on a Loose Leash
This is one
of the most difficult things you will teach your dog. The fact is that
whenever you have the dog attached to the leash and the leash is in
your hand(s) the dog's attention should be, at least in part, on you.
is a very difficult thing for many dogs because the environment is SO
attractive. There are sights and sounds and scents witch act as magnets
to draw your dog's attention away from you. Your dog needs to learn
that you are leading and it is following, not the opposite!
We will approach
this educational process from many directions.
- Walk your
dog on a given route and count the number of times the leash becomes
tight. Record the number.
the techniques suggested below.
- At regular
intervals (about once/week), walk the same route and count the number
of times the leash becomes tight. Tight leash: If there is ANY pressure
on the leash, it is "tight"… don't accept gentle pulling as OK because
your dog has no way to distinguish what level is "OK." The leash
is EITHER tight or loose!
a full cup of water in your hand that holds the leash. If there
is enough pressure to spill 1 drop of the water- the leash is tight**
- Hold your
leash with both hands at your waist very securely.
- Watch your
dog and react to its behavior. You can not react effectively if you
are not paying attention to what your dog is doing.
- Be patient.
This will take time, don't expect rapid results….
- It does work
but you and your dog need to practice! If your dog does not seem to
be "getting it" practice in an area of less distraction for 3 - 5
days. Then gradually work up to more distracting environments.
- You should
never pull on the leash. Do not guide/steer your dog by the leash.
Do not drag your dog with the leash.
your dog chooses to stop paying attention to you and pulls the leash
tight you should simply stop and "be a tree." The dog has caused
the tight leash, not you. Do not actively seek your dog's attention
during training…. Wait for him/her to GIVE attention to you.
- Build on
Success - Once you can find a bit of success build on it Use a Head
Halter - If your dog is stronger than you, you need "power steering".
"Be a Tree"
- This works
the easiest with young puppies but will also work with older dogs.
Start indoors with no distractions and a calm puppy. Hold the leash
with both hands close to and in front of your body
- Take one
step forward and if the puppy charges ahead just stop and wait. The
puppy will be a little frustrated and may demonstrate it but just
wait (silently). When the pup sits and/or looks at you say "Good Dog"
and offer a treat.
- Take another
step and if necessary, Be a Tree.
- Soon you
will be able to take 2 successful steps, then 3 and gradually you
will be able to walk all over the house with the leash loose.
- VERY SLOWLY
introduce the puppy to slightly more distracting environments.
Use A Tree
- If your dog
begins to pull hard and there is anything solid nearby which you can
wrap your leash around, do so.
- If your dog
often pulls hard, practice walking in an area where there are lots
of things to secure the leash to (i.e. walk along a fence line and
use the post tops).
is "Pulling does NOT work."
This MUST be
done inside a fenced area.
- Hold a tasty
treat in your left hand at your left pant seam. It is the lure we
will use to encourage the dog to find the right place
- When your
dog approaches to investigate mark the behavior ("Yes" or "Click")
and let it take the treat.
- Turn away
from the dog and do the same again…. The dog has to find your left
side. As soon as it finds your left side it is rewarded and the rewarding
place goes away so soon the dog is hurrying to catch up with you.
- Keeping the
treat at your left side start to walk in big circles and "8's" around
the yard and the moment the dog finds your left side, mark, treat,
turn and walk away. Now it's a moving game.
- As the dog
begins to find the treat more rapidly and accurately, take 1 to 2
steps with the dog at heel position before marking and treating.
- Very gradually
increase the distance you walk before marking and treating.
- When you
begin to have predictable success with the lure in place hold your
empty hand in the target position, mark the heeling behavior and produce
the treat from elsewhere on your body.
is "My person's left side is the BEST place to be."
- If you are
walking and your dog begins to look away stop and do an about turn.
- If the leash
becomes tight, "be a tree" until your dog realizes you have changed
is "Keep an eye on my person, s/he's unpredictable."
Use a "release"
word - Give permission
- When your
dog starts to go toward something simply turn away and start walking
with dog until attention comes back. When it does give the release
- Do this whenever
you will let the dog leave your side.
- Instead of
lunging harder to get things it wants the dog will pay MORE attention
to get permission for things it wants. The important part is giving
is "The more I pay attention, the more I get what I want."
"Reward" with "penalty yards" (TM pending, Lana Horton) ("Mother May I" Game)
- This will
ONLY work when the dog has a specific place it wants to go.
- Note where
the leash is tight, stop and back up to the start point.
- Wait, silently.
- The instant
the leash is loose say "Good" and keep talking, telling your dog how
wonderful it is!
- When the
leash is slack (you are talking) AND your dog looks at you, start
- Repeat steps
3 through 6 until you reach the desired destination.
lead = talk loose lead + look = walk. The lesson is "If I pull I
find myself further away from what I want."
For Your Dog When You Don't Have Time To "Train"
leash is attached to the collar/halter you ARE "training"**
Every time your
dog pulls and is successful, it is learning that pulling works! You
do not want to teach your dog to pull on leash! If you need to walk
your dog and don't have time, inclination, and/or patience to pay attention
to his/her behavior on leash, change the situation for the dog.
using the leash and collar
- Be sure the
ring of your dog's collar with the buckle of the leash attached are
on top of the neck pass the leash around the dog's chest and bring
it under the buckle.
- Keep it forward
on the chest- just behind the front legs.
- Use a commercial
no pull body harness
is "When I can't pay attention to my dog - I don't want to undo all
my training work!"
IF you catch
yourself applying tension to the leash out of habit tie the leash around
your waist so your hands can not apply pressure. If you are steering
there is no reason for your dog to pay attention to you… he has tactile
information (all the time) where you want him to be, so there's no reason
to keep an eye on you!
is "My dog must pay attention to where I'm going."
Why they work:
- Where the
head goes, so goes the body. This is why halters are used on large
animals (horses and cattle), it takes a fraction of the pressure to
turn an animal's nose toward a chosen direction than it takes to turn
the animal at the neck.
- Dogs will
automatically demonstrate and "opposition reflex" when they feel pressure
on the neck or chest. In other words they will push forward against
the pressure. They do not have the opposition reflex when the pressure
is directed toward the bridge of the nose.
- The bridge
of the nose is a "dominance pressure point". A dominant dog will seize
the submissive dog by the muzzle to emphasize its rank. You are gently
- The spot
immediately between the eyes is a calming acupuncture pressure point
so some dogs calm down just because you put the halter on.
- Dogs may
object at first. This is a totally new sensation for most dogs and
they will need to be taught to accept the head halter. Dominant dogs
tend to object the most.
- There is
danger to your dog if you jerk on the lead attached to a head halter.
NEVER use a head halter on a dog with any neck or spinal injury. Consult
- There is
danger if a dog is left unattended with the head halter on. There
is too much risk of objects being tangled in the halter.
- People who
have never seen a halter before will assume it is a muzzle. Many will
ask, "Is that a muzzle? Does he bite?" You will get many questions
from the general public.
Laura Van Dyne
copyright 1999 Laura Van Dyne
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