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Loose-Leash Training: The Most Effective Way To Train Your Dog (Part 1)
Dogs like to explore scents, sounds and sights, and tend to pursue those interests with enthusiasm even when that means towing a human behind! While your pup is young and small, leash pulling might not bother you, but the habit will grow as your dog matures.
If adults of your pup's breed are large and powerful, you'd better fix its pulling habit early. Even if the breed is small, habitual pulling against the collar concentrates uncomfortable pressure on the dog's throat. This causes gasping and wheezing, and can even collapse a dog's airway and cause permanent damage.
The good news is, teaching your dog to walk nicely on a loose leash isn't difficult if you know a few tricks. Old-style training for loose-leash walking was based on jerking the dog's collar with varying degrees of force. But yanking a dog around by the neck can hurt it, and can also injure your shoulders, elbows, neck or back.
Fortunately, you can teach polite leash manners without having to jerk the leash. A number of gentle, positive techniques for teaching loose-leash walking have been proven to work when consistently applied.
Starting Out Right
Believe it or not, most dogs pull on the leash because their owners inadvertently train them to. When trying to control their dogs, many people keep the leash short and tight. Without realizing it, they're teaching the dog to pull by habituating him to constant tension on the collar.
Instead of discouraging pulling, the taut lead makes tightness the standard for how a leash works. Therefore, keeping a tight leash won't teach a dog to walk on a loose leash. Instead of letting your pup form bad habits, direct its behavior toward good habits.
Important Tip: About Leashes & Long Lines
Several types of leashes can be used for training loose-leash walking:
- 6 foot leash: This can be used either shortened or full-length, and is long enough to tie to your belt for hands-free walking.
- 4 foot leash: This is similar to the 6 foot leash but less versatile
- 10 to 30 foot long line: Your dog can learn to walk without pulling on any length lead. The long line allows safe control while giving the dog freedom to explore.
- Retractable lead: These are handy, but they're operated by the dog pulling. Retractable leads directly reinforce (reward) pulling on the leash. This counters what you're trying to teach.
BONUS : Loose-Leash Training: The Most Effective Way To Train Your Dog (Part 2)
When you put a leash on your puppy, can you go for a pleasant walk around the block, or is it more of a drag? Walks do not have to turn into a tug-of-war with your puppy. Train your little friend loose-leash skills by using these expert techniques.
Polite Vs. Free Walk
The reason loose-leash walking is so difficult for the average dog owner to master is because they don't understand the absolute necessity of 100 percent consistency. When you're busy or distracted, it's too easy to forget and just let the dog pull. These intermittent lapses cause training setbacks because they reinforce pulling. If the dog discovers that pulling works some of the time, it will keep testing to see if it works every time.
Dogs that have an established pulling habit often start lunging ahead as soon as you clip the leash on. To retrain dedicated pullers that start out unable to take more than one step without lunging would require super-human patience and pre-planning for every outing. It's especially difficult for people who don't have a fenced yard and must walk the dog several times a day.
For dogs like this, it's best that the owner use two different sets of equipment one for training polite walking, and one for just controlling the dog when you're too rushed or tired to train. Use a flat buckle collar for training, and a no-pull harness or head halter for free walking - when you don't have time to train.
When the free-walking equipment is used, the dog is allowed to walk the same way it's always walked, but when you use the training equipment, you must be 100 percent consistent about not allowing pulling. The dog must not even get 1 inch closer to whatever it's pulling toward. As the dog gets better on the flat collar, the free-walking equipment eventually won't be needed.
The Simplest & Quickest Technique Ever Created
This is one of the most popular positive methods for teaching polite leash walking. It's especially good with puppies just learning to walk on-leash. It's simple, but you must be consistent. It's called the Stop-n-Go, or the Tree Method, and here's how it works:
Whenever the dog puts tension on the leash, you must stop and stand still. When it quits pulling, you walk again. That's it! Simple, isn't it? The dog is rewarded for walking on a loose leash when you walk forward again. This method teaches the dog that pulling on the leash doesn't work. It takes longer to get anywhere when the puppy tries to hurry you by pulling.