Have you ever dealt with a little leash puller? I have! My dog Shonee thinks she is sled dog, pulling me hither and yon, sometimes she almost drags me. Her chest would be so low to the ground that it was actually scraping along it.
The problem with leash training her is that I do not agree with the technique that enforces jerking and yanking with the leash. This method certainly will not foster a positive relationship between pet parent and dog. Besides, it can damage your dog’s neck and spine. So, I was overjoyed when I stumbled upon Turid Rugaas. With over 30 years of proven dog behavior under her belt and the ability to read and direct dogs of all types she has mastered most of the difficult challenges people face with their canine companions. Of course, Turid also hails from my homeland of Scandinavia and that makes her “Number One” in my book.
Turid’s method is so simple and it completely eliminates any stress for both the pet parent and the dog. Basically it involves your making a unique noise with your mouth. Think of the sound someone might make to a horse when they want the horse to move forward. A clicking sound with the tongue or a smacking sound. It doesn’t matter what sound you make as long as you only make that sound when you want the dog to move towards you.
The first step is to “prime” the dog to this sound. This involves a handy bag of treats. Stand close to your dog, make the sound and when your dog turns to look at you give the dog a treat. Repeat this as many times as you want for a few minutes (puppies might take longer to “get” it). Now step a little further away and make the sound. Your dog should move towards you, when he reaches you give him a treat. Repeat this for a few minutes a day until your dog begins to associate that noise with you and a TREAT!
Next add the leash and begin in an area with few distractions. Walk the dog as you normally would, the moment your dog begins pulling, stop. Do NOT move. Instead make your unique noise. Your dog will move towards you and when he does you will need to turn around and move forward so that your dog is actually following you, as he comes up along side of you give him a treat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
The direction behind this is create an environment of positive reinforcement for following you. It WILL work and with much less hassle and stress to you and your dog than other methods of training that involve sharp jerks on the leash. Turid’s little book entitled, My Dog Pulls, What do I do? can be purchased also and I highly recommend it. Or you can visit Turid’s web site, I have placed a link directly to the method of training that Turid recommends: loose leash walking.
You will be happily surprised (as was I) at how quickly your dog will respond to this type of training. Shonee actually stops herself when the leash becomes taut and returns to me! It is amazing! For the most part she now walks nicely on the leash, she may not heel or walk exactly beside me but the leash is slack and my arms are not being jerked out of their sockets.
Naturally, my pups will be a “work in progress” but I am delighted with this method. I am now using it on an 8 month old puppy that I am fostering. She is now walking very nicely on the leash and it is such a delight to see how quickly she progressed from an extreme puller to a nice walker.
Here is a video of Turid demonstrating how to help your dog stop pulling. As Turid states this will take time and patience (particularly if you have a puppy) but it will work. Just stick with it.
I was inspired to write this after watching a television show that featured “funny” videos. Okay, the human behavior was relatively funny, even a few of the animal videos were cute. There were a few videos that were quite disturbing.
Watching the dog relentlessly chasing his tail, or the one chasing the laser light on the wall hit my dog behavior nerve!
Generally, compulsive behaviors are demonstrated by repetitive, excessive, out of normal context actions. Such as the two I listed above, however, there are many more.
Usually, these actions are exaggerated normal canine behavior, such as the need to hunt or explore.
Disturbances of the seeking system are also culprits of these behaviors some people find entertaining. These generally occur out of frustration, anxiety and or social conflict.
I always suggest getting a physical by your Veterinarian first. Ruling out any physiological problems, we then can try and help your dog psychologically.
Personally, I have to observe the dog in ‘action’ in his everyday environment, noting what triggers these behaviors helps to find a solution.
The dogs that display these behaviors are not happy. Many times these “funny” displays are accompanied by self destructing behaviors such as compulsive licking, chewing on themselves or destroying property. I have seen cases where dogs have literally chewed through drywall, dug up carpeting even jumped through a glass window. And of course, aggressive behavior and biting. Now the human isn’t quite so entertained.
When these latter behaviors are exhibited the first reaction is to punish the dog, thinking in terms of basic ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dogs. Like anything in life, there is little black and white, but a whole lot of gray!
Before I go on I must get on my soap box and say “Please Please spay and neuter your pets.” Unless you are a dedicated person who shows dogs in conformation, which is to better the breed there is absolutely no excuse to have an intact animal. They are happier being spayed/neutered, their unwanted puppies are happier, I am happier. It disgusts me to see a box of puppies in the grocery store parking lot, or on a street corner in the hot sun.
Back to dog behavior………….
What we have to remember with our wonderful dogs is that they are dogs. Dogs have specific drives and needs, when these aren’t met we have created an animal that will invent and display behaviors that meet their needs to feel complete. This applies to mixed breeds as well, most drives and needs are breed specific, however some are environmental, conditioned needs.
This is why it is so important to research the breed of dog before you invest in that particular breed. Unfortunately, popularity plays a large part of peoples choices, there are so many examples, but I will use this one:
Jack Russell Terrier, cute and small. They are fantastic dogs, however, the general thought is “they are small, I live in an apartment, perfect.” Yes, they are small, but high energy, very high energy. Unless you are dedicated to walk this dog, (a lot) and direct his active brain in constructive ways, you are in trouble. Because they were bred to ‘rat’, they have specific psychological and physical needs. When, through no fault of their own, these needs are not met, you get behavioral issues that can be overwhelming, which in turn results in over population in shelters. So research and talk to people who know dog behavior before going through the heartache.
My classes consist of three things:
1. Basic obedience: To make the dog focus and establish human leadership.
2. Fun agility: To challenge the dog’s focus this off-lead obstacle training is without corrections and lots of treats, fun!
3. Socialization: When the dogs are focused and equality is established playtime can begin. In a controlled dog-park setting, off-lead time plus stimulating toys and a kiddie pool are offered. With loving owners watching, we can discuss behavioral issues, good and bad.
I also make house calls for behavioral problems and private lessons.
With all of this said, think twice about those ‘cute’ behaviors and pay attention to your dog’s specific needs. Life is short, live in harmony!!
Joan for Dogs
“Watching the dog relentlessly chasing his tail, or the one chasing the laser light on the wall hit my dog behavior nerve!” Joan, dog behaviorist, Wimberley, Texas.