One of our mantra’s in group dog classes is:
Your lead is not a steering wheel!
A pull up on the lead shouldn’t be used to get your dog to sit. A tug on the lead shouldn’t be used to get your dog’s attention. A jerk on the lead shouldn’t be used to stop your dog from ignoring your ‘Leave it’ cue.
Why not? Firstly, if you are relying heavily on the lead to get your dog to follow a command what happens when they are off lead? You will have a dog that suddenly pays you no attention and won’t sit on command because they don’t have that all important cue – the lead!
Secondly, constantly nagging at your dog by pulling them on the lead is a miserable experience for any dog. We see many bewildered puppies simply refusing to move as soon as they feel themselves being tugged along on lead. We want dogs to love training with their owners and this is just not a positive experience for dogs, not to mention their poor necks!
As much as possible, pretend that your lead is simply a safety connection between you and your dog. Try and teach them to respond to your voice and hand signals so that control of your dog off lead is a natural progression.
Here are some alternatives to using your lead as a steering wheel:
- Won’t stop sniffing! All dogs love to sniff while out on walks but sometimes we need to move on before they have finished. Teach a ‘Let’s Go’ cue by letting them sniff for several seconds then saying Let’s Go and walking off, putting gentle pressure on the lead if they need a reminder to come with you. Reward with a treat when they follow.
- Sit. Lure your dog into a sit several times by placing a food treat on their nose and moving your hand up and back over their head. Now turn this into a hand signal by removing the food from your hand and doing the same action. Reward with a treat hidden in your pocket when they sit.
- Attention. With your dog on lead, stand in a non distracting environment such as the lounge or driveway and wait. Don’t say anything. The second your dog glances at you reward them with a food treat. Repeat over and over again until your dog’s default behaviour is to ‘check in’ with you every few seconds.
- Leave it. This is one of our favourite commands and enables you to ask your dog to ‘Leave’ food on the ground, cats, picnickers at the park or whatever else they shouldn’t go near! Place a treat on the ground and cover it with your hand. Wait patiently for your dog to stop trying to get the treat. As soon as they back off reward them from your hand. Do this several times and now try having the food on the ground without covering it. Get ready to quickly cover it again if your dog goes to eat the treat! Reward if they don’t. Once they are doing this reliably, add the command ‘Leave it’ before you place the food on the ground.
Next time you feel yourself tugging on the lead to get your dog to respond try and replace the ‘tug’ with a hand signal or verbal command. Or, come along to a D’For Dog Training class and try out one of our Hands Free Leads!