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.
Article provided with the courtesy of the ASPCA
Resolving Separation Anxiety Problems in Dogs
by Jacque Lynn Schultz, Director, ASPCA Special Projects ASPCA
Supposedly, absence makes the heart grow fonder. However, the absence of an owner sends some dogs into wailing and barking, frequent house soiling, and self-destructive behaviors. These are all signs that a dog is suffering from separation anxiety.
The canines most likely to fall victim are second-hand dogs. Whether from a shelter, rescue group, or greyhound-track adoption program, dogs re-homed in adolescence or older are at greater risk of suffering separation anxiety than puppies. This is probably because it is more difficult for these dogs to accept changes in their routine and environment. They cling to their new pack leader and panic when that leader leaves home to go about his or her daily business. For similar reasons, unemployed companion animal owners or those who take lengthy at-home vacations or recuperations may find that their dog becomes disoriented when they return to work. These distressed pets need help.
Separation anxiety is often a problem of over-bonding. It is not healthy for a dog to follow his caretakers’ every step, to be constantly in the same room, sharing the same piece of furniture, being in close contact all the time. Promote independence by teaching the dog to down and stay on his own bed while you go out of sight. Start with a few seconds, then build up to a length of time the dog can tolerate. Put up a gate and eventually close a door between the two of you. Get family members involved in dispensing the “good stuff” to the dog. Walks, play sessions, and feedings should not be provided by only one person, for that person’s absence means the end of all that is good in the world to the dog. Panic can ensue. If you live alone, perhaps a neighbor or relative will share the duties, or hire a pet-care professional to assist you.
The worst of a dog’s hysteria is often during the first hour after departure. Diffuse the emotion of your leave-taking by heartily exercising the dog right after you wake up. Then, after feeding him, scale back your attention to the point of ignoring him during the last 15 minutes before you leave. Turn off the lights and turn on the television, radio, or white-noise machine—whatever you play most when you are home. And with no more than a whispered “Be good,” leave the house.
Some dogs will read the signs of imminent departure and begin to work themselves into a frenzy. If putting on make-up, packing a lunch, or shuffling papers in your briefcase distresses the dog, desensitize him to these or other actions by doing them frequently and at other times (such as before mealtime) so they lose their direct connection to the dreaded departure. Presenting a toy stuffed with goodies can draw the focus of less seriously afflicted canines toward cleaning out the item and away from your leaving. Buster cubes, Kong toys, Goodie balls/ships work well as canine diversions. Unfortunately, the seriously afflicted dog will not give the toy a second look until his pack is together again.
Separation anxiety can be severe and all-consuming to some dogs. I have known dogs to jump through second-story plate-glass windows, eat through sheetrock walls into neighboring apartments, and bloody their paws and noses trying to dig through wooden doors or out of crates. These individuals need professional assessment by an applied animal behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist, for they may need pharmacological aid while they undergo desensitization exercises. Some people choose to manage the problem by dropping off their dogs at day care or adopting a second dog so they are never truly alone.
Luckily, if the earlier suggestions are followed, the majority of dogs will be howling “I will survive” in no time.