Anyone Can Train Their Dog – March 2014

Anyone Can Train Their Dog

By Art Hess

Why did you teach your dog to pull on the leash?


dogtrainerStupid question? Certainly sounds like it. The answer might amaze you.

Every day many dog owners inadvertently teach their dogs to pull on the leash and they regularly reinforce the training. Hard to believe? Stay with me for a few minutes and I’ll tell you where I’m coming from.

Picture this. Dad decides to take Buddy for a walk and the dialogue goes something like this. “Hey Buddy, wanna go for a walk? Great idea eh? Where’s your leash? Get the leash, hurry up. We’re going for a walk.” By now Buddy is “cranked.” “Boy oh boy we’re going for a walk. Come on Dad get with it let’s go. Never mind we don’t need the leash, let’s go!”

After a 4 or 5 minute Wrestle Royal at the door the leash is finally attached and Buddy is on his hind legs pawing the air and rarin’ to go. Dad’s stress level just drove his blood pressure into the stratosphere and Buddy is feeding off the anxiety and stress. The door flies open and Buddy is halfway down the walk with Dad’s arm getting longer with each jump. Never fear the fun has just started. Buddy strikes off in the lead by several yards with Dad struggling to keep up and jerking and yelling Heel.

This further excites Buddy who realizes that Dad really is showing zero leadership and furthermore Buddy knows that he has more experience at leading plus there are several trees that he has to mark and the garbage can on the corner always has goodies. Buddy’s main thought is let’s get on with the show and hurry up. If you can’t keep up I’ll pull a little harder so we can move along here. Wait there’s one of my favorite posts over there, come on hurry up. Can’t you just quit jerking on my neck and try to keep up?

And where’s Dad during all this? His thoughts go something like, this dog is untrainable, he’s a born puller. I’ll have to get a more severe collar or one of those head halter things and one of those extending leashes things so I can just let him run off all that energy. And this whole process continues until Buddy has pulled Dad around the block and back into the house where he is given a biscuit. (That equates to a reward for a job well done)

So what did Buddy learn from this episode? Well first he learned that when Dad starts talking really enthusiastically and gets excited and repeatedly asks about going for a walk Buddy naturally gets excited even if he doesn’t understand a word of the dialogue. Next he learns that step two involves the leash which he already knows results in a walk and it must be going to be a good one based on how excited Dad is becoming. Next he learns that if he really wiggles and struggles while the leash is being attached he gets lots of hands on stuff which is his favorite reaction.

So far the score is about three for Buddy and zero for Dad. You know the rest. It goes from bad to worse and Buddy learns that going for a walk means jump, struggle, wrestle, then pull Dad down the street. Boy what fun. This is what Dad just trained Buddy to expect when going for a walk. What’s worse, he goes out tomorrow and repeats the entire process and reinforces what he taught before. No wonder Buddy pulls on the leash. He was well trained.

Tune in next time and we’ll discuss a different and better method.

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