Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Stop your dog from pulling on the leash

It's nice to go for a walk and have a well behaved dog on the leash. Even more importantly, most people don't realize that allowing their dog to pull on the leash can have negative effects on the dog's behavior and can also injure  the dog or the owner. If the dog wears a collar around the neck, strong consistent pulling can damage the trachea, the dog's airway. This does not happen from a little pulling, but strong and consistent pulling bruises the trachea and can lead to permanent damage. If your dog pulls constantly and you hear him gagging or raspy breathing, make sure you switch to a harness for the time being, until you can train him to walk on the leash without pulling.

However, be aware that the harness is going to increase the strength of the dog and the pulling will be worse. A strong pulling dog can do injury to the person holding the leash, as the pulling can strain the wrist, or shoulder, and can lead the person to fall during walks.

Even when no one gets hurt, walking a dog that has bad leash behavior is no fun. When you travel with your dog, you have to walk him at least three times every day. We hear from our dog training clients that fixing the leash pulling and lunging is the number one crowdpleaser - changing the walk to an enjoyable and fun activity for both the dog and the owner.

It is not hard to teach your dog not to pull on the leash. In this blog, we will share an easy to do training exercise that will train your dog. However, it is more important that you, the owner, understands the important part consistency plays after training. During our private in-home obedience training sessions, Jim can train a dog within 15 minutes to walk properly on the leash, even to heel. The dog will be in the training mode and the owner and dog will be doing great on leash for the rest of the 1 hour class. Later the dog will often go back to pulling, if the owner does not consistently work with the dog every day.

When we train, we show the dog what behavior we want from him. But it is through repeated behavior, that the dog actually learns. A lot of dog owners work with the dog for some time, but then go back to letting the dog pull and revert to the undesired behavior. Consistency in behavior is what actually teaches the dog, not training.

 At first you will set aside time for training, meaning you will make sure you have a controlled environment to do the leash training exercise with your dog. As you both progress, you will expect the new leash behavior at all times.

While you are doing the leash training, you are not actually walking your dog for exercise. So in the beginning stages, you need to be sure to first walk your dog to allow him to relieve himself, and also provide some form of exercise for him. It is a good idea to play fetch or let him romp around in an off leash area, if possible.

We recommend you use a training collar and six foot leash. Take all the other collars off the dog at this time.

Leash training Exercise 1:

In the quiet area you selected for the exercise, choose two focal points for yourself. This might be a parked car and a tree. Or maybe a mailbox and a streetlamp. These two points should be about 100 feet apart. From here on out I will refer to them as Marker A and Marker B.

Your dog is pulling on the leash while you are walking toward marker A. That's okay, just keep walking toward A. Once you get to the marker, turn your focus on your second marker and start walking towards it. Your dog, thinking he knows where you are going, will be pulling you towards B, or maybe he is pulling toward somewhere else he wants to go sniff. Let him go to the very end of the six foot leash and as soon as the leash gets tight, turn 180 degrees and walk back towards A. It is very important that you not stop, continue to walk and do not say anything. The training collar will do all the work. Your dog will feel the collar tightening and he will turn around and see your backside, as you are walking back toward A. In his mind, he wants to get out in front of you, so he will dart past you and pull toward point A. Just as soon as he runs past you and the leash gets tight, turn again 180 degrees and start walking towards B. Do not stop and don’t say anything. Just keep walking towards B.

Each time your dog gets to the end of the leash and pulls, you change direction. By doing so, the training collar will get tight, and your dog will automatically want to come towards you to relieve the pressure. As long as the leash is loose, continue to walk forward. As soon as your dog pulls tight on the leash, change direction.

After a few minutes, your dog will become suspicious of you changing your mind all the time and will start to stay closer to you, so he can keep an eye on you. This is exactly what we are looking for. Start making it a game, don't just wait for him to yank on the leash, change directions more often and see him stay with you. Change your speed and start stopping and then going again. Your dog will have fun, feeling the challenge to pay close attention to you and to what you are going to do next.

Here is our Youtube video showing this technique:

Do this exercise for several days in a row, at least twice each day. Spend no more than 30 minutes on it each time.After a few days, you can start to incorporate the same leash behavior into your regular walks. 

Each time you start your walk, make sure you expect calmness, never start the walk excited. If you get your dog all wound up before you put on the leash, how can you expect him to be calm and not pull you excitedly down the street? Many dog owners unintentionally get their dogs into these super hyper states by talking to the dog about going out for a walk. They will usually say something like: “Fido, do you want to go for a walk? Come let's go outside!” They will use a happy voice. The dog will get excited and start running back and forth, he may jump around or whine. If your dog acts in any of these ways when you are getting ready to go outside, he has learned to associate a hyper and excited state of being with going outside. If you want him to behave on the leash, you must get him to calm down before you leave the home.

See our previous post on a exercise to calm your excited dog

Thank you for reading this blog-post, I would love to hear your experience with the exercise or other information. Please comment below.

Until next time: Keep Your Paws on the Road!

Bee Walker  

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