The Value of Turning Left
(And loose lead walking tip number one!)
NB The following is for dogs that walk on the left or in front of you. For dogs that walk on your right hand side swap the word left for right and the same advice applies!
I have recently become much more aware of the value of teaching dogs (and owners!) how to very specifically turn left when loose lead walking. The number of dogs and owners who find this immensely difficult at the start is not surprising when we consider the difficulties involved but the potential benefits are well worth the effort!!
So why is turning left difficult to do without the dog bouncing in front of you or you nearly tripping over them!? When we turn to the right (which we often do to help teach the dog the concept of loose lead walking) we allow the dog to come with us by moving in a wide arc. The dogs hind legs step out or in some cases fly around beyond the line their front legs take as they turn to come with us.
Turning left requires the dog to move their hind legs in- more like the movement of a pirouette- and many dogs simply don’t have this level of hind end awareness. In addition, to turn left, the dog must be aware of your movement to a degree not required in right turns. There is less time for the dog to respond before you would accidentally step on their toes and so more distracted dogs find left turns even more difficult.
So why should you teach your dog to turn left? Aside from the practical benefits where a left turn might be more useful than a right turn, properly taught left turns can seriously enhance your dogs focus, loose lead walking and heeling.
Teaching a good left turns helps to-
– Teach your dog to turn on a dime- particularly useful for busy situations where space is limited.
– Teach your dog to be more aware of your movements, as they must be in order to turn left.
– Teach your dog to look up- it’s easier for a dog to pivot with their head up rather than their head down.
– Provide great hind end awareness so your dog moves in a more coordinated, functional way
– It’s also impossible for a dog to be turning left AND pulling on lead at the same time! Teaching a left turn is a great way to become more aware of how much you depend on your lead to guide your dog. By being aware of this, you can start to make your dog less dependent on lead pressure and guidance and increase the amount of time your lead is really loose!
How to start teaching your dog to turn left-
– Start in a hallway OR with a fence on your left hand side. Bigger spaces make left turns harder and should be added in once your dog is getting the idea not to bounce out in front of you. Walls or fences make it easy for the dog to know which way to turn as there is a physical barrier that prevents them from bouncing in front of you and going to the wrong side.
– Choose a cue (I just use the word turn) that means I’m going to turn left and you need to maintain your position on my left hand side.
– With the dog between you and the wall, step across in front of the dog towards the wall and gently inch your way forward until your dog moves back into a normal walking position or loose heel. Continue to walk in the new direction.
– Food rewards can be used to reinforce this behaviour but MUST only be delivered when the dog is in a good position on your left. DON’T reward the dog in front of you!! You can also lure the dog as you commence the left turn for some of the repetitions to help the dog- If doing this try using the lure first whilst you walk a small circle (dog on your inside) so that you get the idea of where to position the lure to ensure the dogs body moves the correct way!
– The goal is for the dog to move their head slightly away from you as you turn left, while their hind legs come closer to you, pivoting around their front feet. It should become easier for you to turn on the spot and the dog will begin to understand your cue word means to drop back (if they walk in front of you) and pivot.
It’s normal for dogs to not be able to turn left as easily as turning right to begin with. Our goal is to improve this so your dog is easy to manage whether you’re turning left OR right! Give this a try and let us know if your dog becomes an ambi-turner!!