Leash Manners - What's important to you and how do you tell your dog what you want?
Leashes & Tools
I use various different leashes to predict the type of walk I plan to take with my dogs. Typically I'm using a longer leash (6-10 ft) when hiking in low traffic areas and shorter leashes (2-4 ft) in high traffic areas. This helps my dog(s) decide how close I want them to stay and how carefully I want them to pay attention to me vs the environment. I have found that a 2 ft leash clipped to either a waist belt or shoulder strap is the best set up during public access training. You want your dog to be able to lay down in a heel at your feet, but not have so much leash that either you or your dog are tripping on it.
I also use a Y-front Harness
**Harnesses do not cause pulling!"
But they do make it easier for a dog to self reward because they can lean into a pull to reach a smell or other distraction. For that reason, I suggest using a harness with a front and back clip for all adolescents and continue to do so until the dog has the leash skills for all environments. For the best control you must use a dual clip leash or adapter so that you can use both front and back clips the same time. If you use only the front clip and the dog pulls hard the harness will twist and potentially harm the dog's leg that it gets pulled inot. If you use only the back clip, the dog may pull hard enough to hurt you. The dual clip provides tension on both to turn the pulling dog back around so they can't continue to pull toward the distraction.
Cues I use & their meaning to me
Teaching Heel or Walk Nice
- The Cone Game: Set cones, cups, or even paper plates about 5 feet apart in the beginning. Let pup explore as you walk up to the first cone, stopping and giving your cue then luring into position if needed. Use your lure or target hand if necessary to walk to the 2nd cone in the loose heel position. At the 2nd cone release them to sniff until you get to the 3rd cone. And alternate between loose heel, then sniff, then loose leash, then heel, changing back and forth at each cone. Slowly increase the distance between the cones. If pup is struggling, I'll increase the distance between the cones that will be free sniffy time and keep the distance short for the loose heel position, slowly working toward getting them to the same length. If you set up 6-8 cones, you can do a U-Turn at the end and walk back the other direction or stop and take a break.
- Use things that naturally occur on your walking path to help teach the loose heel during your exercise walks. The walking trails that I use tend to have small foot bridges occasionally, so with a younger dog I will always ask for a loose heel on the bridge. This allows for safety incase others come across while you are there, but also provides an unchanging distance that your dog will be in position before they are released. They learn that switching surfaces between the trail and bridge predict the expected walking position. I then look for other naturally occurring surface changes along our walking paths.
- Use approaching distractions to predict the need to walk at your side. We all have had a pup that struggles with jumping on people when they first met. However they can't jump on someone while in the loose heel position. So when we see people approaching we work on heel or a sit/stay while those people walk passed. This also provides safety for other things that might be passing us; traffic at an intersection, dogs walking near us, and pretty much anything moving toward us.