Archive for the ‘Off-Leash Training’ Category

Off-Leash Training – Part 4

Gemma | October 3rd, 2006
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Off-leash training is a transition because it is, most definitely, a slow process.

It would be nice if we could just reach down, unsnap the leash, and know that your dog would instantly obey the commands Come, Sit, Down, Stay, and Heel. Regardless of how proficient a dog may be in basic obedience while attached to the leash, his efficiency diminishes about 80% once the leash is removed.

While heeling, he will lag terribly, go wide on the turns, forge ahead and sit in front of you when you stop. Sometimes, it is as if the unsnapping of a leash erases everything on the memory of a dogs mind.

On a sit-stay exercise, without the benefit of a leash, a dog suddenly realizes that his owner is powerless to do anything in the way of correction in the event of disobedience. Should the dog then bolt and runs, the command Come falls on seemingly deaf ears.

To begin off-leash work without making the proper transition would be the same as standing a baby on his two feet to walk before he had even had an opportunity to perfect his crawling technique. On the other hand, to begin making the transition before your dog has demonstrated absolute perfection and control in his work on leash would be a total waste of time.

If your dog needs constant correction while heeling on-leash, he will need the same constant correction while heeling without the benefit of the leash; but without a leash, how are you going to make a correction? Your dog should be able to perform all basic obedience exercises willingly, smartly, and with no opposition, before you undertake the transition to off-leash work.

If you have followed proper obedience training from the very beginning, you will now begin to realize why so much emphasis was placed on correct heeling techniques.

You were constantly reminded to keep a belly of slack in the leash at all times. Instructions were explicit that dogs were not to be allowed to forge ahead and tighten the leash. One of the purposes, of course, was for the dog to get used to feeling no connection between him and his owner. Of course, if the dog spends ten weeks being restrained by the leash while heeling, theres not a bond of affection thats strong enough to hold that dog in the proper heel position once the leash is off.

If your dog is proficient in the commands Come, Sit, Down, and Stay, but requires constant tugging on the leash while heeling, spend more time correcting that deficiency now while you still have the help of a six-foot leather training leash. Use it while you can.

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Off-Leash Training – Part 3

Gemma | October 2nd, 2006
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Making A Correction While Using The A Line

The only difference between the A line and the B line is the thickness and weight of each. Shifting the B line gave the dog a feeling of freedom as compared to the weight and thickness of the six-foot training leash. The A line will give your dog even more of a feeling of freedom as compared to either the leash or the B line.

The technique is applied the same way, with one slight modification. Because the A line is so light, using it to make a correction would be meaningless. It would snap like a twig. Therefore, a way must be devised to give you the opportunity to correct your dog in the event he accepts this new freedom as a challenge. You can make the correction using a tab attached to the dogs collar.

A tab is simply a six-inch length of clothespin rope attached to the pull ring of the training collar. Its like a handle, ready to be grabbed should your dog needs to be corrected. While working your dog on the A line, always keep in mind that correction is not possible unless you physically reach for the tab on the collar. Do not try to make a correction with the A line; it will break and your dog will be heading at the opposite direction from the other side of the house.

The A line is strong enough to hold your dog and to prevent him from bolting, provided that the line isnt jerked up short. The tab is for correction. Two weeks working on the A line and your dog will be ready to work for you without any leash or line at all. But the tab must stay on!

During your work on both the A and B lines, continue to practice your work on the hand signal for the drop on recall, drop to the down position from a sitting position, and the drop from the standing position. By using the A and B lines, you can do this at a distance of eleven to twelve feet from your dog rather than a mere six feet.

You will be increasing the distance gradually as you progress through training, but do not try to get ahead. At no time should you signal your dog to drop to the down position if you are more than twelve feet away from him, until instructed otherwise.

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Off-Leash Training – Part 2

Gemma | October 1st, 2006
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The Stay Command Using The B Line

While executing the Stay command while the B line (five-foot long nylon line with the thickness similar to a kite string) is in use, you will have the advantage of stepping out more than just a leash length away.

Because the B line is five feet long and your leash is six feet long, this exercise using the B line will allow your dog to have a feeling of freedom he did not feel when just using the leash.

