ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

"Be a Tree" Explained

I just finished teaching 6 dogs to walk on a loose leash. It takes patience and perseverance. What I use is the "be a tree" method. What a lot of people miss with this method is the idea of upping the criteria.

I have written about this before, but can't find it right now, so here it goes again:

Pup on leash, hand at waist. Start to walk. You may only get in one step. Pup surges forward, you stop the instant you feel any pressure on the leash. Just stop. Don't say a word, don't pull back on the leash, just freeze! Pup may pull, strain, keep straining, be patient! Wait him out. Sooner or later he/she will finally move so that the pressure is a bit off the leash. C/t! Be ready! Be silent. Don't go overboard with praise for this tiny step, you are shaping.

Start again. Repeat as many times as it takes for the release of the pressure to become reliable.

Now up the criteria (baby steps!). Instead of c/t when the pressure is relieved, wait for pressure off AND a head turn toward you. c/t.

Once this is predictable (10-20 reps), up the criteria again and wait for not just head turn, but now eye contact.

Once this is predictable (10-20 reps) up the criteria again and wait for eye contact and a step toward you.

Keep going in this way for two steps, three, four, then back to your side facing forward.

You can do this whole thing in two 15 min sessions.

Eventually the dog figures out that the *ONLY* way to get this human to go forward is to be at your side. (Boy, this human is so weird! The only way I can get him to move forward is to be by his side. What a woose!)

Dogs do what's good for the dog. Going for a walk is good for the dog. Getting treats is good for the dog. Dogs love to pull! That's why they pull carts, sleds, etc. They have what some call "opposition reflex". They pull, you pull back, they pull harder. Walking on a loose leash cannot be a pulling contest, because the human always loses!

Teach the dog that the only way to get you to go forward is with a loose lead, but do it by taking baby steps in shaping and slowly upping the criteria until you get what is acceptable. You may have to retrain this many times, but eventually it becomes a habit.

WARNING! Don't ever give in to pulling. If you do, then you have just put pulling on a variable schedule and made it stronger. Every time pulling works it will take longer to extinguish.

BTW, I do not use halters for this training. I want the dog to think about what it is doing, instead of having a piece of equipment turning him around. I teach classes for Canine Good Citizen certification. You can't use a halter or food for the test. Management equipment is great for management, but it isn't a substitute for training the dog.

Good luck.

Wendy Dreyer
Arboretum Australian Shepherds
27 Dunbar Road
Quaker Hill, CT 06375
copyright 1999 Wendy Dreyer


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