Reward for close proximity.  Teach your dog that checking in with you, just being near you, is rewarding.  It really comes down to this for the dog and the value of it should not be underestimated by the handler.  This exercise best taught first off-leash in a safe-contained area (in your home, within a fenced yard or classroom).  Reward voluntary approaches by your dog by offering a tasty treat or a fun-for-the-dog interaction.  Introduce various reinforcements that your dog finds rewarding (food, petting, a toy, activity).  Be on the lookout for inadvertently teaching your dog that being near you is not such a good idea; for instance, calling your dog to you and then forcing the dog to do something they are not comfortable with or ending play.  Keep up the good work!  Help your dog learn that being near you, and checking in with you, is a GOOD and rewarding thing.

With Me (a follow along "with me" game).  In puppy classes I teach walking as “With Me,” basically meaning, I’d like for you to reward your dog when you observe that your dog is following along beside you, with you.  Begin by letting your dog take a sniff of a yummy treat in your hand, then take a few steps backward inviting your dog to follow you, reward with the treat for following and then turn yourself into the direction the dog is facing, so that both you and dog can now walk forward, together.  One step after your turn forward, reach down and deliver another treat directly to the dog's mouth, so that she doesn't need to jump up to get it.  Take 1- 2- 3 more steps and then reward again.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Don't be stingy with the treats, reward often!  When teaching a new behavior your goal is to make learning easy, successful and fun.  Turn this exercise into a fun follow along game for your dog--games are a fun and memorable way to learn!  As you and your dog develop proficiency in this exercise, increase the challenge by incorporating unpredictable changes in direction and speed changes--hey puppy, can you follow along with me?  If you notice your dog losing interest, try keeping training sessions short, fun and rewarding, and go back to taking no more than 3 steps without rewarding and adding counting out loud (step together and count out loud, 1 -2 -3- and then treat), your dog will likely enjoy the game of making it to 3 knowing that that's when the treat comes.

Something to work for.  Train the brain rather than rely on the leash! You may be amazed at how SMART your dog is.  Given appropriate motivation your dog will work hard to figure out what earns that reward that they seek. Appropriate motivation is up to each individual dog whether it is food, activity, toy, or access to something they seek. For instance, a hound’s high-level reward activity may be a simple thing like… sniffing the grass. So for walking 3 steps “with me” I may then cue, “go sniff.”

 

If it's a reward to the dog, then it can be used to reinforce; therefore, increase desired behavior.

Set a new precedent.  What if you decided that today, you will no longer allow any forward movement/access if it is preceded by a pull (a tight lead)? That sounds like a tall order doesn’t it? In short, yes. I submit to you that if you were 100% in your approach and were able to maintain this protocol for any time your dog was on leash that this method alone would make a significant difference. From the dog’s perspective, it’s about collar pressure. The dog associates (or accepts) collar pressure to get to wherever it is that they are going. What if collar pressure meant something else, like, we’re stopping or changing direction and it never meant forward access. Forward access is only granted when there is NO collar pressure – the leash is completely loose (visible slack in the leash).

Be a post (don't follow the puller).  Begin by selecting a low-distraction environment to work in. Position yourself as a post, standing in one place only, rewarding the dog whenever s/he is in close proximity to you, and reward a higher-value reward when s/he checks in with you (a turn of the head toward you). If the dog pulls on the leash, you will act like a post (standing still, no forward advancement); the leash is pulled tight and remains tight, but you do not move. Eventually, the dog repositions, sits or moves toward you; when this happens, reward it!  REWARD FOR THE BEHAVIORS YOU SEEK; allow your dog the opportunity to figure out what works, and what doesn't.

​Because it works ... from your dog's perspective.  Following behind a pulling dog essentially reinforces, teaches them that that’s what it takes to get there. So they become more determined and they get better at pulling, if it works:

Impulse control.  Impulse control through obedience training (like stay, relaxation and distraction training) and tricks can help equip your dog with the ability to self-soothe and work through distracting stimuli. Dogs that regularly have off-leash access, such as group play, may be more likely to show on-leash frustration.

 

Tools.  Many folks find a walking harness helpful, giving them a head start when working with an established puller.  I much prefer the front-ring harness where the leash attachment ring is fixed to the front chest of the dog, rather than the traditional “on the back” ring (back rings actually help your dog pull more efficiently! Great, if you want your dog to pull a sled…). When wearing a front-ring harness, when the leash is pulled tight, it pulls/turns the dog’s body to the side, causing them to lose some of their forward momentum, giving you an opportunity to redirect and reward for a check-in instead.  Steer clear of retractable and bungee-style leashes until you and your dog are fluent at the art of walking on leash without pulling.  Retractables and the like create constant tension on your dog's collar, actually teaching him/her to pull to gain forward access. 

 

If you train the brain you will be less reliant upon tools—if the harness works for you, great; but don't forget to work on brain training anyway so that you're not entirely reliant on gear to do it for you. Woof!

Get picky.  You can fine tune “where” your dog walks near you, such as with the heel exercise by only rewarding the dog when s/he is in that exact spot you desire. And you can improve the quality of the behavior by rewarding only for exactly what you want, or improvements of the behavior.  With success, you gradually increase the challenge. If I’m working with food I will have at least 2 levels of value to my treats; for instance, a piece of kibble for a good job and a piece of chicken for BINGO, that was Brilliant!

Practice!  No magic, it comes down to putting the time and work into it.  You must practice on a regular basis to develop a new pattern of behavior, and you must reinforce the good stuff you want to see more of.  Practice in many different settings and environments—these things will build reliability in your dog.

2019 ©

"Teach your dog to walk politely on leash, without pulling"

-Tiffany Simpson-Terroux

9797 W Colfax Ave #3TT Lakewood, CO 80215

(303) 232-1034

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