Pets & Animal Dog Breeds

Dog Obedience Training - Walking With a Loose Lead

Out there in the dog training world, there are a number of dog obedience training methods that you can employ to train your dog to walk on a loose lead, quietly and calmly.
Fairly commonly you will see, when you travel around your neighbourhood, a dog with a tight lead, pulling its owner along and just about dislocating the owner's shoulder.
More often than not, the owner in this picture, is a child or woman.
In this scenario, it is more than likely the dog is showing he is the Alpha Dog.
The Alpha Dogs job is to lead his pack in a strong determined manner and that is all the dog is doing.
It is going to require immediate action by all the people living in this dogs pack house to work on this type of doggy attitude and bring him down in the pack order.
Several years ago, the way to teach a dog to walk on lead was to slip a metal chain slip, check or choke collar, with or without inward pointing spikes, over the dogs head.
Whenever the dog took a step too far ahead, the handler gave the lead a sharp tug, punishing the dog, and forcing the dog to stick close or earn more painfull punishment.
Thank heavens that that style of training has largely been dropped by modern professional dog obedience instructors.
There are some who still believe the choke collar is the only tool to use and if you are looking for a good training club, check what training system they employ and, if they allow choke chain collars, keep on looking.
Many dog training clubs these days use luring or shaping or a combination of both, to train the dog to walk close to the handler.
Luring involves having food in the hand nearest the dog and allowing the dog to have a treat every few paces as he follows the food lure.
There is a downside here.
If there is no food in the hand, you may find the dog wanders off line.
With shaping you need to use a lot of patience and when you start using this system it may take 10 minutes to walk a few meters to the gate.
When using luring, you start with the dog next to you.
Show the dog a fist full of tasty treats, step around the dogs nose so you are facing the dog and walk backwards, slipping the dog as many treats as you can as quickly as you can, acting like a pezz dispenser.
You walk backwards half a dozen paces, luring the dog to follow you, and then swivel around so you are again next to your dog and stop.
Give the dog its sit command and click and treat immediately it sits next to you.
Repeat this several times.
The dog will start to sit as soon as you stop.
When the dog is following confidently and sits when you stop, you can move to the next step which is starting to walk away in a straight line, with dog walking next to you, being lured along by the treats being fed out of the hand in front of its nose.
Make sure the dog is learning to sit when you stop.
When you have the dog walking confidently next to you, you may start fading away the delivery of the treats.
Only give one every second pace and then every third pace and so on.
After some time you will have the dog walking on a loose lead as close to you as you require, but you may still need to keep a food lure in your hand, and show this to the dog every so often.
Shaping does take some time but it produces a dog that can think for itself and knows that if it does the right thing it will get a tasty treat.
With shaping, you stand next to the dog and step away calling the dog, saying something like "Fido, walk".
The dog will move with you but may immediately run to the end of the lead.
As soon as the lead starts going tight, you immediately stop and stand still and say nothing.
The dog will soon enough turn to look at you.
Immediately click and offer a reward but the reward is given at your knees.
Start walking again and as the lead goes tight you plant your feet, wait for the look or movement back to you, click and treat at the knees.
You repeat this until you have a loose lead and a happy dog.
In using both of these systems, it is up to you to decide the position where you want the dog to walk.
Using both systems at the same time will work quicker than just shaping.
Start with the luring walking backwards part and when the dog is ready for you to walk off forwards, you bring in shaping.
Show the dog some treats are in your hand but as you step off, lift the hand and hold it across your chest.
When the lead goes tight, stop and wait for the look and as soon as the dog looks back click and treat - with the treat being given at the knees.
When you repeat this exercise, show the dog the treat so he knows it is there but he only gets it when the lead is hanging loose as he walks next to you.
Each time the lead goes tight, you stop.
A third method relies on a minor level of punishment.
You set off walking with the dog next to you.
When the dog gets ahead of you, you suddenly change direction, walking away from the dog.
The lead goes tight and the dog is jerked back towards you and you tell the dog "heel", or "close" or "bananas" or whatever command you intend using.
The obvious danger here is that some people would be overenthusiastic and try to jerk the dog right off his feet.
This system of training is not quite my cup of tea but some instructors do use it.
Be cautious if the dog is running away from you when you change direction as you may end up hurting yourself or the dog or maybe both.
The newest training tool is the Gentle Leader or Halti or any of their derivatives that are now available in all good pet shops.
I fully believe in the power of the Gentle Leader as an all round training tool.
As the saying goes, "If you control the head, you control the dog".
And these tools do a great job of doing that.
With straps going over the muzzle and tight around the neck just up behind the ears, if you change direction, the lead pulls on a connection under the dogs jaw, pulling the dogs head in the direction you want him to go.
The dog has to follow as his head is turned.
When you use shaping and a Gentle Leader, the training will work very well and may be a bit quicker than shaping with the traditional flat collar.
But it is a tool and should never be left on the dog permanently.
If you use it as a tool, the dog gets to learn that when the Gentle Leader is fitted he needs to be calm and walk nicely.
A strong word of warning.
If you use the change of direction system to train the walking on lead, do not use a Gentle Leader.
This would put a totally unnecessary strain on any dog's neck and I do not recommend it.
Summarising this article, you need to know if your dog is pulling on his lead because he believes he is the Alpha Dog and to curb this issue rapidly.
Once you have selected which of the training systems I have outlined above, do your training in short, interesting and fun filled sessions.
Remember that dog obedience training has to be fun so that both you and your dog enjoy your work sessions together.

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