You are farther away now and the temptation to bolt or stroll away out of the training area might occur. Be prepared for such an occasion by making sure that you hold onto the leash. You will want to make a proper and timely correction should that occur.

Let the snap end of the leash lie fully on the ground while your dog is holding that sit-stay. The total length of your leash now is eleven feet and the snap in the middle puts all the weight at that spot. Keeping the snap up off the ground will have a tendency to pull your dog toward you.

Recall Using The B Line

When executing the recall using the B line, you will experience more difficulty than with any other exercise. This is because you will no doubt find it very hard to take up the slack of the leash and B line as your dog comes into you on that recall. But with a little practice, you will discover that you are getting faster and better at it.

Two to three weeks of work, alternating back and forth between the B line and leash, should be adequate. When you notice that corrections are no longer necessary when working your dog on the B line, you will be ready for the shift to the A line.

Using The A Line

The A line (five-foot length of ten-pound test salt water fishing line) is connected in exactly the same way as the B line. That is, one end of the line is tied to the ring of the snap of the leash. It must be tied through the ring rather than the snap to prevent the line from coming loose.

Make sure that the line is tied securely. Next, tie the other end of the A line on the dogs training collar, making sure that you tie it onto the same ring that the leash snaps onto. Finally, snap the leash onto the collar in the normal manner.

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Off-Leash Training – Part 1

Gemma | September 29th, 2006
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For those of you with dogs that are trained to heel accordingly, you are ready to make the transition into off-leash training.

What You Will Need

You will need two pieces of rope, five feet in length each. One of the pieces of rope should be strong and preferably made of nylon. The nylon line should be about the same thickness as a regular kite string. The second piece of rope should actually be a five-foot length of ten-pound test salt water fishing line.

The length of nylon line will be referred to as the B line, while the fishing line will be called the A line. You will begin by using the B line, so you may put away the A line for later use.

Tie one end of the B line to the ring of the snap on the leash. It must be tied through the ring rather than the snap to prevent the line from coming loose. Make sure the line is tied securely. Next, tie the other end of the B line on the dogs training collar, making sure that you tie it onto the same ring that the leash snaps onto. Then, snap the leash onto the collar in the normal manner.

You will notice that you are dragging a loop of line on the ground and either you or your dog will be getting your feet all tangle up, so pick up the B line slack and using a clothespin attach the B line excess right to the leash. This will keep it up and out of the way until you are ready to use it.

The first five minutes of your training period should be just as normal as always. Review all obedience commands so that your dog will be in the proper frame of mind for the upcoming lesson. The second five minutes of the training period should consist of nothing but heeling exercises. Do not go more than five feet in any single direction without either stopping, making a right turn, left turn, or about turn.

Do it fast and smartly so that your pet is performing like a real professional. Then stop and give him praise and a pat on the head. While he is preoccupied with the praise, unsnap the leash, in a nonchalant way, wrapping it into your right hand. One end of the B line is still attached to the ring of the leash and the other end to the ring of the training collar.

Put away the clothespin and prepare for a few more quick start-stop heeling exercises. Keep slack in the B line and do not allow the line to tighten. If your dog suddenly senses this new feeling of freedom and decides to goof off, he will be in for quite a surprise. Nylon does not break easily and a properly timed correction will produce a sudden revelation to your dog. He will discover that just because the leash is absent, the requirement for obedience is still there, and so is the correction for disobedience as well as the praise for a job well done.

Heel your dog back and forth, making right turns, left turns, about turns, and sudden stops while only the B line connects you to your dog. Just before your fifteen-minute training period is up, give your dog praise and snap the leash back on. Finish off the session with a bit more on-leash heel work.

For the next two weeks, you should alternate between working your dog on-leash and using the B line. Alternate back and forth, so that your dog wont be aware of which of the two he is attached to, and doesnt care either. Working with the B line can be a bit awkward and youll find that it gets in the way once in a while, especially on the recall exercise. But this transition is important so be patient.

