Sometimes when I walk into training sessions, the training is going so well, and the family looks at me and says “hey, we don’t really need the leash to get our dog to do what we want.” That is great news, but, even though you don’t necessarily need the leash, maybe you’re actually going to want the leash.
Let me explain something I think could be really useful for a lot of you. Any time you’re really struggling with your dog on walks, or maybe coming when called, and all of this is happening outside of your home. Your leash becomes a very important tool then, but one of the things that will happen is, let’s just say you only use a leash when you’re outside, and you’re not very practiced in using it. If you go outside with your leash, your natural instincts are going to kick in, and generally, it doesn’t really convey the information our dogs need to understand what we are actually articulating to them.
I like to make it a point to tell everybody who is getting really good at getting their dog to respond to verbal cues or hand signals, and then subsequently rewarding, that they should get just a little bit of leash work involved. You should go out into your driveway with your dog, and maybe have a long leash with you. You can drop it on the ground if you feel pretty secure and can reach and grab it if your dog were to suddenly dart away. Put your dog in a sit-stay, then walk to the end of the leash and try to call your dog to see if they will actually come. What I want you to do is use that sit stay and recall and call your dog and reward them, especially when there’s a distraction in the environment. It could be anything like a delivery truck, or another dog, or a squirrel even. You want to see if you can create obedience with your dog in those scenarios while having the safety of your long leash but only using your verbal cues to get what you need.
If you get into a bit of a bind, it’s ok. Use the leash to be able to associate the verbal cue you want your dog to learn, and begin to reinforce it. I think this is a really smart approach to be able to go outside and give your dog that freedom and be able to have them actually respond and check to make sure your leash work is good. However, nothing will actually replace the leash work you do in a controlled environment, like inside your home or in a training class. That work is really important for us humans.
I really make it a point to tell each of my clients to individually practice any techniques I teach them, for at least ten minutes a day, regardless of how their dog is doing. I also tell them, if they’re not very good five days later, to keep practicing that technique so they can get good at it. It just seems that the better we get at our non-verbal forms of communication, the easier it is for us to be able to handle the things that actually distract our dog and to get their attention to show them where the boundaries are.
Don’t ever forsake doing your own personal drills. Do them both, train yourself, and train your dog.
I hope this useful for you. Don’t ever hesitate to text me at (832) 734-5189 if you need help. Happy Training!