Today’s topic is Leash Walking – Creating a Human Shield. So if you’ve been following for a while, you may know that there are several different ways you can go about teaching a dog to walk on a slack leash. And you could use a method where it’s practical for you. You could use a technique that gets you better attention. You could use a method that the dog is supremely focused on you. There’s many different ways to go about teaching a dog how to walk and how to move with you.
But today, I want to talk about something that I don’t feel that I shared all that often. I do think I’ve talked about it a few times, but I want to share it a bit more in-depth today. I want to talk a bit about how to create a human shield and what that is.
Your Dog’s Perspective
Let me put you in the perspective of your dog. Imagine this. You’re maybe 2-3 feet off the ground. What your eyes are seeing are these towering humans walking past you. Your perception of all these taller creatures has an effect on you. So when I’m talking about the human shield, what I am talking about is a dog having its eyes in a position to where there is a human visibly in front of them, but not that far away. I’d say that a human shouldn’t be any more than, let’s say, 6-12 inches from the dog’s eyes.
Whenever you put yourself into this position, it puts partial pressure off of your body onto the dog and does help calm dogs to some degree. And this is very useful whenever you’re trying to meet other people or trying to meet other dogs. Maybe walking out of the door. It’s very useful. So what I want to share with you today is not just this, which many people would call this heel position, but one other thing that makes for an entire human shield.
So let’s say that you and any other member of your family decide to take your dog for a walk. What I recommend that you do is first put your dog on the left-hand side of your body and then your family member. They should also go on the left-hand side, but they should be on the other side of the dog. So what you would see is it would be a dog in the middle of two humans, but you’re not necessarily blocking the dog.
You’re kind of helping form a line of spatial pressure. The dog understands there are two humans, one on their right eye, and one on their left eye. They’re both in front of me, and they’re both leading me in the direction that I should go. This is a compelling method that helps dogs to calm down.
The reason I’m sharing it is because today I started working with a German Shepherd. When I did the evaluation, the dog came after me and if I hadn’t had one of the raised elevated beds in my hand, this dog would have bitten me.
And then today, when I was training this dog, the dog got away from his handler and came at me. Luckily, I stood my ground, and he decided to back off before trying to bite me. He did not bite me today, but he was very close and thinking about doing it. So I deployed this method of putting a human shield in front of him not only to keep myself safe but to help him begin to understand that he needed to respect his owners. And not charge past them whenever they were having a conversation with someone.
It was fascinating to see, because the first time I met him, the dog lunged at me, probably 10-15 times in a matter of two minutes. But then today, he probably only lunged at me maybe three times. And then two of those lunges were initially when I was first instructing my clients. Once I had that human shield up in front of him, he decided to lunge one time barely.
His owner already had instructions on what to do the moment that the dog did that. So I have to tell you, the human shield can be a powerful way to calm a dog that has been difficult on walks. By putting one human on either side, but in front of their face to help them learn how to calm down.
Okay, well, I think this one was really useful. I know I usually don’t say that but it actually it works very well. So if you’re struggling with your dog and you’ve got family members that are willing to work with you, try that out.