BY ERIC GILLASPY CPDT-KA
When a dog pulls on the leash, we pull back. This is known as “Opposition Reflex.” It’s just a natural reaction to the pulling. I see my clients pull on the leash a lot, sometimes they pull before their pup pulls which can cause a little bit of a problem.
It sounds strange, but the best way to teach your dog not to pull is not to pull yourself. I call this the “loose leash” walk. The loose leash walk is probably the most challenging behavior that people teach their pups.
When you teach your dog this new behavior, make sure to start in a very calm area with few distractions. Try to choose either the right side or the left, either side is fine just try to be consistent. Make sure you have some treats to reward your dog with. In the beginning, you will be luring your dog with food. Start to lure with the same hand as the side of your pup. So, if you want to teach your pup to walk on the right, use your right hand to lure and treat. This will help to prevent your pup from crossing in front of you.
Once you have taken a few steps and your pup is walking with you, praise your pup with “Good Right Here.” You can use whatever word you want to name the behavior of walking without pulling, just be consistent with the command or cue you are using. If your pup starts to walk out in front of you, turn away from your him. When he catches up to you, praise and treat him.
When your pup has caught on to this new behavior, start to use your cue first. Say “Right Here” as he is walking next to you and then “Good Right Here” when he is doing it well. Again, if he darts out in front of you, turn away. When he catches up, treat and praise. Use the word “Good” a lot to tell him he is doing a great job.
The next step is to add a minor distraction. Go slow and add distractions gradually. It is best to use a distraction that you can be in control of like a tennis ball. Try to praise and reward more the more difficult the distraction is. Start with small distractions and work your way up to the more difficult ones. Take baby steps to get your dog to the level of training that you need.
Sometimes the best way to speed up training is to go slow.