ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Gentle Leaders Explained

The Gentle Leader is a marvelous training tool, and used properly, far kinder to the dog than a prong. But it is a TRAINING tool, and not meant to be used forever. What it does is give you a way to control the dog's movement while you are teaching the behavior you DO want. And, fitted and used correctly, it can be phased out rather quickly in most environments. Yet you still have it around for rambunctious adolescents who may tune out to your cues when the distractions in the environment are strong enough. it gives you a way to get them back into focusing on YOU!

I too like the Gentle Leader far better than the Halti, becuase of the removable snout piece, and because it's softer, less abraisive. But there is a third choice in the same type of halter: A Softee, which is like a GL but has some type of soft fleece lining, making it a bit more comfortable. It is made by Sherry Britton and if you'd like to find out more, or order one, you can reach her at petpos@javanet.com.

My pup is 5 months, I have been clicking her since early July and see great things happening. She heels very nicely off leash (needs a lure sometimes) and does a pretty good loose leash and heel when walking. But she wants to lunge and pull for approaching dogs and people (cats, leaves, etc.)

How perfectly normal for a 5 month old pupper! Just begin systematic introduction of distractors such as these, and do RAPID reinforcement, clicking and treating to keep attention on you. Move your body if you need to get the puppy's attention, and click and treat for any focus on you.

But remember, at 5 months, leaves and dogs and cats and paper bags are wonderfully exciting things, and you want your puppy to have a GOOD experience with all of them. Just keep reinforcing what you do want, and don't expect fluency of any kind at this young of an age. This is a baby! Life is play right now, and the big focus should be on socialization and problem solving.

Don't ask for long attention spans. Even an obedicene class lasting an hour may be way too long for a 5 month old. When I take youngsters into classes, I watch them closely and get them out for a walk if I see they are getting too restless.

Breaking up the group training sessions by walk and sniffs for a few minutes every half hour is also a good strategy. Basically, try not to ask too much of such a youngster by demanding focus and ignoring of distractions.

I have found no clicker training in our area, and am taking her to regular obedience. The trainer is very supportive of C/T for my pup, and allows me to do it.

This is a very difficult thing to do. Because the instructors in a command-based class may expect you to do corrections for wrong choices. If you do this, you will thorouglly confuse the dog. However, I have seen this work when the clicker trainer is diligent about home training, and comes into each class totally prepared and with new behaviors already in place, and beginning to be generalized.

My biggest caveat is that in traditional classes, the pace often moves way too fast for the dog to problem solve, and when other dogs are being corrected for mistakes, the clicker dog is still working out the behavior to offer, which can be upsetting to the class, to the instructor.

If no clicker training facility near you, how about a lure and reward class? That would be much more in line with non-command teaching. But if you have an instuctor who is not pushing you to correct errors, then perhaps it can work for you. You're the only one in the position to make that decision!

One thing that is required is to stop the lunging. She suggested a prong collar and I used it and it did work. But I hate it and I know the dog must also. So I am looking for something else, which brings me back to the GL.

1. Is it OK to use it for a pup?

Yes, absolutely. But for short periods. It's just usually not necessary in a class situation when the dogs are this young, except for the teaching of loose leash walking.

2. Should I order the size that corresponds to her weight now, which is 50 and may become 90?

The website explains how to order, size, fit, use the leash properly.

3. In regard to the comment about whiplash and neck injury, could someone expand a bit on that (the GL website says injury is not a problem)?

ANY tool can injure an animal if not used correctly. The GL is no different, except when it's used properly, there is no pain to the dog like there is with a prong. If you let a dog hit the end of a GL at a dead run, then you may have to deal with whiplash. GL's, Halties, etc. are meant to be used on a shorter leash, at times when you can closely observe the dog. This gives you control while you click and treat for the dog walking nicely on a loose leash. You can use it with pure shaping, with luring. It's meant to be a temporary aid, though, not a forever thing. It buys you time, that's all. But phase it out as soon as the dog has learned that walking on a loose leash is far more rewarding than pulling.

4. Is this a good tool to use in a regular obedience class?

Yep. And much, much better than a prong, because when you use a prong, you may get "control" but you have just taken away the dog's volition. The dog no longer has the choice. So it then has to learn the pulling causes pain and not pulling doesn't cause pain. So much easier on the dog to learn the when he gets to this exact spot and trots along with you, the rewards will be super! This way, the dog will not be alternating between shutting down and engaging their minds.

They make a choice, and they are heavily reinforced. It's very motivating, and the dogs learn so much happier and faster, plus the whole exercise is just one more positive link toward problem solving. There can be no harmony in training when the dog is focused on avoidance of pain, and a prong by any other name works on the principles of negative reinforcement--the pain stops when the right behavior is given.

5. Will the dog learn not to need the control? In other words, will I someday be able to walk her just on a flat collar?

Absolutely! This is the whole idea. It buys you time, but you still need to TEACH loose leash walking. Your object is to make walking in that loose leash position far more reinforcing than pulling. But you don't need to punish pulling, only not reinforce it.

I find that the GL is available at Sitstay. Question, would it be better to find someone who can direct the use of the GL rather than order one and be on my own?

This is still being debated, but I do find the instructions on the Web site very thorough, in how to properly fit the device. I still feel the best information on HOW to use it properly, and how to reinforce while using it will NOT be found on that website, but here on Clicker Solutions!

Debi Davis
Tuscon, AZ
scripto@azstarnet.com
copyright 1999 Debi Davis

 

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