Training a Fearful Dog How to Walk on a Leash

Fearful dog learns how to walk on leash confidently.
Black Labrador Retriever from Hayward, CA named Nala

When I did the evaluation of Nala from Hayward, CA the owners were at their wits end. They could not do anything with her because of her anxiety around cars, noise and distractions. They couldn’t walk her, take her to the park or even get her into the car without dragging her and lifting all 60 lbs. Nala was not looking at a very rewarding life being house bound.

I quickly assessed the situation and asked the owners if I could handler her and take her out into the neighborhood with them. I used a standard pinch collar and 6′ leather leash. Before taking her off her own property I walked her around using only gentle pressure to get her acclimated to the collar. After 5 minutes we ventured out into the neighborhood. She started her rearing up and pulling backwards just a few houses away. I let her rear up and calmly got her to to settle down then asked her to move on while applying gentle forward pressure with the leash. I repeated this several times as we walked around the block. She got better and better as she learned that the behavior was not going to get her home sooner. According to the owners this was the first time they were able to make walk her around the block. I was firm and assertive with her without being harsh. My take was that she needed her owners to take the lead. The more I took the lead the calmer she became. I was reminded of a discussion I had with with a colleague of mine, Dog Trainer in Atlanta. “There is a common assumption that, since we are the dog trainers, we should be able to do something to or with the client’s dog to make him “better,” right? Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. It doesn’t matter if the dog can behave for a professional trainer, he has to behave for the client when it matters most. Our job as effective trainers is to teach the client how to do what we know how to do, so that their dog can behave for them.”

The following is the owner’s description of Nala and what we did.

“Nala, a one year old Labrador Retriever was very skittish and very hard to work with. She was afraid of anything that moved or made noise which made it difficult to take her out anywhere. We could not take her out for walks without her pulling on the leash and trying to return home. She would literally sit down or pull back and refuse to move forward. Anytime a car passed she would tense up and sometimes bolt up into the air and pull away. We pretty much could not go anywhere without her fears overwhelming her.

Not knowing what to do to help Nala overcome her anxiety we contacted Steve Bettcher owner of The Dog Squad to see if he could help. Steve came to our house and did an evaluation and provided us with knowledge and techniques that were needed to get Nala over her fearfulness.

During in-home lessons Steve took us step by step on how to work with Nala to get her to leave the house and to be able to walk with cars and traffic noise.

To do so he suggested using a standard pinch collar and to be calm and assertive with her to get her to move on. We saw results immediately. What we did before was stop when she pulled back and gave into her fearfulness. Now Nala will leave the house and will walk with us anywhere even on high traffic streets where there is a lot of noise and distraction without reacting. She is totally a different dog. She is now relaxed and looks forward to our walks. Also, she would not get into the car before working with Steve and now she jumps in happily.

We can now take her to the park near our house and we are working on off-leash commands. This would not have been possible just weeks ago. She is becoming a confident well behaved dog thanks to Steve and The Dog Squad.”

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