Why won't my dog walk on her lead?
(Q) We have taken on a five-year-old Cocker Spaniel bitch who has only ever been a kennel dog. Molly refuses to walk on a lead. We have started taking her out in the garden and she just sits down and drags her bottom. She is also shy of humans and is only happy when she is with our other dog.
(A) Behaviourist Steve Goward says: Dogs who have had poor socialisation often struggle with change and if she has not been used to lead walking or going to different places this is a potentially a frightening time for her.
Start by building trust and your relationship by doing some simple training exercises using positive reinforcement to reward her confident behaviour. When a dog is hesitant to move forward while on the lead I often teach the dog to target an item or my hand. You get your dog to touch the target with their nose for a treat.
Let her know you have some treats by giving her one or two, then just hold out the back of your hand and as she touches it as she is expecting it to contain another treat, say ‘Yes’ and give her the reward. Repeat, repeat, repeat and gradually start moving your hand so it becomes trickier and add the command ‘Touch’ just before she touches the hand.
Once she is touching on command get her to touch your hand twice before rewarding to keep her guessing when the reward will come. This training should be done in an area she is comfortable in and off the lead. You can then attach the lead but just leave it trailing and then gradually pick up the lead and start moving her around towards areas she was previously struggling with. This change of focus will help her cope and keep her moving forward with a positive expectation.