Johnny Cash, like Dewey Cox, likes to Walk Hard.
Cash is an 8 year old Labrador/Akita/German Shepherd/Nobody Knows mix. For the most part Johnny Cash is a docile pooch. He doesn’t bark excessively, isn’t aggressive, doesn’t chew shoes, and is 99.9% housebroken (he pees on my laundry if left unsupervised).
There’s only one behavior problem that’s become an issue. Cash pulls really hard when he walks on a leash. Since he weighs around 85 pounds, I’m at the mercy of wherever he wants to go.
It makes me nervous because I feel like I don’t have control, and I assume it makes strangers nervous because Cash a little intimidating if you don’t know him. I’m always a bit panicky if I have to take him to the pet store or the vet because he’s a little unpredictable when and where he’ll pull me to. Additionally, when I ask my friends to dog sit I’m worried that Cash is dragging them around too.
Cash’s pulling is such an issue that I find I avoid walking him in the neighborhood. It’s pretty easy to avoid because I have a half acre fenced in yard. So Cash gets plenty of outside time. But I don’t think yard time substitutes walks for me or for Cash. Cash loves to smell all the smells, and I am always in need of exercise. Plus, I moved to my neighborhood with its plethora of sidewalks and parks so I could walk my dog.
All of these things meant that Cash is sad because he doesn’t get to walk as much as he’d like to.
I tried a few things before finding something that worked. I tried just not moving any time he pulled on the leash. But that didn’t work because he’s lazy and perfectly happy to stand motionless with me on the sidewalk for long periods of time. So Cash didn’t really get the whole “we’re not walking if you’re pulling” thing. He was like, “cool, I love taking breaks, let’s hang out together human.”
I tried a body harness. I purchased the PetSafe Easy Walk Dog Harness for approximately $30 from Petco. The harness goes around the chest of the dog (top to bottom) and around the front of the dog’s breastbone. The leash connects to a hook on the front. When the dog begins to pull, it turns the dog left or right redirecting its motion.
I didn’t like it. Cash didn’t like it either. Cash has this furry mane around his shoulders and neck, so the harness slid around a lot. To get it fit tightly it ended up being really tight near his arms, and I was worried it’d cause a rash or irritate his already sensitive skin. He also tried and was successful of shimmying out of the harness (how was it too tight AND too loose?). So I scrapped the harness.
I took Cash for some obedience lessons which were on sale for half price after Christmas. Again, I learned that Cash is intelligent, a quick learner, and extremely lazy/independent. He understands commands, but he is iffy on following them. Much like his owner. The dog trainer suggested the Gentle Leader headcollar after I told him about the troubles with the harness.
My best friend who has two dogs who also pull recommend the PetSafe Products Black Gentle Leader Headcollar ($24.99). We tried it on Cash during a trip to Petco, and while I found it a little weird (I wouldn’t want to wear a thing strapped to my face), I went ahead and got it.
I was a little confused putting it on his face the first time. And it’s difficult to get it on his face if he’s not feeling it. The trainer recommended that I use a treat to coax Cash into the face harness, and it seems to work.
Yesterday was our first long walk with the Gentle Leader Headcollar. It was awkward at first, Cash sort of thrashed around trying to get it off his nose. He also had crazy eyes for a while but calmed down.
I was hesitant to pull him by his face as well. But after 15 minutes, Johnny Cash started Walking the Line next to me. Moar walks for everyone!
TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read):
- Cash pulls on the leash, so we don’t go for walks
- Changing body language and behavior tricks didn’t work
- Tried body harness, not a good fit
- Trainer and BFF suggest Gentle Leader Headcollar
- Cash tolerates Gentle Leader
- More walks planned