Training a dog to walk & run on a leash. Advice?

So we have this really dorky dog that I have decided I want to take running with me (when I start running outdoors here soon). There are just a few problems. One, he has never been on a leash (I will have to use a halter on him because his head is so much smaller than his neck). Two, he has never been outside the house or backyard since the day we brought him home from the pound when he was a puppy about a year and a half ago. Three, he is extremely timid and skitzy.

But this dog was built to run. One look at him, and you can tell. We believe he is part whippet, so he has those deer legs, that long nose, and that humongous ribcage. The other two dogs we have are older, so they don’t really play with him that much, so I’m sure he’d love the exercise (he normally runs circles and circles around our backyard).

So how should I go about training this dog?

How about taking a class in dog obedience. The park’s department for the city I live in has an obedience class that is good. You get like 10 weeks of training. This way you will have an expert watching who can make suggestions about how to handle your dog while teaching the basic heel commands. Plus you get the benefit of having other dogs and people around so that your baby can get used to them.

Well, you don’t have to use a harness. Sometimes training goes a little better when you can control the head. Our whippets wear martingales, also sometimes called “limited slip” collars. Greythounds has some incredibly gorgeous collars for sale, works of art, but comfortable. You can also get regular nylon ones, Premium makes them. You should be able to find this at your local mega-pet supply store or call your local dog adoption center and see if they have recommendations of where to find them.

Also get a six foot leather lead, wide enough to be comfortable in your hand even if the dog suddenly jerks after something.

And beef liver, dried beef liver, or little pieces of beef jerky or small chunks of the dog food sausage like Natural Balance that can also be found at the mega-pet supply store. For your comfort in handling this food, and useful for when you two go to training classes, a “bait bag.” Basically, it’s a nylon clip on bag, like a chalk bag for climbing, to keep treats in so you have a supply easily and quickly available but can keep your hands relatively free. Make sure the treats you use are small since you will be treating on the move and don’t want the dog to choke. Also, if it’s a big treat and just sooo tantalising, the dog will want to stop whatever he is doing to savour the experience of it.

Okay. In the house or backyard, put the collar and the leash on. Hold the leash with slack in it and try to walk with the dog, talking in a “happy voice” to him. Have a treat in your hand, and if he walks easily alongside, give it to him. If he freaks out and pulls against the leash to get away…just drop the leash for now. Walk a couple steps away and call him to you. Give him the treat when he comes. Let him walk around dragging the leash to get used to the whole alien sensation of having weight and pressure there. Give him treats occasionally, gradually building up this notion that the collar and the leash are good things.
Next time you try to walk, hold the leash in one hand and a treat close to the nose in another and walk around the house like that, periodically feeding treats, stopping to sit and get a treat, using the “happy voice,” all stuff that makes walking while wearing a leash fun and no big deal. Lots of little treat rewards.

After you guys have walking together down, fast walking, then running. But remember, if he’s been in the backyard for the past year and a half he won’t have the greatest running stamina at first. Whippets are sprinters, so take it easy on him while he gets in shape and builds up endurance. Don’t let him eat a big meal or drink a lot of water before running, but do give him lots of little treats while you run. And if you bring water on your run for yourself, you might want to use a “sport-top” so you can squirt out a thin drinking fountain stream and share a little.

And if you decide to take an obedience class, check with your local animal adoption centers/shelters, as they often have training programs that are well priced, taught by experienced trainers, and any profit goes to keep the shelter/center running.

Good luck, have fun!

It’s going to be quite a while before you can take this dog running with you, if ever. First, you’ve got to leash-train him, then you’ve got to socialize him. This dog hasn’t been out of your yard in a year and a half, so he’s not used to being around the people and traffic and other dogs you’re going to encounter during a run. Even in his familiar, safe environment, he’s timid and spooky, so he’s probably not going to adjust to all this new stuff very easily. In fact, I’d say he’s really, really likely to completely freak out over these changes.

You need to go very, very slowly, and keep in mind that a frightened dog is far mor likely to bite someone than an aggressive dog, so be careful.

Well we went for our first walk tonight, and he did great! After the first two times, he figured out that I would stop if he pulled on the leash, and he stuck right next to me. He didn’t even want to stop to smell. He also had his first encounter with a car, which invoked curiousity, but not fear. He then experienced his first heckler, who thought it would be a hilarious idea to hang out the window barking at us :rolleyes: Jonah (the dog) just barked right back and continued on his merry way.

Now I have another question. How do I keep him from switching from side to side, short of keeping him on a one foot leash?

