Dogs come in all different shapes and sizes, so having a dog that is bigger and stronger than you can be a challenge, especially when taking them on a walk. Most people don’t enjoy having a large dog jumping on them or barking at them, so knowing how to walk your dog can make the walks safer and more enjoyable for both you and your dog.
So, how do you walk a dog that is stronger than you? If your dog is stronger than you, make sure they are well trained and listen to your commands in all situations. However, every dog can act out at certain times, so it is also essential to train your dog on how to ignore distractions.
Here are the steps to prepare you and your dog for walks:
- Train your dog to listen to your commands
- Train your dog to heel when walking
- Train your dog to ignore distractions
- Stay focused on your dog and anticipate your dog’s behaviour
- Use positive reinforcement for good behaviour
When walking a dog that is stronger than you, you must make sure they are adequately trained, and you know how to handle them. If you don’t, you could potentially put your dog, yourself, and others in danger. Read on to understand better how to train your strong dog for walking on a leash and how to avoid those spur of the moment situations where they just don’t want to listen to you.
Training Your Dog to Listen to Your Commands
When it comes to owning a large dog, he must be obedient to his owner. The first step in preparing your dog to go out on walks, is to train them to obey commands at home. You want to begin training in an environment where your dog feels safe and familiar. This will minimise distractions and allow your dog to be more teachable than they would be in an unfamiliar and distracting place.
Two of the four most common commands that you will most likely use on a walk with your dog are sit and stay. The command “Sit” is one that you will want to use as your foundation for training. It works best to begin teaching your dog other commands by first having them sit, and the same goes for walks. It will help your dog focus and remind them that you are in charge.
The Command Sit
The command “Sit” can also prevent misbehaviour in your dog, such as running off and jumping up at people. When a dog is sitting, he can’t show his dominance very well and becomes more submissive to you and your commands.
Here are some basic steps to teach your dog to sit:
- Use a treat to get your dog’s attention.
- Slowly move the treat back over your dog’s head so he must back up into a sitting position to see it.
- If he sits, praise him and reward him with the treat.
- If he doesn’t sit, you can help him by pulling up on the leash or collar to raise his front end, encouraging him to drop his back end.
- Begin to add in the verbal command sit and a hand motion as well.
- Continue to praise him with each success but slowly take away the treat reward. The goal is to train him to sit but not expect a treat every time.
The Command Stay
The command “Stay” is an important one that can give you lots of power over your dog. You will want your dog to be able to stay in multiple positions, such as sitting, lying, or standing. “Stay” will keep your dog from breaking another command, such as sit, and can prevent your dog from chasing down an animal, car, or person while you are out on your walk.
When training for the command stay, you will first command him into a position he already knows, such as sit. Once he sits, he will be listening and ready to teach.
Here are some simple steps to follow to teach your dog to stay:
- Command your dog to sit, then verbalise the command stay (you can also introduce a hand motion with this). Take a step away from him and then forward again.
- If your dog doesn’t move, give him praise, and reward him with a treat. If he does move, try again.
- Keep repeating steps 1 and 2 but gradually move further and further away each time. Praise and reward your dog every time he is successful.
- Once he remains still and allows you to move several steps away, the next step is for you to move out of sight or into another room.
- Issue the command, then step briefly out of your dog’s sight. After a second or two, quickly re-enter. If he stayed, praise and reward him with a treat.
- From here, you can gradually increase the length of time you are out of sight. You can also practice introducing different noises and distractions while you are out of the room.
- Once he has mastered staying from a sitting position, you can practice it with other starting commands such as down or from standing. When on a walk, you will often command your dog to stay from his heel position.
Take your time and have patience with your dog during training. Give lots of praise and rewards as necessary. Dogs will learn better with positive reinforcement rather than negative. Once your dog has mastered several commands and listens to you, it is time to teach him how to heel when walking.
Training Your Dog to Heel When Walking Him on a Leash
The loose leash method of dog walking is essential, especially if you have a dog that is stronger than you are. Dogs naturally want to pull on the leash and show their dominance by walking in front of you. Because of this, you will want to make sure your dog is taught to walk next to you or slightly behind you rather than in front of you the very first time you take them out on a leash. By doing this, you will show your dog that you are dominant and the one in control.
The heeling or loose-leash training method will take time. You will want to work on it daily with your dog. An ideal training time length would be 5- to 10-minute sessions several times a day.
Here are some steps for training your dog to heel when walking with a leash:
- Begin by training your dog in a private area. Minimising distractions will allow your dog to focus on your commands and the reward.
- Decide where you want the heel position to be, including which side of your body you want your dog on. Often this will be with his shoulder at your knee, and his head is slightly in front. This is acceptable. Be consistent with the position and side you choose.
- To first teach your dog the command, place him in the correct position at your side. Speak the command and reward him for being there.
- Next, remove your dog from the heel position then lure him to you with a treat in your hand. Guide him around you with your treat hand until he moves into the heel position, then praise him and give him the treat.
- Once he has done this a few times, remove the treat from your hand and continue to practice.
- After he has mastered the hand motion without a treat, change your cupped hand to a finger point and repeat the process. Reward him with praise and a treat from your other hand.
- Next, you can add the verbal command with the finger point. Praise and reward him each time he is successful. The goal is to be able to point to your side and verbally command your dog to heel with success.
