Dog-Walking Tips?

So I’m staying at my mother’s for a little bit, and my little brother has volunteered us to babysit a friend’s dog for the next few weeks. Theoretically it’s his job to look after the animal, and he mostly does a diligent job of it when he’s around, but he also spends a lot of time hanging out with friends around the city, and is very hard to wake up, so a lot of dog-walking duties are falling to the rest of us … and we’re cat-people who really have very little experience with dogs.

Anyway, the dog (“Kofi Annan,” or just “Kofi”) is extremely friendly towards people, and will listen to most commands (more or less), but he hasn’t been taught to heel yet (he’d only been with his family for a few weeks before they went on vacation), and insists on leading the way during walks. I gather this is sub-optimal, but by itself it’s not a huge inconvenience, and I don’t think it’s our responsibility to correct this behavior in the short time he’ll be with us … but if anyone has an easy fix, I’d love to hear it.

The only really annoying behavior is that he’s very confrontational with other dogs. (And, let me tell you, I never noticed how many dog-walkers one passes on the streets of New York every day until suddenly I found myself apologizing to every one of them.) If we pass by another dog, he strains at the leash, gets up close to them, sniffs around for a second, and then usually starts loudly barking, with the hair on his back standing up. His eyesight isn’t great, and we can minimize these encounters by crossing the street before he notices, but still. Help?
And any other all-purpose dog-walking tips would be appreciated. Like I said, it’s not our area of expertise. Thanks much.
(Oh, and his breed: I don’t know. Almost certainly a mutt of some kind. Maybe has some beagle in him? Anyway he’s “medium” sized. I’ll ask around when other people start waking up, maybe they know.)

It’s hard to tell from the description, but straining at the leash and barking loudly at other dogs might not be confrontational; it might be “damn I want to play with this other dog, but I’m on a leash!”

We had that problem for a while a few years back. Off-leash, it didn’t happen - it’d be sniff, sniff, play. On-leash was straining and barking. We fixed it easily enough with a few weeks of firm "No!"s, though.

“I want to change the dog’s behavior but I’m not willing to train him” is a contradiction in terms. Every time you handle the dog you are training him. In an ideal world with a dog that pulls, you would select a leverage-type collar, such as the Gentle Leader, Easy Walk or even a choke collar, so that when he goes further than is allowed, he knows. However, since its not your dog I wouldn’t go buying any devices without owner permission and education in their correct use.

He needs to be kept on a short leash so that there is not enough leash for him to get ahead of you. It should only be long enough that he remains by your side – put several knots in the leash for grip. Don’t let him get close enough to another dog to sniff. If he does sniff, give a sharp “NO” and pull him bodily away.

If you see another dog, position your dog away from the oncoming dog-- if you are leading right handed, and the other dog is coming on your right, switch the dog to your left side and move to the left edge of the sidewalk, walking forward purposefully. Look forward, not at the other dog. My brother’s beagle is dog-aggressive and can be walked on the streets of NYC safely. Short leash+situational awareness =success. It does mean that you need to be constantly alert and you may feel this makes walks less “fun.” Sorry about that.

Don’t let him stop and sniff the other dog, just keep walking. You might have to jerk (very gently) on the leash a bit – give it a brief snap with your wrist and keep walking.

One technique BarkBusters taught me was called attentiveness training. This basically teaches the dog to heel and ignore everything except the person walking him. We used a very long training leash, but this can be done with your standard 6’ leash. (I am not a fan of retractable leashes unless it’s a tiny little dog because it’s much more difficult to control a dog with those things and they shouldn’t be allowed to be walking out in front of you anyway. That teaches the dog that he is the leader; it’s supposed to be the other way around. YOU are the leader. Teach him to follow you.)

So you start out in an open space and give the dog all the leash leeway you can. Hold the looped end of the leash loosely at your chest level, right in front of you. Don’t look at the dog, don’t talk to the dog, just take a step or two forward. The dog will follow and then will try to do what dogs do, which is, he will try to lead you. You want him looking up at you for cues on what direction you’re going in next. The second he steps out so his head is past your feet, abruptly change direction. Do a 180º. This will cause you to jerk on the leash a bit and he will be forced to follow you to keep up. If he’s walking alongside you, with his head in line with your feet, or behind your feet, give him a “good boy” in a chirpy, high-pitched voice and keep walking. Walk slowly, don’t worry about trying to go anywhere. At first, you’ll only get a couple of steps before you have to change direction. So it’ll look and feel like you’re pretty much just walking in two-step circles for about ten minutes. Keep doing this: take a step or two and when the dog steps out in front of you, change directions and keep walking. He will run to keep up. When he steps out ahead of you, change directions. Lather, rinse repeat, until the dog keeps looking up at you to try to see where you’re going next. You have to glance down at the dog to see if he’s looking to you for leadership, and if he catches you looking at him looking at you, give him a good boy. When he does what you want, i.e., quietly walking next to you, head aligned with your feet, and the leash is hanging down like a J shape, give him a good boy the second you observe this good behavior. Otherwise, say nothing. Don’t scold, pull, and say no – that’s just a power struggle and the dog is mostly winning.

