Thursday, October 4, 2012

Loose Leash Walking

When teaching our dogs how to walk well on leash, pet parents should try to remember the reason we are out for walks in the first place - enjoyment for the dog and human.



If a dog is yanked around or kicked or has to endure training devices like chokers and prongs, the walk becomes a chore for the dog and human. Humans can actually injure their shoulders and elbows if they do a lot of yanking. Of course the yanking is more dangerous for dog.

There are several methods available to pet parents. Methods that don't involve pain and discomfort. Each dog is different, so if one method doesn't work, dog guardians can go to another method. Here are a few: http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/tag/loose-leash-walking-posts/

For some dogs,none of the above methods will work unless the behavior is "proofed." Basically pet parents have to start at a point where the exercise is very easy for the dog, then slowly increase the difficulty level. This technique might come in handy for pet parents who live with dogs who get highly charged by their environment.

This technique can be modified to suit dog and pet parent. It might look something like this:

We must prevent the dog from practicing behaviors that we don't want i.e. pulling on leash. So, in the beginning, pet parents might have to give up long walks/hikes and exercise the dog in other ways - fetch in the house or yard, food puzzle, nosework, etc..

If dog gets excited about the leash, start picking up the leash for no reason. You want to be able to start off at a calm place. So don't let the leash predict excitement.

Next

Start in the most boring room in the house (maybe a bathroom with the door closed) teaching the dog to walk by your side or follow without a leash (see info in the above link). Praise and treat often when the dog does what you want. Move to the next most boring room, then a more exciting room.

If you have a secure backyard, the practice there next. Once the dog is good in these places without a leash, start over again with the leash. Put the leash on and off over and over again, so being on leash is a non issue in loose leash walking. Pet parents should strive to use the leash as a safety device (and it's the law), not as a tool.

One you leave the secured area of your residence or backyard, you must keep the leash on at all times for safety but remember how you walked together without a leash and try to maintain that.

If you have a driveway, try walking back and forth there praising and treating and the dog keep the leash loose.

If the dog does well there, try walking on the sidewalk in front of your residence. In the beginning more more that 10 feet or so in either direction.

If the dog gets too excited about being on the sidewalk, then look for another place that is more exciting than the driveway but less exciting than the sidewalk. For my Puddin, I found such a place in a large, empty parking lot. Video in the above loose leash walking link.

Once you master the parking lot, then try the sidewalk again. If dog still gets too excited, find another boring place and work your way up to the side walk.

Once the dog does well on the sidewalk, you can start venturing out a little further down the street. If dog easily gets distracted, keep sessions very short. It's better go to on 4 or 5 five minute walks per day than one 30 minute walk per day.

Go when you expect the least amount of distractions - like 4:00 AM or 12:00 AM. Or in the middle of the day if it's not too hot. Don't go at 7:00 PM when everyone else is out walking their dogs.

You can slowly start increasing distance and time but always to go home before pup gets too aroused. i.e. if you know that the pup tunes out after 10 minutes, end the walk in 5 minutes or at least take a break at 5 minutes. When you take a break, you can just sit and watch the world if it's not too arousing. You can pet, you can ask for behaviors like sit or shake or high fives.

Don't allow any pulling at all. Whenever the dog pulls and gets to move ahead, he/she is getting rewarded for pulling and therefore will keep doing it. If you are physically able to and if dog starts pulling, you might consider carrying the dog home. The more the dog practices pulling, the harder it will be to teach loose leash walking

If the dog pulls ahead and disengages from you, try the "walking down the leash" ttouch method that Leslie talks about in CU: Puppy and on some of the DVDs. See a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXobDnYmOTg&list=UU3mbZ4rrmv3a9-ap6hfmOWQ&index=1&feature=plcp

We are still using a lot of treats at this point whenever the leash is loose.

You can also incorporate life rewards. i.e. the dog walks by your side for 3 feet, release her to go sniff.- The Premack Principle.

Speaking of sniffing, as long as the dog doesn't pull, let him sniff things. It part of the fun of the fun of the walk.

Try to stay connected with your dog when you are out. More details here http://sdrv.ms/LYrRbN

Once you and the dog get better at loose leash walking, you can start venturing out further while continuing to avoid things that get your dog upset. See more on avoidance here: http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/2012/05/avoidance/

Then start adding in desensitization and counter conditioning - give your dog a tasty treat whenever he encounters other dogs, people etc..

Also start adding in some principles from Leslie McDevitt's Control Unleashed Program Her books and DVDs can be purchased on dogwise, amazon, tawzer or cleanrun.

Another great book is Grisha Stewart's "Behavior Adjustment Training"

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