for walks anymore because he’ll pull me down on the ice.”
Leash walking is a life skill that is essential to not only their wellbeing but yours as well. A dog who walks well on the leash is one who you enjoy taking on walks and are proud of. And actually, winter is the perfect time to start working on your leash walking skills.
Every time I have a new client who wants a dog who behaves better on the leash, I always start them off inside. If your dog can’t walk nicely on leash inside where they spend 90% of their day, how can we expect them to walk nicely in new environments that are full of excitement?
On those extra cold winter days, try walking around your living room with your dog on a leash and rewarding them for staying by your side. The more you pay your dog for doing their job (walking with a loose leash), the more they are going to do it.
When its bearable to go outside again, repeat the exercise from your living room up and down your driveway or along the same 1 block sidewalk.
Keeping things easy and building up gradually is important for every behavior but key for leash walking. Your dog has to learn self-control and that you are the best thing outside – and that takes time.
Developing a communication system where your dog can tell you want she wants, you can tell your dog if things change, and you both know what to expect can help your walks become magical. Its not going to happen overnight and it’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.
You deserve magical walks with your dog and your dog deserves that time out of the house. Don’t let the cold winter months freeze your training! Take advantage of the cold by working indoors first.