Milo's Dog Training

Dog training in Hampshire, Surrey & Berkshire


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First Step to Stopping Your Dog Pulling On The Lead

Earlier this week I wrote about common mistakes that owners make when using a leash.  Avoiding these mistakes will make your dog less likely to pull on his leash and will help to reduce existing leash pulling.  Puppies are especially prone to pulling, because of their high energy and curiosity.  Moreover, when a puppy is small and cannot pull hard enough to bother anyone, his leash pulling is more likely to be neglected.  Only later, when the dog becomes stronger and heavier, the owners usually ask for help.

So now that we know what not to do, let’s talk about teaching the dog not to pull the leash.  One of the best techniques is described in “My Dog Pulls, What Do I Do?” by Turid Rugaas.  I tend to stick to this method, because it can be modified for each individual case and works reliably.  The technique is built on the discovery approach.  I strongly suggest that you read this book, if your dog is pulling a lot.  I will outline my version of this technique.

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Lead Pulling: Common Mistakes

Does your dog walk you? Lead pulling is one of the most frustrating dog behaviours. Unfortunately, our natural response only makes it worse. In fact, there are several mistakes that I often see:

1. Following the dog. Naturally, if the dog gets what he wants (e.g., to sniff that tree) when pulling on the lead, this behaviour is rewarded and the dog is likely to do it again.

2. Pulling the lead in the opposite direction. This may not make things worse, but it is definitely a waste of energy. Dogs are very stubborn and can tolerate quite a lot of pain. The more you pull, the less your dog cares about it. You might be able to overpower the dog, but it won’t teach him anything.

3. Jerking the lead. This can definitely worsen your dog’s lead skills. In order to jerk the lead, you need to loosen it first. Therefore, your dog will receive negative experience right after it felt the lead  loosen. This may teach the dog to avoid a loose lead, hence the dog will pull.

4. Choke chains, pinch collars etc. This is the worst of all. I sincerely hope that none of my readers have ever used or considered them. Besides being cruel, these devices are useless to say the least, and often dangerous. These collars are useless for training for the same reason that pulling the lead is: dogs are tolerant to pain. Choke chains and pinch collars can and often do provoke aggression. Dogs often pull the lead when they see other dogs,  and they can potentially learn to associate the negative sensation from these collars with other dogs.

The least you can do is to stop making these four mistakes, and your dog’s lead skills may improve or, at least, stop getting worse.


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The Foundation: “Look at me”

 

Let’s continue with the foundation series. We have been working on the dog training basics and tried exercises that teach dogs the basic behaviours needed for more advanced training:

1. “Touch” (also called targeting), which teaches the dog to follow owner’s hand

2. “Eye contact”, which teaches the dog to focus on the owner instead of a distraction

The last foundation exercise is “Look at me”. It comes handy, when you need to get the dog’s attention quickly and when teaching a dog to walk on a leash without pulling. Essentially, it is a proactive variation of “Eye contact”: you don’t wait till the dog looks at you, but rather teach it to turn to you on a cue. You can use any sound, that is loud enough to use outdoors. I prefer to use a kiss sound, some people whistle or click their tongue. As usual, start in a quiet environment and gradually increase the amount of distractions.

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The Foundation: “Touch”

A dog’s ability to focus on the owner/handler is the foundation of successful dog training process. The dog should be able to keep its attention on you and must always expect guidance from you. This week we will be practicing a few simple exercises designed to teach the dog to focus on you and to improve your clicker training skills. In addition, it will accustom you and your dog to the regular dog training sessions. For those of you, who are not yet familiar with clicker training, I will outline the basics tomorrow. In the meantime, I will suggest modifications to the dog training exercises, that will allow you and your dog to benefit from dog training regardless of whether you use a clicker or not.
Before you begin, make sure you have enough treats, a clicker (optional) and as little distraction as possible around you. It is always better to start training at home.

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