Leash training

Loose-leash dog training: the best way to train your dog – Part 3

Walking toward a goal

On any walking route, certain places are especially attractive to dogs. When dogs near those places, their excitement increases and the urge to pull is strong. You can use those places both as walking goals and training rewards.

Start toward the attractive goal, such as a bush or clump of grass where all the neighborhood dogs leave “pee-mail”. As soon as your dog starts to pull, stop walking. Stand still one second so the dog is fully stopped, too, then turn around and neutrally (non-grouchily) walk your dog five paces farther from the goal. Remember that spot, because that will be your starting line for this training session.

Stand there for a second, then start walking toward the goal again and repeat the lesson. The instant you feel leash tightness, stop walking, pause for one second, then retreat to the start line again. After that happens a few times, your dog will figure out how this game operates, and will be able to take a couple of steps closer to the goal each time. When you finally reach the goal, encourage your dog to sniff, and give it a few minutes to enjoy that spot.

Be unpredictable

Sometimes the Stop-N-Go method (or Tree Method) doesn’t always work on every dog at first because your pooch may not be paying attention. This happened to me personally with my third puppy. At first I tried the Stop-N-Go technique. Although I found this method worked well for my other two dogs when they were puppies, it had little effect on my larger, more energetic Retriever.

Looking for a workable method, I reasoned that if I wanted my dog to pay attention to what I was trying to teach it, then he should behave in an interesting way. This is when I came up with the crazy walk, so to speak.

This is best done in an open space, not a narrow sidewalk. The crazy walk is erratic. I would take one step straight ahead, one 45 degrees to the left, one backward, two straight ahead, one side-step to the right, and so on.

At the same time, I also varied the length of my steps and the time interval between them. When the dog is sufficiently puzzled that it starts paying constant attention, I gradually start increasing the number of steps straight ahead. Eventually, the side and backward steps are eliminated.

It may take several weeks of training the crazy walk for your dog to learn that pulling doesn’t get it where it wants to go. After it’s learned to not pull, your puppy may still become excited at times and resume pulling. Use the crazy walk at these times to remind your puppy that it needs to pay attention to you, instead of pulling.