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Training Your Dog With Loose-Leash Training – Part 5

Gemma | September 23rd, 2006
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A final tip to help you with loose-leash training your dog is about helping your dog to walk in a specific spot.

Dawn Jecs, dog trainer and owner of Choose To Heel in Puyallup, Washington, teaches dogs to walk in a certain spot in relation to the handler. When they’re in that spot, the leash is loose. I teach the dog where I want it to walk, Dawn says.

Before Dawn starts training leash walking, she first teaches the dog to go to an area ahead at her left side, about 18 inches out and 18 inches ahead. This is close enough to hand the dog a treat reward or snap the leash on or off, yet far enough away that it’s not underfoot. When the dog goes to that place, Dawn praises and gives it a treat, then ends the exercise.

Dawn repeats this, without walking forward, until the dog easily goes to that rewarded spot. She teaches with the same cue she uses for walking: Let’s go. When the dog hears that cue, it immediately moves into position.

Then Dawn starts leash training. For a dog to learn to walk on a loose leash, it must get practice and success with the leash loose the whole time and not get to the end of the leash, she says. To accomplish this, Dawn praises and rewards the dog while it’s still in the area by her side, before it can tighten the leash.

Every three steps, reward the dog with verbal praise and treat it while it’s in the position it’s learning and the leash is loose, Dawn says. Then release the dog and start over. Each time, before walking, say, ‘Let’s go,’ and reward the dog for going into position.

A Final Word

Pick one of the methods we discussed that works best for you. Try it out for two to three weeks. You should start to see improvement right away and fairly steady progress, but you may hit a plateau where your dog stops improving for several days. If this happens, give one of the other methods a try. Some dogs respond better when several different positive techniques are used.

A puppy with polite leash skills is a joy to walk. Instead of dreading walks, you’ll look forward to them. Your arm won’t hurt, your pup won’t wheeze, and when people see you walking together, they’ll admire your puppy’s good manners.

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Training Your Dog With Loose-Leash Training – Part 4

Gemma | September 19th, 2006
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When on-leash, your dog needs to learn to walk with you, not against you. To keep the leash loose, the dog needs to stay tuned to your verbal and hand signals, and pace itself to your speed.

Michelle Kirk, a local pet sitter in Pacific Beach of San Diego, California, uses a training clicker (a small plastic device that makes a clicking sound when you push a button) and treats to teach dogs to walk on a loose leash. Start in a quiet area without many distractions. Begin walking, but stop when the dog reaches the end of the leash, before it actually starts pulling.

Stand still, watching for the moment the dog shifts its attention back to you. At the first sign of the dog turning its head in your direction, click, Michelle says. Then walk slowly backwards as the dog approaches you to claim its reward. Hand it the treat when it reaches you, then turn in a different direction and start walking. Repeat this sequence any time the dog goes to the end of the leash.

Michelle notes that it’s important to stop before the leash becomes tight. This way the dog learns to check in with you when it feels slight leash pressure. After you teach this in a quiet place, practice walking in new areas with gradually increasing distractions.

Regain Attention & Reward

One of the top dog training centers in San Diego, California teaches its students to make it rewarding for their dogs to walk near them. When the dog gets to the end of the leash, the trainer stops walking, then encourages the dog to come back to him. When it does, the trainer makes a happy fuss over the dog and gives it a treat.

Then the trainer encourages the dog to walk a few steps at his side and rewards it. After that, he allows it to relax, sniff and check things out, showing the dog places that might hold interesting scents, repeated as often as necessary.

Tip: A Quick Note About Collar Choices

A lesson on leash walking wouldn’t be complete without making a few collar recommendations. In essence, there are two basic collar types those that constrict when the leash is pulled and those that don’t.

Obviously, the preferred collar we recommend for loose-leash training (or any training for that matter) is the non-constricting type, simply because they cause less discomfort and no potential injury to the dog. They are made of leather or fabric, and they fasten around the dog’s neck with either a buckle or quick-release snap.

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Training Your Dog With Loose-Leash Training – Part 3

Gemma | September 15th, 2006
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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.

