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Intro to Leash Training

Have you ever tried to walk a puppy on a leash and have them turn into a jumping bean? Or even a bucking bronco? Have you ever attempted to take a leisurely, joyful stroll only to have your dog constantly pull at the leash? It’s more like they are walking you, right?!

I’ve been there and done that! That’s one big reason I begin training our pups as early as possible to have good eye contact, sit, stay, walk on a leash, and more. Watch this video talking about the prerequisites to leash training.

A well-trained dog is such a pleasure, and walking calmly on a leash is not only wonderful, but it also keeps them and you safe in a variety of possible situations. They need to know how to walk on a leash because he or she will need to go to the vet, the store, or on a hike at some point. Additionally, a well-behaved dog is extremely helpful in an emergency. If ever there was a need to relocate to a shelter for some natural disaster, a dog who can walk on a leash and follow basic commands will be one less stress to worry about and be more likely to be allowed to stay with you.

Safety and disasters aside, dogs generally like and crave boundaries. When you are walking your dog, it’s reassuring to them that you are in charge. When they are unsure, they will step into the role and end up pulling you down the street, acting out towards other dogs or people, or simply sniffing every blade of grass! Yes, you are taking them on a walk for their benefit and enjoyment, but they need to be able to listen. It’s your walk first, then theirs.

Check out this recent video introducing leash training. There are several different types of collars folks use when training their dogs. They include but are certainly not limited to harnesses, slip leashes, martingale collars, expandable collars, and prong collars. Behavior modification collars with sound, vibration, and shock are also an option. The type of collar you use depends on your dog's breed, personality, and your chosen training technique.

While many folks love them, I do not prefer the expandable leashes because the dog controls the walk. I want my dogs next to me rather than running ahead. It’s important to note that I do not keep any of the “training” collars on my dogs throughout the day. They are only used while working or training. Everyday collars that are left on for any length of time should have a quick release or break-away type feature for safety. If your pup’s collar gets stuck or caught on something, it could kill your dog if the collar doesn’t break from the force being put on it. So, the quick release is a good thing in an emergency!

Every single dog is different and can react differently to any given training tool. Dogs with small or thin necks do not need aggressive collars like a prong collar. Typically prong collars tend to be used on large, powerful breeds like Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Mastiffs, or German Shepherds.

On my Aussies, Poodles, and Aussiedoodles, I may use a harness, a slip leash, a martingale collar, or a behavior modification collar, depending on the dog, age, and personality.

For example, Cooper, my upcoming Poodle stud, did not perform well when I used the slip leash. He kept pulling the leash so much he’d choke himself. So, I placed him in a large harness with a handle so he’d be more comfortable, and I’d still have a lot of control.

Use a bigger harness for bigger or rougher dogs and a thinner, smaller harness for smaller dogs or those who listen well.

We want to find and use the least aggressive tools that will still produce results. The bottom line is to assess your dog and use what will work best, giving you control while still being comfortable for the dog.

Click here to watch Cooper’s first dry run in the harness with a short leash. I keep him on one side -- my strong side. I’ll keep repeating this drill over the next few days until he gets it. Notice that when he gets too feisty with jumping, I’ll stop, which makes him stop and see what’s going on. This is what I call a reset.

In this video, Cedar is walking with me while on a slip leash. Notice she’ll walk near me on the leash, with the leash relaxed. If I gently tug on the leash, she’ll come back to me (heel in place) and sit next to me. This allows us to reset and start again.

Cedar is also trained with a behavior modification collar equipped with sound, shock, and vibration. These types of collars are my preferred training tool. Cedar only needs sound. If I beep it, she’ll reset. No tugging is needed.

In the video, you’ll see how Cedar runs next to me off-leash. If I stop, she’ll turn around and heel back to me and sit, awaiting her next cue.

Watch Marcie walking Cooper on a harness. Notice how Cooper gets excited when Marcie celebrates with him too soon. Wait to give praises until the dog is finished with his task or job. We want to keep him in a work mode. We are following this format: Heel. Stop. Sit. Notice that eye contact at the end! Good job, guys!

Click here to see Cooper walking with a martingale collar. Now that we’ve been working with him, he’s more eager to please, he’s staying close, too close really. He doesn’t need to stick that tightly to my legs, but he’s making fabulous progress! Cedar is setting a great example for him to model.

Training a puppy or dog is a journey that will take time, patience, and consistency, but it’s very rewarding and builds an amazing bond between you and your beloved pup. Let us know what methods and tools work best for you!

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