K.I.S.S. Dog Training - Mike & Dogs
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Thursday, Dec. 15th 2011

My dog pulls on the Leash…So What Do I Do Now???

Several months ago (or maybe longerJ) I wrote an article on “Why Dogs Pull on the Leash.” And while it was well received, I left those who were already having issues with dogs that pulled on their leash to wait for the next article for help. Well, after several reminders via email (thank you to the readers!) I have finally gotten around to writing it. So let’s get started!

OK, we know your dog pulls, but let’s delve a little deeper. What is the reward for your dog when he pulls? Honestly, he figures that the fastest way to get from point A to point B is…well to drag you along J There is no dominance, thinking your dog is trying to take over the world or any other is just plain silly. It is just the fact that Fido (and you) are here and he wants to go there. So guess what, you are going along for a ride (or drag!) After all, you are connected by this goofy rope thing aren’t you? Put simply, your dog has never been taught to pay more attention to you than to his environment; and at this point there is a lot of cool stuff in the world Fido wants to see, so get ready for the ride.
First, ask yourself one very important question, “What reward does Fido get from being on a walk”? Think hard, because the answer is irritatingly simple. It is the walk itself. The reward your dog gets from going on the walk is actually the walk. Now the next question with another irritating answer (I promise there is a point to all of thisJ) “If Fido is inappropriate on a walk, what action do we take?” We already know dogs only do what is rewarding right? If the walk is the reward and the unwanted behavior is pulling, what is it that we must do before anything else? That’s right, we must stop walking! If Fido is not walking correctly then the walk must stop. This is the easiest technique to use to stop a dog from pulling, but we can’t forget the other side of this equation…if we don’t want him pulling and we stop every time he does pull, do we have any idea just what it is we want Fido to do???? Without this answer, it’s going to be pretty darn hard to get any level of reliability when walking without pulling.
My suggestion is simple; we want Fido to pay attention to us on the walks instead of all the other crap he has been paying attention to previously. I know this may sound simple (solutions usually are!) but a dog that is paying attention to his/her owner is not pulling, it is basic physics. We now know how to let Fido know you don’t like his pulling, by stopping the walk, and we know what it is we want Fido to do on a walk, to pay attention to us, but just how do we accomplish that?
First off, let’s start with the command Watch Me. This command is simple when you point to your nose… Fido looks you in the eye and is rewarded for that contact (check out the blog for the ‘how to’ of Watch Me). Once you have a good Watch Me, throw Fido a curve ball, turn your back on him and wait. In a matter of moments Fido will come around and look at you with out you having to ask! Jackpot time, give him a nice big reward and turn around again. Before too long this becomes a game and you are on your way to having a dog that is paying attention to you. Oh, and by the way, at this point in the game we should not even have Fido on leash.
As Fido gets better at this, the game will become boring and once again it’s time for the curveball. Now, instead of just turning your back, take 1 giant step away from Fido and wait. Yep, he will still come around front and look at you, but this time looking at you is not good enough. Patience… just keep waiting. If you have taught your dog that all the good stuff in life come after he/she sits (say please), then before you know it Fido is going to sit in front of you! The important part is not asking for the sit but waiting till you get it. We are teaching Fido that whenever we stop he must come around in front of us and sit and wait for further instructions. Now I am sure you have figured out that the next step is simply more starts and stops until the behavior of front and sit are reliable at least 85% of the time! (Come on no one is 100% at anythingJ) So start moving in all directions and with different numbers of steps, until every time you stop, no matter where you are, you are getting a front facing sit. Once that accomplished, it is time to back-track to the Watch Me game; only this time with a leash and while increasing number of steps and varying directions, while still getting the front facing sit.
Are you ready to take this act on the road? You’ve been in the low distraction environment of your living room up to now. So what is the secret to successfully loose leash walk with your dog? Guess what? It’s simply paying attention. Too many people check out while walking their dogs, they get bored and then the pulling begins. So begin immediately where every 50 to 75 feet you stop and practice the front facing sit! If you want to get really crazy, start practicing all your commands on your walk. 50 feet sit, 75 feet down, 50 feet front facing sit, and so on. One last thing…I want you rewarding the dog for correct decisions and paying attention, so take treats on the walk. After all, you are expecting Fido to consider you more rewarding than the sights, sounds and smells of the walk, so give him a reason! J
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