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Posts Tagged ‘pulling on leash

Why Are Leash Manners So Rare?

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Leash Manners Take Practice

I spend alot of time in parks and I’ve noticed that it’s not only my new class participants that lack leash manners.  Let’s discuss some of the “whys” of pulling and “hows” of controlled leash walking.

* The puppy was not introduced to a leash early.  When puppies start out, they are clumsy, their vision is limited, and the owner is just the best thing in the world.  Then you wake up one day and your puppy is speeding through developmental stages and is acting like a 17 year old kid with the car keys.  Puppy’s eyes are wide open, he is confident (good for you) and the world is his!  Getting a puppy used to a leash and teaching him some impulse control EARLY will help tremendously later.

*Since the puppy did not get the impulse control and desensitized to the leash early, your awesome dog trainer suggested a humane “no-pull” head collar or body harness so your huge adolescent pup doesn’t pull you down.  You think, “WOW, this solves all of my problems!”. Well, not really.  No-pull devices are tools that are meant to be faded out, but many owners are happy to simply continue using the device for the dog’s life.  Here’s the part where I give a true confession…  Pictured above is Maddie, my dog, walking like a dream on a no-pull body harness.  Is that cheating?  Of course!  But it’s not cheating as much as using a head collar.  So, I am definitely trying to phase out the training device, but in teeny tiny steps.  There are situations where Maddie will walk nicely on a flat collar, but we need to generalize this to all situations.  If you want to do any higher level training with your dog or therapy work, no-pull devices are not allowed.  If your dog is pulling you on a training device, but doesn’t have the leverage to pull you down, you need to wait for a loose leash from your dog before you step forward.  It’s called “be a tree”.

*Unbeknownst to you, you trained your dog to pull on the leash.  Can you say retractable leash?  Scenario: dog pulls… owner releases lock and rewards the dog for pulling by giving more leash.  For those of you that are saying to yourselves that you lock the leash in one position and never move it, be honest.  As Dr. Phil says, “let’s get real”!  If you always had a retractable leash locked in one position, you would have traded it in for a regular leash long ago.  In order to fix this, you need to get a non-retractable leash and work on loose leash skills using the be a tree method.

*The dog has reactivity or aggression issues.  In my book, this does not fall under the “manners” category, but it is certainly a frustrating and sometimes frightening leash event for not only the owner but the dog too.  Leash issues in this category cannot be resolved with simple “training” because this behavior is caused by fear.  Work with a qualified dog trainer or dog behavior consultant to address the dog’s fear first.

I have read many articles about “lazy owners” and how they should require better leash manners of their dogs.  In cases where the dog is under control using a humane, no pull device, I disagree.  Normally it is a matter of priority rather than laziness.  For example, many of my clients have dogs that are aggressive to humans and other animals.  Clearly, heeling like a champ is not a priority.  The priority is to get the dog past the fear issues causing the aggression first.  It can be a long journey.  Tools like the freedom harness give owners real options for better control while they are on that journey. For those dog owners that are out and about with little or no control over their dogs, something bad is going to happen eventually.  There are humane, efficient, and effective ways to teach your dog some impulse control and leash manners.

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Practicing in a Controlled Environment

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Practice Makes Perfect

Have I ever mentioned that there is no magic wand or pill in dog training?  Managing and correcting dog behavior is all about consequences and rewards.  Dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding.   Dogs avoid behaviors that are not rewarding.  Dogs avoid behaviors associated with pleasant things disappearing.

Many common complaints about dog behavior include: jumping up, not coming when called, excessive barking, begging at the table, stealing items, and not releasing items.  These are all normal dog behaviors, it’s just that we humans don’t like them.  The trick to stopping these behaviors is to set ourselves up for success by controlling the environment as much as possible.  For example, we would not teach “leave it” by waiting for the dog to get into antifreeze.  We would not practice recall in the middle of a busy strip mall parking lot.

Here are some ideas for setting up scenarios to practice managing undesirable behaviors

 *The tools:  Have your tools handy to prevent undesirable behavior.  Leashes, fences, and long leashes can help prevent running away and jumping up on people.

* The players:  Everyone involved needs to know the role they play in the scene.  Handlers need to hold on to leashes to prevent jumping.  The “jumpees”  may need to step away.