The BarkBusters trainer had me do this for about 10-15 minutes with my 75-pound American bulldog and by the time 15 minutes was up, my dog was heeling beautifully, glancing up at me for direction every few seconds and suddenly, our walks became ever so much more fun. There are certain dogs on her walk route whom she cannot resist trying to go visit. It’s like she’s got a little dog posse she has to check in with every day. But other dogs on a leash, she might strain to try to go meet, but she knows we’re walking, not stopping and sniffing, so she’ll keep going. Other dogs, she’s learned to completely ignore. Dogs will watch you for cues once they learn you are the leader and are watching out for them. If you ignore the other dog/mailman/flowerbed/cat/little kid in a stroller, the dog will too.

You might also check out the BarkBusters website to see if they have any instructional video on this technique. Or try searching on “BarkBusters attentiveness training” on YouTube – maybe there’s a demo. I tried to explain it thoroughly in writing but I really couldn’t grasp how it worked until the trainer demonstrated it for me and I tried it myself. You have to react very quickly because if 30 seconds go by and you haven’t corrected bad behavior or reinforced good behavior, it’s already too late.

Another technique you can try, in the house, to teach the dog who is the leader is to always make him follow you from room to room. Never let the dog go through a door first. When you put the leash on and you’re ready to go outside, make him sit and stay before you open the door. No sit, no walkies. Anything and everything the dog wants – food, sniff a butterfly, whatever – must be earned by sitting and staying when told. When you get up from the couch to walk to the fridge and the dog is following, stop at the door to the kitchen and make him sit and stay. Then take a step into the kitchen and let him follow.

We’re working on “polite walking” as well; a pinch collar is mighty useful for that.

Echoing what others have said: you’re the leader, not the dog. Don’t allow him to pull you along. Practice this first indoors or in a backyard if you want: use a short leash, maybe three feet instead of six. As soon as the dog starts pulling, STOP. Stay in place. Wait until he stops pulling you, then start walking again, using an audio cue like “Let’s go.” If he starts pulling again, STOP. Slam on the brakes every time he pulls. Very quickly he will learn that if he pulls, he’s not going to get anywhere. Treats when he’s doing it right go a long way toward his learning correct behavior. This method also ensures that he starts paying a lot more attention to you, instead of to all the stuff around him; that’ll keep him focused and less likely to sprint off after distractions.

Eventually you want to get to the point where you’re walking with a loose leash, arm dangling by your side, and he stops the moment you stop.

Another new thing we’re learning: once they’re doing well at polite walking, change it up every so often by suddenly walking or jogging backward, while calling, “Come, puppy!” until he’s close enough for you to grab his collar. Praise and treat him when he does it right. That’s the foundation of learning recall, very handy if he ever gets away from you.

We’ve trained four guide dogs, and still have the last who made it into the breeder program and is now retired. When we were training them treats were not allowed. Part of the training was learning how to not strain after other dogs. She still does not do that - she will look at them, but not lunge and she never, ever, barks.

There is only so much you can do when you don’t start early, but tugging on the leash is probably the best bet - short jerks, not prolonged pressure. It also sometimes helps to break him out of bad behavior by having him sit (out of the way, of course) until some time has passed.

Dogs quickly learn what they can get away with. Our dog walks better for me than for my wife because I don’t cut her as much slack. So he will soon learn that he can’t get away with the stuff he has been getting away with when you are walking him.

It doesn’t matter who owns the dog - whoever is holding the leash is responsible for keeping it from acting out.

If you don’t want to work on his training - and really, training only works if everyone is committed to it - then isolation is your best bet. Do continue crossing the street when you see incoming traffic. Communicate with the other dog owners that your dog is aggressive so that they won’t try to bring their own beasts over. Don’t let him chase after squirrels or cats, either. Consider buying a harness, so you have more of a “handle” on him rather than yanking on his neck with a collar. Beagle types are pretty small dogs, really, and harnesses are cheap.

That said, someone needs to work on his training, or the poor thing will be miserable.

A harness helps a dog pull HARDER. That’s actually literally what a harness is FOR. Never put a harness on a dog that pulls unless it is a leverage-based no-pull corrective harness like the Easy Walk. “Snapping” a standard collar, while not ideal, is a far better correction than outfitting the dog with a device to help him pull you more with less effort.

Seriously, don’t do that.

Yeah, I’d only recommend a harness for walking something like a pug, which has a pea-sized head and thick neck and is thus prone to slipping out of collars.

I disagree, especially with small dogs (and I would consider a beagle-mix, as in the OP, a small dog - although I guess it depends on what the “mix” part is). A small dog which pulls against a basic collar or which is restrained by jerking the collar can suffer genuine neck injuries, including collapsed trachea and spinal injuries. (See Here and Here.)

With a small dog, pulling on a harness lifts them back by pressure on their chests, not on their throat. If they strain against the leash with their regular collar, they’re pushing directly against their delicate throat or neck bones. Using a harness prevents the pressure on their throats.

The only type of collar that should be used when “snapping” the lead should be a training collar, which should be used during training sessions, not as an everyday walking collar. The OP indicated she didn’t want to train the dog.

If you need to restrain a large dog which is wearing a harness, grip the harness between their shoulder blades and lift them up so that their front feet are off the ground. Pull them UP and BACK so that their weight shifts backwards and their hindquarters sink into a sitting position. It shouldn’t be problem with a beagle-mix, though.

All that said - the Gentle Leader /Easy Walk harnesses also keep the strain off the dog’s throat. It’s a fine choice for regular walking. And the look on a dogs face when he tries to go forward and ends up facing the other way is priceless!

The fact that he’s walking ahead indicates he thinks he’s the pack leader. Before you go outside for a walk with the dog, let him calm down before you take him outside. He has to be walking beside you instead of infront, so keep him on a short leash to your side.

When coming across other dogs, you have to pay attention to his behaviour when he’s about to get into time to go terrorize the other dog and owner jerk the leash, not hard. Or use a vocal shhhhhh. To snap him out of it, the goal is to get the dog to pay attention to you.


Many thanks to everyone who’s posted so far. I’ll pass on the suggestions, and of course try out the new tactics when it next falls to me to take Kofi out. If there follows great success I’ll be sure to come back and let everyone know. If we continue to struggle, well, probably the thread will die a quiet death.
Still no definitive word on his breed. Best guess involves some kind of Beagle/Basset Hound mix, no doubt with some other stuff thrown in. He weighs roughly 40 pounds.

Whoa! A harness is perfect for a dog who pulls because it takes the strain off their neck.

You know what also hurts dogs? getting bitten when they approach another dog hackles up and growling, as described in the OP.

The OP cannot control the dog and does not own the dog. The OP should not use a harness. First of all, it’s not his job to provide equipment. Secondly, It will help the dog be uncontrollable by magnifying the strength of his pull, in the short time the dog is in his care. Thirdly, 40 lbs is not a “small” dog.

The OP never said that s/he couldn’t control the dog. Here’s what the OP said:

  1. The dog “strains at the leash”. That’s it. Not, “The dog pulls me off my feet”. Not, “I can’t control the dog when he spots another dog.” He strains at the leash. Big whoop.

  2. Regardless of what you call “small” - a forty pound basset/beagle mix doesn’t suddenly become a Dire Wolf when you put him in a harness. Any reasonably sized adult should be able to control that dog.

I recommend a harness, because they provide a sort of “handle” between a dog’s shoulder blades, gives better control of the dog’s body than a collar does without risking pulling on his throat. To be clear - I recommend holding the rambunctious dog directly by harness, not a leash attached to a harness. If the dog was really uncontrollable, holding him directly by the harness instead of by the leash lets the handler use their opposable thumbs and higher center of gravity to better advantage. A basset/beagle mix, held by the chest and around the body in a harness, isn’t going to be any sort of uncontrollable.

  1. The OP is doing the job - therefore the OP is entitled to use and/or buy whatever equipment gets the job done. That said - it was just a suggestion. My real recommendation was to just keep crossing the street and keep the dog away from other dogs.

It may take the strain off their neck, but it still teaches them to pull and strain - because that’s the purpose of a harness. It’s far FAR better to use the correct tool for the job, and either train them correctly on a collar, or get something like a Gentle Leader. Harnesses are typically just a cop-out for those who are unable to control their dog.

There is so much incorrect about that post that I don’t know where to start. It doesn’t teach them to pull or strain any more than a collar would.

A dog can be trained and trained properly with either a harness or a collar. That doesn’t matter.

Moreover, brachycephalic dogs are better off on harnesses than collars.

This is true but a leash+harness combo makes many common techniques (such as “stop/reverse”) much harder for the handler, and multiplies the strength of the dog. Anything that makes it harder for the handler to make a prompt correction, is reinforcing the behavior. And a harness doesn’t make a beagle into a dire wolf, but in bygone days (when the dog was not as well trained as it is now), my brother’s beagle could pull me off my feet in a harness. It’s only 30 lbs. – the harness makes it many times more effective at pulling. Every time it got away from me, I was effectively teaching it to pull even more.

A gentle leader or easy walk is by FAR a better choice, they both multiply the strength of the handler using leverage and break up the forward momentum.

People keep saying this and I have absolutely no doubt its true, but I just don’t see the relevance to a beagle-basset cross.

After Merineth explained a little further I now understand what he’s describing – holding the dog directly by the harness, not by a leash. But I don’t understand how you can lead a short dog by the harness without sort of going along at a crouch. It just doesn’t seem practical. Anyway I also agree that situational awareness is the best solution.

Bullshit. A collar on a straining dog can choke it - a harness does not. In that sense, a harness doesn’t provide any negative feedback that a collar does. “Teach” may not have been the best term to use, but “enable” sure does. And enabling a dog to strain on a leash makes it a hell of a lot harder to train.