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Training Your Dog With Loose-Leash Training – Part 2

Gemma | September 13th, 2006
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When you put a leash on your puppy, can you go for a pleasant walk around the block, or is it more of a drag? Walks do not have to turn into a tug-of-war with your puppy. Train your little friend loose-leash skills by using these expert techniques.

Polite Vs. Free Walk

The reason loose-leash walking is so difficult for the average dog owner to master is because they don’t understand the absolute necessity of 100 percent consistency. When you’re busy or distracted, it’s too easy to forget and just let the dog pull. These intermittent lapses cause training setbacks because they reinforce pulling. If the dog discovers that pulling works some of the time, it will keep testing to see if it works every time.

Dogs that have an established pulling habit often start lunging ahead as soon as you clip the leash on. To retrain dedicated pullers that start out unable to take more than one step without lunging would require super-human patience and pre-planning for every outing. It’s especially difficult for people who don’t have a fenced yard and must walk the dog several times a day.

For dogs like this, it’s best that the owner use two different sets of equipment one for training polite walking, and one for just controlling the dog when you’re too rushed or tired to train. Use a flat buckle collar for training, and a no-pull harness or head halter for free walking – when you don’t have time to train.

When the free-walking equipment is used, the dog is allowed to walk the same way it’s always walked, but when you use the training equipment, you must be 100 percent consistent about not allowing pulling. The dog must not even get 1 inch closer to whatever it’s pulling toward. As the dog gets better on the flat collar, the free-walking equipment eventually won’t be needed.

The Simplest & Quickest Technique Ever Created

This is one of the most popular positive methods for teaching polite leash walking. It’s especially good with puppies just learning to walk on-leash. It’s simple, but you must be consistent. It’s called the Stop-n-Go, or the Tree Method, and here’s how it works:

Whenever the dog puts tension on the leash, you must stop and stand still. When it quits pulling, you walk again. That’s it! Simple, isn’t it? The dog is rewarded for walking on a loose leash when you walk forward again. This method teaches the dog that pulling on the leash doesn’t work. It takes longer to get anywhere when the puppy tries to hurry you by pulling.

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Training Your Dog With Loose-Leash Training – Part 1

Gemma | September 9th, 2006
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Dogs like to explore scents, sounds and sights, and tend to pursue those interests with enthusiasm even when that means towing a human behind! While your pup is young and small, leash pulling might not bother you, but the habit will grow as your dog matures.

If adults of your pup’s breed are large and powerful, you’d better fix its pulling habit early. Even if the breed is small, habitual pulling against the collar concentrates uncomfortable pressure on the dog’s throat. This causes gasping and wheezing, and can even collapse a dog’s airway and cause permanent damage.

The good news is, teaching your dog to walk nicely on a loose leash isn’t difficult if you know a few tricks. Old-style training for loose-leash walking was based on jerking the dog’s collar with varying degrees of force. But yanking a dog around by the neck can hurt it, and can also injure your shoulders, elbows, neck or back.

Fortunately, you can teach polite leash manners without having to jerk the leash. A number of gentle, positive techniques for teaching loose-leash walking have been proven to work when consistently applied.

Starting Out Right

Believe it or not, most dogs pull on the leash because their owners inadvertently train them to. When trying to control their dogs, many people keep the leash short and tight. Without realizing it, they’re teaching the dog to pull by habituating him to constant tension on the collar.

Instead of discouraging pulling, the taut lead makes tightness the standard for how a leash works. Therefore, keeping a tight leash won’t teach a dog to walk on a loose leash. Instead of letting your pup form bad habits, direct its behavior toward good habits.

Important Tip: About Leashes & Long Lines

Several types of leashes can be used for training loose-leash walking:

- 6 foot leash: This can be used either shortened or full-length, and is long enough to tie to your belt for hands-free walking.

- 4 foot leash: This is similar to the 6 foot leash but less versatile

- 10 to 30 foot long line: Your dog can learn to walk without pulling on any length lead. The long line allows safe control while giving the dog freedom to explore.

- Retractable lead: These are handy, but they’re operated by the dog pulling. Retractable leads directly reinforce (reward) pulling on the leash. This counters what you’re trying to teach.

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