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Obedience Training

(Part 5 of 6) by Doreen Gray

Your dog's doing what?

Does your dog pull you? Is he hard to go anywhere with? Do you have to wear roller skates to keep up with him? Does your arm hurt for a week because you had this brilliant idea of taking him for a walk, meanwhile, he had the same idea for you? Well ... here are some ideas to help with these situations.

First thing is the most obvious and it works the best if you are starting out with a pup, DO NOT LET IT START. After you leash break your puppy never let that dog walk ahead of you. If you want the dog to be able to relax on a walk and not have to "competition heel", fine, let it, but not by walking ahead of you. Also, after you train ANY dog, of any age to heel, that should end, forever, the habit of pulling.

As a trainer, the most common mistake that I see is the owner Asteering@ the dog. If you are learning to drive a car, tractor, truck or whatever, and someone else is steering, did you really learn to drive? What if you see something interesting and you want to stop? Would you not take the wheel? This is exactly the way it is with your dog. PLEASE learn to walk with a loose lead. Allow the dog to make mistakes, this is how he learns. (This does not mean to ignore the mistake, all mistakes should be corrected). This is particularly important with your Acarting@ dogs, (rottweilers, mastiffs, bouviers, huskies, etc.) As they will naturally pull against anything on it's neck.

You should, while training, keep your hand at waist level, there should be a dip in the lead, if there isn't one, you are holding the lead TOO close and are steering, I GUARANTEE you, this will cause your dog to rebel. (Try me and see if I am not right). The illustrations below should help.

If you have an older or a larger dog that already has the bad habit of pulling and is too strong for you to keep in check then the following suggestion(s) could help.

Self Correcting

This type of training is the most used method. When your dog goes ahead of you, you will usually give the dog a quick pull (quick movement is essential, it should be as though you were touching something that is hot) and return the dog to the heel position ... hence the phrase jerk and pull. The mistake most often made here is the trainer pulling the dog by the lead. This will NOT work. Again, you are steering the dog. I have actually had people tell me their dog heels GREAT. I ask them to show me and they are gripping a 6" lead as tight as they can and the dog=s front feet are OFF THE GROUND!!! Oh brother .. Start over.

I do use a modified version of this. I will stand still, let the dog wander away from me, then I will take flight in the opposite direction. (Of course, you praise him if he stays beside you). This is done on a 15' lead. This teaches the dog that he is uncomfortable away from your side. The dog is being Aself corrected@ because you aren't right beside him. As he shows progress you shorten the lead to the usual 6' length. ANY TIME/EVERY TIME ... forever, if the dog gets ahead of you, let go of the slack, because you ARE working with a loose lead (I hope), and take flight! It really DOES WORK!

Halti Head Collar

This product is similar to the horse halter. You can see that a horse would be extremely hard to handle with just a collar. This product is available through R. C. Steele for about $10.00 ($50.00 minimum order). It gently guides the dog's head without the whiplash involved in the jerk and pull method, which incidentally does have it's time and place. This product was designed by a veterinarian.

Prong Collar

I know, some of you are about to cringe and blow me off, but PLEASE stay with me. A prong collar is what I like to call power steering for a dog. A choke chain can cause muscle and tissue damage and is called a Atraumatic@ collar, however, when used properly, the prong collar is called an "A-traumatic" collar. All this means is, it does NO damage to the neck. This is in DIRECT conflict with most people's beliefs, but none the less true.

This collar works well with mother nature. If the pup misbehaves while it is with mother, she will grab the neck with her teeth and the pup will respond .. or else. It is the SAME principle that makes the prong work.

The only proper use of this collar is with the hook up chain (the no prong section) across the throat and snapping the clip to BOTH rings. You do NOT jerk and pull with this collar, in most instances you only need to pull GENTLY, however an occasional LIGHT POP may be required. This collar should NEVER be used on puppies. I will usually recommend this collar for the person whose dog outweighs them, an older person who wishes to keep a big dog, people with back problems, etc.

WARNING: This collar should NOT be used on an aggressive dog. The prongs can feel like teeth them, causing a real threat to the dog.

Hope you can find an alternative that fits you. NO one method works for all dogs and each method has a time and a place. It is up to us, as trainers, to figure out which one is best for our own pet. As always, start out with the easiest method and progress to harsher methods as needed, IF needed. And NEVER tolerate a dog that pulls.

Until next time, Happy Heeling!

(Doreen has had Mastiffs for eight years, Rottweilers for ten years and has spent the last six years training. She is licensed by the National Dog Trainers Association and has been teaching for the three years. Several articles on training have been written for the National Dog Trainers Newsletter. Her focus is on CGC, TDI and behavioral work, primarily with Mastiffs. Two of her Rotts are obedience titled. Doreen is now National Director for MCOA Rescue).

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