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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Loose Leash Walking. Part I. Foundation. Attention and Basics

Loose leash walking is one of the harder dog training skills to master (for human and dog). It's about so much more than simply keeping the leash loose. Our pups need to learn how to tune in to us, and not get too worked up about distractions.

We need to remind ourselves to keep slack in the leash, pay attention to our dogs, and walk strategically to keep our dogs away from things that  might derail our loose leash walking training.

So to master a complicated behavior like loose leash walking, we need to start with a foundation. We talked about some foundation behaviors in our squirrel chasing series

But we might want to start with something really simple like "attention" or "watch me".  It's quite easy but very important. Catch your dog looking at you, reward him or her.

We can start this inside the residence.  And if you have a yard, do it outside as well. If there are any other secure locations (training facility, friend's yard, etc..) try it at those places. The  more places the better (proofing).
Eventually, you can reward "check ins". Let the dog walk around (in a secure area) and check out things. If the dog decides to come back to you or look back at you, reward that.

Here is how Leslie McDevitt explains getting attention with a client dog in her book, "Control Unleashed"
"I just started clicking and treating any bit of orientation the dog gave me (like slight turns in my direction). Once she ate, immediately, I pointed her in the direction of whatever she had been doing, simultaneously giving a verbal release. Leslie goes on to explain that she was using the Premack Principle (which will be discussed later)

Caution: a direct stare can be intimidating for some dogs. So make sure that looking into your eyes is not stressful for your dog. You might need to soften your gaze or direct your gaze over your dog's head - at least at first.

Once you have your dog's attention, continue with other foundation training 

To be continued

See more on Loose Leash Walking here
And here 

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