Rhody Pets: Animal Rescue RI in Peace Dale Hosts Classes for Dog Owners

Leash training is a walk in the park with the help of specialist Kate Conley

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The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming – what could be lovelier than a South County stroll with your dog? That is, until the shoulder pain sets in from all the pulling or your nerves set in as you spy another dog or rattling skateboard approaching.

“The big question is, ‘Are you walking your dog or is your dog walking you?’” says Kate Conley, behavior and enrichment specialist at Peace Dale’s Animal Rescue Rhode Island (ARRI). “The Loose Leash Walking technique can really enhance the bond between pet and owner – your dog will find greater enjoyment sniffing without being constantly corrected just as much as you’ll benefit from not being dragged down the street! Plus training your dog to have good manners adds mental stimulation to the sensory pleasures of being outside.”

This newfound harmony also lessens the likelihood of a new dog being surrendered or returned to a shelter due to handling issues. To this end, ARRI offers free, one-hour Loose Leash Walking classes, held in their scenic shelter grounds on weekend mornings. 

“Classes are open to everyone and we’ve hosted every breed and size from Chihuahuas to Great Danes,” Conley says. “We also welcome dog-owners who are wary of bringing along their pup – perhaps it gets nervous around other dogs or is a puppy with zero attention span – this way they can observe and then work on the technique at home.”

Conley recommends a standard six-foot leash (no retractables!), ideally attached to a harness rather than a collar to relieve the pressure and strain on the dog’s neck.

“We typically have three trainers for groups of six to ten dog-owners and break into smaller groups so we can focus on each dog’s specific needs. For example, we recently had a dog who was great at walking but highly reactive to squirrels, so I spent the full session working on ‘Leave it’ and we made good progress!”

So does this mean it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks? According to Conley, “Absolutely! Especially if the dog is food motivated.”

As well as utilizing your dog’s favorite treats, Conley says patience and consistency are key, but the payoff is worth it. “If you practice diligently, you can expect to see positive results in a week or two.”

For upcoming dates and to book your spot at the next Loose Leash Walking class held at ARRI in Peace Dale, visit AnimalRescueRI.org.

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