After mastering the heel, you need to teach your dog to keep this position while walking:
- Begin stationary and give your dog the command and hand signal. As soon as he heels, take a step forward, so he is forced to catch up to you for his treat. Once he moves forward, take a few more steps. Reward and praise him.
- Continue repeating this process while increasing the number of steps you take.
- Once your dog can heel in a straight line for ten or more paces, you can begin to practice changing directions. Reward the dog when he rotates with you.
- You can also begin to introduce stopping while walking. Reward the dog when he stops with you and remains in the heel position.
Next, you can begin adding distractions:
- Start with distractions that are less intense and build on those. You can also place more distance between your dog and the distraction if you can find less intense ones.
- Reward your dog for each success and gradually increase the intensity and closeness of the distractions.
- Continue practising in all different locations with different types of distractions.
Try to avoid walking your dog on a leash as this can introduce a pulling habit. If you must use a leash and find your dog pulling, command your dog to sit then reward him. By sitting, he will be forced to stop pulling and give up his fight for dominance. When your dog has mastered heeling on walks, his leash will be loose, not pulled tight. For more information about walking your dog off lead check out our article “How To walk Your Dog Off The Lead”.
Training Your Dog to Ignore Distractions
Distractions can be a challenging thing for your dog, and when your dog is stronger than you, they can put you or others in danger. The best way to control your dog during unexpected distractions is to teach him how to ignore them. This training process will take time, but in the end, it can make walking your dog a more pleasant and safe experience.
When training your dog to ignore distractions, you will want to begin in a calm environment that won’t cause any distractions you didn’t plan for. You will also need something on hand that will get your dog’s attention quickly, such as a beloved toy or favourite treat. You want to give your dog a better reward than whatever the distraction is, so he will ignore it and obey your command.
If you can provide the most exciting thing to your dog, then he will focus on you and not the environment around him.
- To begin training, you will need to come up with a verbal command to teach your dog, such as “leave it”.
- Again, start in a quiet environment with a small distraction. Use your verbal command and reward your dog when he ignores it.
- Slowly increase the level of distractions, and at the same time, you may need to increase the level of the reward.
- Once your dog has mastered various levels of distraction, you can begin to take him to new environments and repeat the process.
- After mastering various environments, continue the training while walking your dog. Teach your dog how to ignore different types of distractions properly, whether it is a car, a squirrel, a person, etc.
- Remember to reward your dog when he does well.
Stay Focused on Your Dog and Anticipate Your Dog’s Behaviour
As you walk your dog, you need to anticipate when a distracted behaviour is about to occur and try to correct it before it occurs. By anticipating your dog’s behaviour before it occurs, you will help keep him in line. Don’t wait for the bad behaviour to occur and then correct it after the fact. The best thing to do to prevent poor behaviour is by staying focused on your dog and his reactions.
If your dog seems to be on alert and looking for items to chase, frequently stop him and have him draw his attention back to you with a command such as “watch me.” This will teach him that his focus needs to remain with you and not the world around him.
While training, do your best to create distance from items that are more tempting or distracting to your dog as you approach them. As he performs well and you shorten that distance, be sure to reward him. Eventually, you can allow him to engage in that distraction, such as chasing a squirrel, every so often as his reward.
As you continue training, if your dog begins to misbehave, take him back to the last known place of compliance and start again from there. If the training gets frustrating, keep in mind that if your dog can listen to a few commands, like sit, then he is in a trainable mindset, and you are in an excellent situation to work with him. If your dog won’t listen to anything you say, then you will need to take him to a different, less distracting area for the training.
Use Positive Reinforcement for Good Behaviour
As mentioned throughout the training steps, positive reinforcement, such as praise and treats, is the best method for teaching your dog to obey you. When you have a dog that is stronger than you, you will want to make sure to use positive reinforcement as much as possible to keep your dog happy and under your control.
Often larger dogs don’t realise they are stronger than you and can be more emotional. These added emotions will naturally make your dog work harder to please you. Because of this, positive reinforcement will work much better on a larger dog than punishment.
Punishing him will only temporarily stop the behaviour, and it can potentially make the behaviour worse or even create new ones. Punishment can be confusing to your dog, harm your relationship with him, and only stop the behaviour while you are present. Check out this article from VCA Hospitals they give some great reasons why punishment should be avoided.
Tips for Walking a Strong Dog
Once training has completed, and you are confident while walking your dog, remember the following tips:
- Do not rush needed bathroom breaks. During a bathroom break, a dog likes to signal his presence to other dogs. By rushing this, you can prevent your dog from getting the most out of his walk and cause him to become easily distracted and more importantly frustrated.
- Allow your dog to sniff and smell. Dogs naturally want to smell the environment around them. Allow him to take in certain smells to avoid misbehaviour but remind him that most of the attention and focus needs to be on you.
- Do not pull on his leash. If you pull on your dog’s leash, your dog will pull back. And if your dog is stronger than you are, then you’re going to lose that game of tug-of-war. Rather than pulling on the leash, use the heel command.
Having a dog that is stronger than you can be challenging when taking him on walks or out in public. To have confidence in your dog and that he will behave appropriately, you must adequately train him. Training can be something many owners insufficiently achieve as they want their dog to enjoy being outside. However the time it takes to train your dog is nothing compared to a lifetime of safe, happy and enjoyable walks.