Leash Training Tips
Leash Training Tips To Stop The Pulling
And Enjoy Your Walks Again
Training your dog to walk appropriately on a leash can be one of the most frustrating aspects of good dog training, but no one wants to be pushed, pulled or yanked towards other dogs or into traffic (both of these actually happened to me once before I became a dog trainer)! Simply teaching your dog good leash manners will keep you and your dog safe while you are out walking! Most people try to leash train their dogs on their own, but usually they end up making the problem worse and both dog and owner end up frustrated and confused. The problem is that they are relying on Choke Chains and Prong Collars, and although these barbaric tools may work in short term owners find out they have absolutely NO control without the collars! Punishment and pain can also lead to an escalation of bad behavior and in some cases even aggression toward the owner. I believe all dog should be trained well enough to be walked on a buckle collar or harness alone, no dog training collar to over-use or rely on!
Positive Reinforcement Training
Positive reinforcement refers to operant conditioning, and I won’t bore you with the details right now, but suffice it to say B.F. Skinner one of the leading researchers on reinforcement found that positive reinforcement is superior to punishment in altering behavior because positive reinforcement results in lasting behavioral modification and punishment changes behavior only temporarily and presents many detrimental side effects. Does that sound familiar? The problem behavior changes temporarily, it will reappear later, and it comes with even more problem behavior! Positive reinforcement training is what exotic animal trainers have used for years to teach dolphins, whales and large cats among other animals. You cannot force a dolphin to do what it does not want to do! This type of training is more effective because it builds a bond of trust and cooperation between animals and human, the animals (and the human) actually look forward to training! No one looks forward to punishment, or even the probability of punishment! We all want to be told when we do something right, not belittled, hit or corrected when we do something wrong!
The clicker is a tool, that when conditioned with food, a treat or a toy signals to your dog when he is doing something right. The clicking sound becomes synonymous with the treat once training has begun. However, your dog has to be taught that the clicker means something, clicking alone is not reinforcing, you must teach your dog what the clicker means. Timing is essential with clicker training you must click at the exact moment the correct behavior is beginning to be performed! This communicates to your dog what you like and what you want to continue to see!
Leash Training Steps
Leash training, like most dog obedience training is less problematic if we can break it down into straight forward, manageable steps.
First you will click and reward simply for introducing the leash/harness, and collar. Give your dog ample time to become accustomed to these tools before putting them on your dog. Soon, he will get excited once he sees them! Now, you may begin allowing your pooch to wear them around the house, increasing the wear time. Keep your dog inside with you, during the beginning of training to help him be successful (training outside can be distracting), and click and reward every time he chooses to be near you while he wears the collar and leash. Also click and reward if he looks up at you, this is the foundation to getting his focus! Leash training outside may be more frustrating because there are numerous distractions for you to compete with for your dog’s attention. Understand, from his point of view how much more difficult this task has now become, and don’t lose your patience; don’t drag him or allow him to drag you! Walk slowly and click and treat if he stays at your side, if he begins to pull, stop or change your direction then click and treat when he reaches your side again!
Don’t Lose Your Cool!
Remain calm at all times, and utilize jackpots (more treats or better treats) when your dog accomplishes something that was difficult for him; i.e. not pulling you toward the neighbor dog! Jackpot for any eye contact or focus on you! Keep leash training sessions short and FUN! You can train several times a day, but you don’t want to push you or your dog past the point of fun! Puppies, especially, have short little attention+ spans and if you insist on puppy training past the point of fun, usually around 5 minutes, your pup may start to dislike, and dread training!
Scheduling multiple training sessions throughout the day will help your dog learn more quickly because dogs like schedules and he will look forward with happy anticipation until you can go out again! I like training right before breakfast, lunch or dinner because my pups are hungry and pay more attention, and I can even use their kibble (food) for reward!
Before You Even Start Leash Training
I recommend teaching your dog to sit and stay prior to leash training! Having a reliable sit/stay will enable you to ask for this command if your dog starts pulling on the leash, this will help you refocus his mind and help him back to your side! It is also safer to have a dog that has a reliable sit/stay so that you are not pulled out in traffic while working together! Leash training, like all dog training, requires immense amounts of patience on both your parts! But, the payoff will be a well-trained dog that all your friends envy, and a relationship of love and trust! So grab your clicker and a pocket full of treats and get out there! Have some fun together while learning valuable skills! When your dog has mastered the leash check out loose leash training!
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