Loose Leash Walking

Everybody wants it.  Aside from contacting me for behavioural help, this is typically the first thin

double leash dog training
dog leash

g people tell me they want when they enquire about general dog training.  “I want my dog to walk nicely on a lead”

So, here are some of my thoughts on loose leash walking, I’ll try and keep it simple.

  • Your dog is not born knowing how to walk in a straight line on a leash, and unless it has been taught previously, you will need to teach your dog how.
  • Like any skill your dog needs to learn, walking appropriately on a lead is a quite advanced skill. If your furry companion is not willing to listen to you in the house, then I think it would be a fair guess to say that they won’t listen when you step out the front door.
  • Appropriate training equipment is essential.  Well made equipment is better for you and your dog. You can choose between training halters, flat collars, martingale collars and balance harnesses.  Talk to your trainer about what is best for you and your dog and the style of training you are doing.  I love Black Dog equipment – you can check them out here http://www.blackdog.net.au.  An Australian company making high quality dog equipment.
  • Having clear expectations and boundaries for your walk before you leave the house is important.  Know what the rules are before you put the leash on your dog.  (ie: No weaving, no rushing other dogs, no dragging you across the road to say hi to the other dog).. It is hard to teach your dog what you expect if you do not know yourself.
  • Also, please don’t expect loose leash walking to happen all at once.  Remember when you taught your dog to sit?  Start small and with little to no distraction and build your way up to longer walks and higher distraction

Walking nicely on a lead is about mutual respect, this aspect reflects on the relationship between you and your dog.  If you ever feel like you are being walked by your dog, rather than going out for a walk together, a change in mindset can often help.  A walk is something that you and your dog can do together and is an opportunity to enhance the bond between you and your canine companion.

Another thing to consider; dogs have 4 legs.  They naturally walk faster than most humans, so of course they are probably going to move faster than us, this is where mutual respect is so important, your dog has to be willing to wait for us slow two legged creatures that they are attached to, and, we have to be willing to enrich their walks in other ways than increased pace.

And, thoughts are great, but practical is always better, so here are some tips.

  • Leash training starts in the home and as you walk out your door.
  • If your dog is dragging you out the front door STOP, and practise walking nicely to the front door, then progress to the front yard, and then when you have got that, progress a little further.
  • Be exciting. Think of why your dog is pulling. Is it because the world is WAY more exciting than you?
  • Talk and interact happily with your dog, praise and reward excitedly when your dog chooses to check in with you by making eye contact.(I believe that this should be something your dog chooses to do naturally, and not something that  should be taught to happen on command – yes, controversial, I know) You should be proud when your dog is making a choice to connect with you. Eye contact is important across the species divide.
  • Shorten your lead. If your pooch is pulling you down the street, you will be amazed what a difference a short lead can make.  As they start to walk calmly, let the lead get longer.  Out in front is not a problem in my opinion, but you will have more control if you start with a shorter lead.
  • Be consistent.  Understand what your goals are for your walks before you go on them. Your dog will understand much better if you have clear goals in mind and a training plan for the walk.
  • You may be walking your dog to help dispel some of their energy.  Active training requires mental and physical energy, so you may not get as far as usual on your walks, but if you are communicating clearly with your dog the whole time then your dog should be happily tired on your return home.

I hope these tips can be of some help to you all struggling with walking your dogs, and remember, if you need some 1:1 help, Formal Dogs trainers are available to come to you and show you some skills to get you and your canine companion walking together as a team.  You can get in touch by clicking here.

Happy Walkies!


Do not call me BALANCED!

Sometime ago, I read an article by a Dr Haug entitled The truth about positive reinforcement” and to start with what she said made a lot of sense, positive reinforcement is an integral part of using operant conditioning to train and teach dogs, I was happily reading away, and then I got to the bit about balanced trainers –  “trainers who still use techniques that involve corrections, or, to give them their accurate scientific label – positive punishments “.

Personally, I don’t like labels, I’ve blogged about that before here.

