Thursday, April 9, 2009

Training Tools - Leash

It's been a long time since I've posted a Training Tools entry. The last one was about the Prong Collar on December 6. Since it has been so long, I thought I'd remind everyone that Training Tools are just that - a means or "tool" to help you help you teach your dog how to obtain the ultimate goal ... Freedom. You need to train your dog so that you can trust exactly what it will do in any situation. So, today I thought I'd blog about the Leash.

The leash is something that a lot of people forget to consider as a "Tool". They see it as a necessity and something they use every day, but not as a stepping stone to further their dog's education.

The leash is just that. A tool. You use it to train your dog how you would like them to walk with you. You should use your daily walks as an opportunity to teach. It's not only a time for Fido to use the "facilities" so to speak and burn off a bit of energy. What a great opportunity that so many people pass by without blinking.

Why is this so difficult for most dog owners out there?? The first thing you do is teach them to walk with a loose leash. When you have that, you teach them how to Heel. When they can do both these things without you holding on to the leash, you remove the leash and teach them how to do the same exercise without a leash.

The best advice I have ever heard regarding teaching a Heel was this; Talk to your dog! If you were walking with a person and they never spoke to you, how boring would that be? Or how would it feel if they only spoke when you did something wrong?

In my opinion you shouldn't need a leash to walk your dog. Your dog should want to walk with you. I don't mean tearing around off leash and recalling when you call - that's a different and equally important behaviour. I mean properly walking with you as though the leash really were there even if it's not.

As is the case with all training tools, the leash is only a tool and another step towards the ultimate gift an owner can give a dog - Freedom.


GoLightly said...

Yeah, we're still working on that:)

Flip, never having had any "short" leash training, that I was insane. (still does:)
Previous owner said she was great on a flexi-leash. Yeah, great at pulling.
Blaze is great, but I do slack off on working them both on leash.
That's the OnlY trouble with having lots of room to run.
Why leash me? says Flip.
"I said so" doesn't always strike her as relevant.
Work in progress:)
Thanks for the reminder.
have a Happy Easter:)

Splash said...

Ha, good post.

I had a discussion with a "I'm a positive training only" person a few months ago. She claimed she NEVER uses positive punishment.

I pointed to her dog pulling on the leash/head halter combo, and asked, well, what is that?

Leashes and all types of collars are useful tools. One tool does not work in all situations. It is important to connect with the dog and the dog's owner and discover what produces the greatest good for them. It should never be about labels like P+, P-, Milan-ite, etc.

Of course, you could accuse me of being an "old timer" and therefore irrelevant, and you would be right. I've been training with a clicker since 1986, when I heard Karen Pryor speak at our little trainer's conference (now know as APDT and a little bigger).

But, I use a leash. I use limited slip collars. I use pinch collars. I use no leash at all. I use a clicker. I use my voice. I use treats, toys, tugs, and sometimes, I use the word NO.

With my hunting Lab, I used a Tritronics collar. (Yikes you say!). I simply could not figure out how to reward him when he was 300 ft away running through water. He would never hear a clicker, and he deserved praise, and those collars have that handy praise tone button on I said, they are all just tools, it only depends on how you use them.

Okay, go ahead and P+ me. ;)

Sully said...


My Charlie has been walking on a leash for me without any issues for 4-5 months. Today I took him to the vets office and he really really acted insane. I would have thought he had never been on a leash if I hadn't see it myself.

I have much more work to do. I did get a workout today though.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

GoLightly - I think learning is a lifelong process for both humans and dogs. They will get it, but it takes time. The flexi-leash ... ah ... if ever there was a tool that people use wrong. Great idea ... dumb people ruin it.

Splash - good points. I have found many people don't understand the difference between

- positive reinforcement
- negative reinforcement
- positive punishment
- negative punishment

I try not to use those words because I usually end up confusing people, though sometimes they do slip out. It frustrates me when people start spewing comments like the one you describe about that trainer and they really have no clue what they are talking about. That just tells me that they found a good word and so they use it.

The tools in and of themselves aren't bad to use. However, I think they should be stepping stones that the handler uses to get to the next step in training. It bothers me to no end when I see a dog who has been using a halti for 2+ years (but has never even been on a flat).

Sully - were you just in for a visit to the vet clinic or were you in for an appointment? I found that changes in environments as dramatic as a clinic sometimes will backslide training a bit.

The sights, sounds, and smells that bombard a dog's senses when they walk into a vet clinic are awfully overwhelming. I expect all dogs to need training just to be in a clinic (assuming the problem is not that the dog hates the vet, of course). Sometimes the floor is odd under their feet too if they are not used to whatever was used for the floor.

I take all my dogs into the clinic for some yummy cookies and play time. We go for a visit and bring cookies for the techs and vets to feed. Believe it or not, most are happy to see their clients come in for short visits.

Sully said...

I was dropping Charlie and Duke off to be fixed. It was just drop off and Charlie was too excited. Hindsight tells me I probably should have walked him this morning before we went to the vet's office.

I will definitely be working more with Charlie. I need to find him a new treat and only use it when other dogs are around. I am thinking tiny bits of hot dog may be the trick for him. I want him to see other dogs and think OOHHHH HOT DOGS!!! and then look at me. I think he is silly enough to learn this quickly for me.

GoLightly said...

"Flip, never having had any "short" leash training, thought that I was insane. (still does:)"

Sorry, I thought that word, why didn't I type that word??

Both my dogs drag me into the vets office, only place I really let them do it.
My vets love my dogs.
Flip goes to her happy place, whenever they do anything to her. It's so cute. Nails, anals, shots, all while Flip is in "bliss" mode. She knows those jerky bits are coming.