* The setup:  The environment for the scene needs to be setup so that there are rewards for desirable behavior and that pleasant things go away when undesirable behavior occurs.  Creativity helps in doing the setup.  Once a dog has learned the come cue (usually taught on leash), practicing recall in a boring but safe environment can be effective.  Cue the behavior “come” from a short distance.  If the dog responds, reward generously.  If the dog doesn’t respond, walk away.  The dog will learn that coming when called is usually in his best interest.

* Building the bank account:  With successful practice, your dog will associate good things with desirable behavior.  A dog can be rewarded generously every time he gives up an item, and ignored until he gives it up.  If the environment is controlled, the item to give up will be safe.  Build up the bank account by giving the item back once the dog releases it.  Practicing this behavior will set the dog up for success even when the environment is not in control.  With repeated success in safe environments, the day your dog picks up a sharp object on a walk, your dog will expect that by giving up the item, he will be rewarded generously, and may even get the item back.  With controlled practice sessions, the likelihood of compliance is greatly increased.

Remember that if you have no control over your environment, you will not be successful at controlling your dog’s behavior.

Written by dawnhanna

February 2, 2012 at 11:04 am

Why Aren’t You Walking Your Dog?

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In addition to the cardiovascular benefits to you and the dog, a walk with your dog can be an enjoying and enriching bonding experience.  Why then are many dog owners are still unable or unwilling to partake in this activity?  There are a variety of reasons that I have heard from clients and there are also ways to overcome these barriers. 

I let my dog out in my backyard.  While this is a good practice for potty breaks and playtime, it does not replace the enrichment a dog receives from processing the fresh and novel aromas outside of your home and yard.  Walks are mentally stimulating for dogs.  Walks also keep your dog well socialized to humans and other dogs.  For dogs, the difference between being let out in the yard and a walk around the neighborhood is like the difference between me eating lunch in a cubicle under fluorescent lighting and eating lunch on the Champs Elysees.

My dog pulls.  By far, this is one of the most common reasons that dogs are left inside or in the yard.  A multitude of No-Pull harnesses have been developed to discourage dogs from pulling on their leashes.  The “Gentle Leader” is my favorite because it gives the handler the most leverage to prevent pulling.  For small dogs that are not powerful, the “Easy Walk Harness” is another option.  Both products come with DVDs that explain how to fit and use the products.  There are also some behavior modification techniques that can be implemented with the help of a trainer.

My dog is reactive to other dogs.  A reactive dog can present dangerous scenarios in public.  It is important to use appropriate leashes and collars and to stay under your dog’s threshold.  If you are not ready to manage the behavior with a dog training professional, there are some options to offer your dog a change of scenery and smell.  Try walking your dog during off peak or low traffic hours. Walk in a wide open park where you have more options to keep your dog from getting close to other dogs.  Go off the beaten path.  I have been to the nature trails at Markham Park and Plantation Heritage Park.  During off peak hours, I have not seen another person or dog on the trails.  Enlist the help of a friend to serve as lookout for other dogs to be safe. 

My dog is too old.  The amount of exercise a dog needs in his senior years should be determined by a veterinarian.  A senior dog will benefit from a leisurely stroll down your driveway and down a few houses if your veterinarian approves.  Again, dogs benefit from the mental stimulation of processing novel scents.  There are a multitude of strollers available for physically challenged dogs to partake in the sights and smells around the neighborhood.

It’s too hot.  During the winter months in South Florida, dogs and their owners can enjoy brisks walk on a cool days.  In the summer, a walk could be dangerous to brachycephalic (short nosed) dogs.  Products like the Kool Collar can keep your dog from overheating, but keep your walks short, shaded, and in the evening or morning.

I don’t have the time.  Pay now or pay later.  Many of the behaviors that my clients want me to “fix” can be attributed to lack of exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization.  The behaviors include barking, destructive behavior, aggression, fear, and more.  There is time and money involved in cleaning up after, or addressing these behaviors.  There are many professional dog walking companies that offer this service if you cannot find the time. 

So many people begin the new year with healthy resolutions that include exercise.  Why not include your dog?

Written by dawnhanna

December 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm