These are the first steps to having a dog that will walk on a loose leash. We will be using a Martingale collar for this exercise. I recommend fitting this collar and adjusting maybe 15 – 20 minutes before the exercise. If you want to make a cool recation fit collar, feed, remove collar – feed.
You wil also need a long line, I persoanlly use a Flexi Leash but you can use a long line with a little more fiddling.
You should have also completed a few repeitions of the Clicker Training program so that when your pup hears a click, he or she looks for food.
Have the collar already fitted to the pup, I use a martingale collar because it will not sip over the head. If the collar slips over your dogs head when you first try this the dog will attempt to get the collar off every time the leash goes tight. So choose a martingale and fit it snug.
Have your food and clicker at the ready and attach a long line to your pup.
Don’t pick up the long line as yet as we are not ready and also don’t allow your pup to know just yet you have food.
Next make sure you have enough space around you so as you can have the pup move at least 2 metres away from you.
Start, by showing the pup food and throwing the food about 2 – 3 metres away whilst the pup is watching.
We want our puppy to go after the food and as it does allow the long line to slide through your hands, slowly increasing your grip pulling the pup to a stop about half a metre from the food.
This is where some line handling is needed, you should not abruptly stop the pup with the line, this will just be felt as a correction and shut the pup down. You should slowly bring the pup to a halt. This should trigger Opposition Reflex and the pup should increase its drive for the food.
You will now see one of the behaviours I mentioned, and it is time to let them ride out by just keeping the line held with the same tension.
What will likely happen after a few seconds is that the pup will freeze and it may come to you after that or it may start fighting the leash again.
In my experience if the pup first fought the lead with a lot of intensity, it is wise to click the pup as soon as it stops and stabilses. This should cause the pup to run to you for a treat if your have Clicker Conditioned your pup as per this article.
Once he or she does, give them a food reward and then stand up and go quiet. I hope that your pup remembers the food on the floor and makes its way toward it again only for the line to go tight again. You need to repeat clicking the moment when your dog switches off the fight of the leash so that you have difficulty getting the leash tight because a tight leash has become a cue for the click, not Opposition Reflex.
You should not do this on a harness because much of our future training will benefit from a dog that will pull hard into a harness.
Once you have a dog that responds this way, you need to change the element of value from food to a rolling ball to a person calling your pup to perhaps another family member opening the door.
The more you reinforce the dog NOT pulling on the harness the less you will have a dog that pulls on the leash. Whilst some do not mind a dog that pulls on the leash it really is the bases of some very problematic behaviours. As a start a dog pulling on the leash is constantly reminded that you (the handler) are robbing the dog of the reward (whatever the dog is pulling toward) by either delaying or prohibiting access.
Most dog aggressive dogs are leash pullers.
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The idea of this part of the program is to attach a leash or long line to your dogs neck collar. To date we have been using the harness but now we should have some reward power and some marker power built up and are ready to now teach the puppy to switch off Opposition Reflex when the collar becomes tight.
So you know, the most common behaviour a puppy will show when you put a leash to a collar is to fight the leash, I have seen pups death roll like a Crocodile, pull, rare, buck and scream. We will be aiming to minimize these and teach the puppy the right way.
I personally like to use a clicker for this work, it has very clear communication and it also gives the puppy the impression that it can make something happen with the environment rather than meeting my needs. When a leash is attached to the collar you will just about always see the behaviours or a version of them, this is called Opposition Reflex created conflict. As I want to avoid any conflict with my [pup I choose the clicker here to make it not about me and my needs but about the clicker, an impersonal device.
You absolutely can use verbal markers but remember why I chose the clicker.