“Loose Leash Talking” is a fun title in my newsletter based on a term in dog training referred to as “Loose Leash Walking”. Try to say that five times or even once for that matter. Mostly it means that you can teach your dog to walk politely next to you without pulling, leaving your arms and shoulders safely in the sockets where they belong.
Lhotse’ came to us when she was at least a year old, maybe two. She had a rough start. She was wild. She had no impulse control and no training. We found out quickly that she also had cognitive difficulties, most likely from a previous head injury. We’re not sure if she was ever outside. We are sure she was never on a leash.
I hadn’t worked with Lhotse’ formally with “Heels” or even “Let’s Walk”, (a less formal “Heel”). She had (we thought) some cognitive issues from a former head injury and she doesn’t have the best concentration outside. She loves to go for walks, most of the time.
So with some creative planning and taking into consideration her cognitive issues, we were only able to tinker with training. Last winter with all the snow, I walked the dogs with a longer leash. There were snow mounds everywhere and little to no traffic. The longer leash made it easier to maneuver in the snow and get some extra mileage as they went back and forth. They explore the world at 15′ away and check back with the leash holder at 3′. We also used the longer lead for walks in the woods so they can get in and under all the fun stuff and not drag me into the greatest pile of poop on earth.
I just started shaping with her on a very casual level. It was very simple. When she checked in with me, I clicked and treated. Look at Mom, click-treat. Slow down enough to be at Mom’s side, left or right side, either was OK, click-treat. I never said a word. I did say some sweet things when she was extra cute, smart or just sweet. It was great to see her finally getting the idea.
When she was pulling ahead, I would stop. When she would give some slack on the leash, I would move forward. I did a casual simulated version of “Be a Tree”, a training technique to help stop pulling on leash. I have used this method very successfully for years on client’s dogs and my own dogs. See “Good Dog Walking” by Pat Miller
Positive family dog training works best when we determine what your particular dog’s personality is, and what your needs are. This way you can both work together to accomplish the goals of training which lead to a calm, quiet walk. We worked with her the best we could and above all, we were consistent with management. While we didn’t work with specific difficult walking behaviors, we also didn’t allow her to pull and walk all over the place and get worse. Then when we found a different way to treat her physical issues, she had a remarkable change in cognitive ability. Once she started to feel better, we started training. She picked up the theory in no time and now we have about 10 feet of leash dragging behind. She pays attention and if she goes ahead, she doesn’t pull and she checks in with us often.
It’s so important to be flexible. Dogs are the same species, similar in many ways, BUT each individual dog is the same as each individual human. We all have our little nuances that make us who we are. It’s important to find out what makes your dog tick and work the best possible protocols for your individual dog.
Now I just have to figure out what to do with the extra ten feet of leash.
Enjoy your walk!