Hie thee to a pet store and get yourself a Gentle Leader. My brother’s lab turns from a rambunctious ball of energy into an obedient minion willing to do you bidding once you put it on her. It makes jerking and pulling a leash obsolete (as it can cause injury or make the dog fight the direction of your pull - counterproductive for what you’re trying to do).

Dogs naturally pull against leashes becuase they’re attached to their necks. It’s instinctual, and is your major obstacle when leash-training. A Gentle Leader effectively leads a dog by its nose, which it doesn’t fight against. Honestly, my brother saw instant results with Vegas.

Hie thee to a pet store and get yourself a Gentle Leader.


For any jogger/runner who cannot run in an offleash area, or who has a dog who likes to run ahead, swap sides, n’ so forth, this is a SPLENDID suggestion. I use a halti (same concept) with my Aussie mostly because she runs way faster than me and sometimes she gets curious n’ would rather dash on ahead.

I second the suggestion of taking obedience classes - it helps get your dog into the “mood” to be responsive to your commands and it also helps you build a leader position in your dog’s eyes. It makes a huuuuuge difference, will socialise your dog, and will also teach it to be responsive in an environment where other dogs are present (you will meet some when you’re out there running!) has excellent suggestions/tools, too. I like their hands free leashes n’ such. I have used them on occasion.

Wufs and wags from us all,

Elly n’ the service dogs

As long as your dog doesn’t like chewing up the yard, see if there is a softball field nearby with gates that close. You can jog around the inside of the softball field, sort of like a track, and your dog can run around like nuts. You get to jog on grass, and your dog gets to do some all-out, long sprints. Unfortunately this might only work during the week and during business hours. Softball fields are usually reserved during the evening for games. Before and after the games, it’s not unusual to see other people with dogs running around in there.

The Gentle Leader. Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. An absolutely amazing, brilliant, fantastic invention. Our dog would pull herself hoarse on a regular leash, but this thing is absolutely freaking amazing. The difference is instant and unbelievable. When we take our dog for walks now, it’s like a completely different dog. Often, the conversation between my wife and me will go like this:

Me: Boy, that wheel was a pretty decent invention, wasn’t it?
Wife: Not as good as the Gentle Leader.
Me: The computer? The automobile?
Wife: Gentle Leader beats them all.

I’m not kidding; it’s that good. But be absolutely sure that you get the one that says “Gentle Leader” and not an imitator. I take no responsibility for the results you may get with a Gentle Leader rip-off.

Where should I go to take a class? Can I trust the ones offered at Petsmart?

Thanks for the suggestion of the Gentle Leader, I will definitely have to look into that. I’m a little nervous about using it, however, because the dog is just so damn shy and skitzy. If he’s in the house and has his halter on, he will not move (he acts like its dragging him down), so I don’t know what he would do with something around his mouth.

Or am I just worrying too much? :slight_smile:

You’re worrying too much. Vegas is able to eat, bark, lick, etc. with her Gentle Leader on - it fits closer to the jaw then the mouth (if that makes sense). But if you are worried, you can unclip the leash from it and socialize him in the house with it on. Reinforce having it on as a Very Good Thing, and that you are Very Proud of His Bravery with it on. Remember, you can condition a dog to do just about anything short of operating an airplane.

If you’re not sure how he’ll do in public, please do not buy him a retactable leash. I don’t know who thought of these things, but they don’t seem to work out real well with unpredictable dogs. Yeah, you’re supposed to be able to reel them in quickly, but…

A nice nylon leash that’ll be comfortable for you to loop around your hand if need be to get the dog to heel is much safer for everyone.

Well the Gentle Leader is out. He is technically my mother’s dog (and she’s the reason he hasn’t been out of the yard his whole life). Too “muzzle-like,” for her. So we will just have to continue with the halter, which he seems to be doing fairly well on.

But how do I get him to stop switching from side to side?

What you need to do is call your City Department of Recreation or see if they have a page on the web–look up your city page and see if there is a link to the Dept of Rec. See if they offer dog classes (canine), if not could they recommend a good training program–In Long Beach, CA this class is $62 for 8 weeks. My dog is a Pound puppy who is a Rhodesian Ridgeback cross and she is very stubborn and had some major obedience issues. The classes really helped me and her. I now get compliments on what a good dog she is. But I did continue to work with her after the class.

I know in this area the Petco training classes are hit and miss when it comes to quality and it is usually a miss.

The trainer should be able to show you how to use your knee properly to keep her from moving from side to side. It involves gently nudging the dog with your knee when they try to go to the other side (of course the dog is on a short leash for this training )

Good luck. I would love to hear how your little one is progressing as you go along, so email me with progress.