Easy walking; helping your dog not to pull, (c) 2012-2016 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved
Videos I posted on how to walk a dog and helping your dog not to pull on leash received a lot of attention, comments and questions—we all want to do this the right way for our dogs. Good for them (and for us). Here’s more on the theory and technique as an answer to one of the questions received:
Frania, I watched the video and only wish that my 4 year old, black, solidly built 37 pound Cocker Spaniel was as docile on leash. I think he has some field spaniel in his bloodline as he's bigger than any other Cocker's I've seen. He's stubborn, meanders, pulls, doubles back and will spend 15 minutes smelling a blade of grass. If I'm not paying attention, he'll pull my arm out of the socket if a squirrel runs by !! :-) Other than that, he's affectionate, playful and a good dog without a mean bone in his body. Any ideas ?
Ahh, do not be deceived, Daisy is very much the ever-eager-to-experience-the-world-now spaniel dog as well. We have just been working on how to train dog manners to human liking longer. Your spaniel is interested in spaniel dog preoccupations, how very dog like. Dogs pull mostly because they've got four legs and can get to where they want to go way before we do. And taking a sniff around and chasing squirrels are where they want to go. I remember something Ian Dunbar once wrote about pulling that I think works here. Dunbar talks about making an agreement with his dogs that they could sniff as long as they like as long as they did not pull him to do it--fabulous, allowing for a companion dog's natural behaviors and desires and ours in the same sentence.
That sniffing is so very important to your dog--just think of how much they have traded off in their co-evolutionary processes with us including all that eye-to-eye visual communication which is how we mainly process information as opposed to how they mainly process information, through smell. That blade of grass means the world in those 15 minutes to your spaniel and the squirrel? Divine fun to run after a prey animal; not the Wall Street Journal or the internet but then again those appeal mostly to humans.
On to my ideas; work on being more in tune with what you want from each other and when you want it. This is training, communicating to your dog what you expect from them in a way they can understand, tempered with humane consideration which allows for their wants and needs.
Please avoid equipment that controls through pain to communicate a need to a dog. Shock collars, choke collars, prong collars and head halters all fit here. They will control a dog from pulling by electric shock, constricting the neck, applying direct pressure with small painful points or apply uncomfortable pressure to the highly sensitive eye and muzzle area and severely inhibit natural behaviors. Prove this to yourself; watch the next dog you see walking on a head halter and notice the subdued, cowed demeanor (for more on head halters please see Suzanne Clothier’s excellent piece) or the dog pulling on a prong because the pain and inevitable physical damage being done to the neck and back is now the price of being able to go forward. So much more sense to stop the pulling as a handler from your technique on the other end of the leash.
To develop and work on an easy-walking-no-pulling technique start on walking in the house. Remember to consider the dog in this; talk to your dog to engage their attention and show your interest in them. If you have done any work on heeling this is a good time to practice in five minute increments. (Keep your training to five minutes or so. You are more likely to do it if you break it down into easy to accomplish segments time wise.) Practice the red light green light technique here and add plenty of verbal praise at a green light (your dog will be better able to key in on the verbal at home without outside distractions). After some calm and easy walking sessions you can also try attaching a lead to your belt at home so the dog is attached to you and you to him and you can both get used to moving well together. The lead should be long enough to allow the dog to lie down comfortably next to you and short enough so that you are aware of the dog‘s movements
Remember to always set your dog up for success by asking for what you want first and allowing for a response. For instance, if you want to get up from your desk let your dog know where you are both going. Say “Rover, let’s go get a drink of water” and wait for Rover to respond. Rover may not know what each word means but he probably knows “let’s go” and he definitely knows what your body language is for “let’s go”.
OK, so now that you have worked on paying better attention to each other and walking at home try it outside. Start practicing your red light green light technique at the beginning of your walk before you get too close to the highlights of the walk. (No fair to practice this if your dog needs to relieve himself so pay attention to body posture and let that happen without correction.) When you approach what is attractive and prompts that sniffing try and see it before your dog does, keeping proactive and setting him up for success by releasing him from the training session before the pulling temptation presents itself.
Do let him sniff that grass forever; it’s so much what the walk is for (see more). When the squirrel runs by give him the way not to run after it by seeing it before he does and call his name to get his attention and move off in the opposite direction (you can also try circling him to get him going in a different direction but make sure this a smooth and fluid movement without jerking or pulling on him). Keep making sure you are talking to him at all times, again, this will ensure that you are engaged in what he is doing and will keep him aware of you.
All this is to say that this is about training; which takes much time, communication, consideration, practice and effort on our part to get those four footed dog bodies which go much faster than our own to move with us.
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Dogs pull mostly because they've got four legs and can get to where they want to go way before we do. And taking a sniff around and chasing squirrels are where they want to go".
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copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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