Blaze needs a good walk before she goes to the vet, still. Before she was fixed, I took her into the clinic several times, just to keep it a happy place.. She gets very wiggly, without a walk. I found that out last time we went, but this time was fine,because we walked first..

Blaze happy placed, too:)

Hey, Splash, anyone who got to listen to Karen Pryor is a lucky trainer. I've only read her. She's Amazing.
All tools are best left to those who know how to use them:)
You sound just great.
I'm not coordinated enough for a clicker:(
Sounds cool, being able to reward at a distance. Blaze likes to do an LonG outrun with FrisBee,it would be nice if she could hear me praise her!

Splash said...


for my "extra extra special" treats, I use a variety, try all these and see which one you and your dog like:

beef heart (boil then microwave and freeze)
string cheese
tuna brownies (smell bad but dogs go nuts for them)
cat food samples

For each dog, try all of these and anything else you have got. Keep a log of your dogs reaction to each, then create a list of reinforcers by level of motivation. Include EVERYTHING reinforcing on the list: food, toys, cuddles, play. This list will really help you out when your training plan calls for increased difficulty, whether it be increased distance, time, or distraction.

Lacy said...

w00f's, ok, i am trying to start training Rocky...1st 2 years of his life i have no idea what he did...and i should have started when we got him in march of last year..he is kinda backwards..he lays instead of sits...cant git him to do that for anything..he's doing pretty good for just doing it for 2 days now..he can lay on his side when i tell him to roll over..and leash, hes like a wild animal...runs from place to place dragging me behind..any tips..

b safe,
~mama for rocky~

Sully said...

Charlie is obsessed with me. I can say his name and he is looking lovingly into my eyes. A little chest scratch and he is in HEAVEN. Once treats come into the picture you can't shake him off you. Puppy good (dry kibble) motivates him so a mix off really yummy stuff should really do the trick.

I don't think I can handle: beef heart (boil then microwave and freeze) *BLECK*

What is this???? tuna brownies (smell bad but dogs go nuts for them)

Splash said...

the tuna brownies are way worse than the beef heart. Trust me. But here is the recipe for the brownies. Gets food-motivated dogs into a frenzy.

Tuna brownie recipe (kinda gross but we are not dogs after all)

Sully said...

I will definitely give the tuna brownies a try. Mom's dog is NOT food motivated with any of the treats she has tried. Maybe these will do the trick.

Dog_geek said...

Really, the only place that my dogs are off-leash are places where they can race around and be recalled when needed - and that is about 90% of our lives. I don't have a need for them to heel off-leash except for in the competition ring. If we are somewhere that it is not safe for them to run around, then they are on-leash - why take chances? I always cringe when I see people walking their dogs off-leash next to a busy road. No matter how well trained, I wouldn't want to bet my dogs' lives on them not chasing that squirrel that just dashed across our paths and into the road. (Plus there are leash laws to think about.)

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Hey all - there are some really great comments on here! I will try to respond to most, if not all.

Splash - great advice. Thanks for posting! I like to use the extra pieces off our roasts (until they are all gone). I have also found that home made dog cookies are a real hit - probably the smell is stronger. I'd like to try the tuna brownies - I made a cat treat that was similar and it went over pretty well (with both canine and feline companions).

Sully - I agree with Splash regarding the different types of rewards. You need to use different rewards so your dogs don't get bored. Otherwise, you find that a treat that used to work really well is no longer effective. Knowing which will work well in each scenario is helpful too.

GoLightly - Mine also go into an excited state when they get to the clinic. I like the comments about the "happy place" ... I'm trying to think of a time when my guys go into their happy place and am coming up blank right now (could it be because it is morning and I'm only 1/3 through my first coffee??)

Lacy - Perhaps you have been working with other behaviours for the last year? Like manners? They are equally important. The only problem is that the dog has time to develop bad behaviours regarding obedience. I didn't start working with our "rescue" retriever until over a year after we got him. The first year and a half or so were simply manners.

Have you considered enrolling Rocky into a basic obedience class? If you want to build up Rocky's abilities, you should ensure you have a solid foundation first. You will have to be "tough" with him ... what I mean by that is if you tell him to sit, you don't give him that cookie until he sits. No Down, no sit-pretty/up, no rollover. Only a sit (if that's what you asked for).

I read a while back that you should give your dog 45 seconds to figure out what you are asking before correcting. This is because you need to give them time to think ... I tried it out about a year ago with great success. Now I give a command, and then count to 30 (I figure if I count slowly to 30, that should be around 45 seconds ... like my logic?). Most of the time, the dog figures it out - then you can see that they are so very proud of themselves. This is where the clicker comes in nicely because you can "mark" the behaviour and it makes them think. You don't have to use a click - a simple "good dog" would do the trick, just not as well.

Dog_Geek - good point. If you manage your environment in this way and it works for you - then that's what is important. As always, it is up to the owner what they choose to train. I find if they can heel without me having to worry about them, then I can focus on other things and the bond between me and my dogs grows tremendously stronger (which is why I feel it important that the dogs know how to do this). I find it is so nice to be walking out to the barns and have my wild-child dog come over and heel beside me half the way bouncing against my hand for a 'pat' - makes ya feel all warm and fuzzy.

There was a comment on an earlier post about country neighbours leaving poison out for foxes and some concern about pet dogs finding and eating this (such as in the form of spoiled meat). Many dogs I have met will eat the food, then recall (so their recall is around a 1-2 minute delay). I have found that after working with the dogs and teaching them to heel off leash, they are easier to recall and food refusal is easier to teach.

Anonymous said...

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Clinical studies conducted by the College of Veterinary medicine of Cornell University have proven that Spray Bark Collars are TWICE as effective as shock collars! Sonic dog barking collars are virtually ineffective compared to spray.