So, here is what she wrote: (and I quote directly from the article)

“What Positive Reinforcement trainers do avoid is using positive punishment”  –

– I agree, mentally I went “yup, that’s what positive reinformement trainers do, cool”

and then she continued:

hitting, yelling, correcting the dog with a collar, holding the dog down on its back or side, or grabbing the dog by the scruff, etc.  Research over the past several years has shown that dogs trained with such punishment are more likely to misbehave and more likely to show aggression toward their owners.2-4 These interventions are unnecessary, detrimental, and dangerous”. Yup. – who wants to be physically aggressive towards their dog?

And then she goes on to say that balanced trainers should be avoided because of these training methods.  I just wanted to yell STOP (actually, the word I yelled started with F, and rhymes with “duck off”)

In 15 years of training dogs (12 professionally) these are not techniques that I use or condone.  Even as a ‘balanced’ trainer.  Which apparently is the current term for any professional using positive punishments (or corrections) these days.

Anyone who has worked with me will hear me say repeatedly, “don’t get mad at your dog, it is ineffective, and will probably only raise your blood pressure.”

Using all the areas of operant conditioning (positive and negative reinforcement and punishment) is not about being aggressive or violent or physically intimidating with your dog.  It is about using operant conditioning to help your dog learn right from wrong.

So here is what I do do, I apply a training system that has been used and developed for over 20 years here in Victoria, Australia, (The Alpha Canine Group) it has trainers all around the world using it as well as here in Australia, and is currently being used for animal assisted therapy programs. The founders of the system had decades of experience before they developed this system, so they know their stuff.

Personally, I use the system’s principles to work with people and their dogs in their home environment rather than through group or weekly classes.

The system teaches us to use praise and rewards to train our dogs using positive reinforcement (typically praise and pats and love), and condition them to a positive (good dog, followed by a pat, cuddle, play) and a negative (‘no’ and apply a known consequence) A consequence should never be given in anger and it should certainly not ever be violent.

If you are mad at your dog, please go and take a breather.

If you are frustrated or concerned by your dog’s behaviour, please call your dog behaviour specialist to discuss the issues and arrange a consultation.  You can contact me here.

Your dog is trying to live its life in our human world and we need to understand how difficult that must be as well as provide clear and consistent feedback.

Good dog trainers and behaviourists understand that without contrast you have nothing useful to work with.

The positive reinforcement is what does the hard work.  Without it, why would your dog want to work with you?

If you are going to use a training method that uses both positive and negative punishment and reinforcement, make sure there is not just a balance, but that the positives outweigh the negatives at about 5:1. Ensure you have clear and consistent rules and guidelines in your home and out and about, and if your dog is frustrating you with his or her behaviour, find a trainer/behaviourist who you feel understands you and your dog and their needs, and is willing to work with you both and provide support for during and after the initial learning process.

There are no quick fixes in dog training, but an effective learning environment should see change in a short period of time.

Now, back to this article where Dr  Haug goes on to say ˜More importantly, for a dog that is accustomed to being told when it does something right, the absence of feedback actually tells the dog when it has done something wrong!

This also got me a bit frustrated. I am pretty sure that dogs don’t like being ignored, ignoring a dog is often used as a negative punishment. (if you have turned your back and walked away from a dog that has jumped on you, you have used a negative punishment).

I’m sure no one, dogs included, like being ignored. Let’s take inappropriate digging behaviours for example, you are out in your garden and you see your dog digging a hole.

Instead of ignoring the behaviour and allowing it to continue, why not step in and show your dog what is right and wrong using your marker and known consequence and contrast it with  praise and rewards for appropriate behaviour. You and your dog can get back on with hanging out together in the back yard.

If you are teaching your dog effectively, the digging behaviours should decrease and eliminate.

If you are confused about the difference between reinforcement and punishment, you can youtube “operant conditioning”  and find many many explanations, but here is a basic:

A reinforcement is anything that is done with the intent of increasing a behaviour and a punishment is anything that is done with the intent of decreasing a behaviour.Positive means something that is applied to the dog and Negative means something that is taken away.

So, after all that, I think I will stick with calling myself an Independent Dog Trainer/Behaviourist.

Always train with kindness and unconditional positive regard, and if you need help, or have questions, please click here to send an email contact,  or call us on 0438 423 230