Leash Training For Dog Obedience
The leash is our tool for marking mistakes or inappropriate behaviors.
Using the leash properly is probably one of the most important aspects for proper behavioral control. A tight leash leads to aggressive behaviors. Aggressive behaviors include pulling or lunging on the leash, growling, barking, and biting. If we were teaching aggression training a tight pulling leash is the skill involved, but that is another class.
In obedience though, we need the dog to restrain themselves. This can only be done by giving your dog the proper feeback during the exercise.
There are three general directions in which the leash should be used; to the right, to the left, and in an upward direction. The leash should be held low near and below your waist.
The first step is to practice without your dog on the leash.
Take out your 6 foot leash. Place the lock side of the lead on the ground and hold with the left foot. Slip the thumb of the right hand into the loop of the six-foot lead, holding you right arm next to your side with your palm facing up, then loop again so that the lead falls loosely next to your leg on the right-hand side.
Swing your right arm out to the right side and feel the strike under your left foot where you are holding the snap. You should not be pulling in any way. Much like a rubber ball bounces off the ground when dropped your right hand should strike the tension on the leash and bounce back ready to repeat. The skill involves swinging the lower half of your arm while using a elbow striking motion to impact into a quick abrupt bump onto the leash.
Then repeat the same move with your left hand. Swinging to the left side, quickly and bouncing back to the starting point.
Then back to the right hand and swing in an upward direction. Again in a very swift, quick striking motion.
You should learn to control the impact of the leash so you can learn to guage the desired result. Practice without your dog on the leash so you can feel comfortable with the motion. It should feel natural and relaxed.
Another way to hold the leash is to use both hands. Place your elbows by your side, bring your hands up to about waist level, palms facing each other. Grap the leash with the right hand above the left hand touching each other. Keep you elbows by your side as you swing the leash to the left, quickly. Then without moving your hands swing to the left, quickly. Again keeping your hands together tug in the upward direction, quickly.
Practice until these skills feel natural and comfortable and you are in control of the level of impact.
The next tool we need to consider when working with your dog is the training collar. There are several different styles available, the choice is both yours and your dogs'. We need a collar that when appling techniques you just learn with the leash, your dog turns to look at you or gives you attentiuon. Like giving a tap on the shoulder of a friend to get their attention.
The choices availible include the flat collar (nylon, leather, or cotton), slip collar (nylon or chain), pinch collar (prong or link), and head collars (Halti or Gentle Leader).
If you find that you are using the leash techniques and your dog refuses to pay attention to you even when you give a firm strike, you need to try another style of training collar. I will usually try each collar one at a time until I find the style the works best for the dog I am working with.
Your dog's training collar should be worn up high on the neck just behind the ears. This includes all styles of neck collars. If the collar slips down near the shoulders, readjust it back up behind the ears. The head collars should be snug enough to ensure dog your dog is unable to remove it. The flat collar should be snug enough to allow only two fingers under it. The slip collars, when pulled snug, should allow 2-3 inches of slack. The pinch collar should have only enough links to allow a snug fit without being able to spin on the neck. Again snug allows for only two fingers under the collar. If you are using a slip collar, there are two ways to wear these collars. When facing your dog the collar can either looks like the letter "P" or like the number "9". Boths ways are correct but each way delevers a different level of correction. When worn in the "9" position the force is distributed around your dogs entire neck allowing for a softer level of force. When worn in the "P" position the level of force is slightly higher because the impact is focused under your dog's neck at the throat.
Holding the leash
Place the lock side of the lead on the ground and hold with the left foot. Slip the thumb of the right hand into the loop of the six-foot lead then loop again so that the lead falls loosely next to your leg on the right-hand side.
Another way to hold the leash is to loop it around both hands.
Practice a quick pull and release (tug) to the side. The pull can be either to the right or to the left. Never pull up.
Working with the Dog
To work with the dog on the leash, place a choke chain on the dog in the "P" position. Be sure the chain is high up on the neck. There should be about 2-3" of slack at the loop. If there is more, the chain is probably too long.
When working with the dog on leash give:
- Signal (tap the side of your left leg to let dog know where to position)
- Praise (only if dog responds)
- Repeat the process if the dog fails to respond
Begin the lesson with the dog on your left-hand side, with the leash in front of you, held in the right hand and down on the side by your right leg. Give the dog the "Heel" command, tug, signal, and praise as you slowly begin walking. You may pet the dog's side of the head if he stays near your side. You may also give verbal praise.
If the dog begins to stray as you are walking, give a verbal command of "ugh, ugh". If he responds, praise the animal. There is no need to tug. If he does not respond to the verbal command, say "No" and simultaneously give a quick tug, signal the dog's position, and praise him when he responds. If the dog strays to the left, the tug should be to the right; if the dog walks in front of you, tug to the left.