Clicker training: loose lead walking.
This article will compliment other clicker training commentary to be found on the Holidays 4 Dogs website Articles under the ‘training category’. Having your dog, or guest dog, walk on a loose lead makes for a much more enjoyable walk all round and it is worth spending a little time on this in order to achieve impressive results. Most Holidays4Dogs clients are well behaved family pets and already walk nicely on the lead. But if you have a dog of your own that is perhaps a little more enthusiastic on the lead; or you are in charge of a pup or younger dog, you may want to have a go at this little exercise. It is completely non-confrontational and at the same time will use up some of that energy!
The clicker is the ideal tool for this, but only begin this if the dog understands that the ‘click’ means a treat is coming. If you have not tried this sort of training before, have a look first at the, ‘getting started with clicker training’ article on the Holidays4Dogs website.
This method is only a suggested once, since dogs are different and there are slightly different variations of teaching loose lead walking with the clicker. This set of instructions will serve as a basis to get you started and to get both you and the dog thinking along the right lines.
It is always worth starting this exercise with very young puppies and it can be done stationary to begin with, in a quiet spot. Put the pup on the lead, stand still and wait for the lead to go slack. As soon as this happens click and treat. Next walk to the end of the leash so it is taut, as soon as the dog moves and releases the tension click and treat. If you can reward the puppy while he is just behind your left leg, or place the treat on the floor just behind you. You want the pup to begin to understand that forging ahead will not get him the treat and that his reward comes for staying close to you with no tension on his neck.
If your pup begins to follow you naturally, click and reward as he comes up level to your left leg, and before he has chance to get past you; (or right if you prefer to walk your dog on this side; but do choose one side or the other, don’t swap to different sides as eventually you want your dog to trot neatly on one side or the other, rather than ‘quarter’ across or behind you).
Timing for this exercise is very important, especially once you begin to move. Always reward the dog just slightly behind you and don’t let him get past! If he does manage to forge ahead, turn away and start walking in a different direction, then as he catches up with you again, click and reward by either dropping the food on the ground just behind you, or from your hand outstretched a little behind.
It is very important that to begin with, you do not try to walk too far before rewarding. Gradually build up the number of steps before rewarding.
As with all training, try to be calm and consistent and don’t try to miss out stages because this will hamper your progress and confuse your dog.
Remember dog training is a learning experience and you are learning to teach at the same time as the dog is learning to understand you! Know what you want to achieve before you begin and have a plan in mind. It is likely you will make mistakes, but be sure not to blame your mistakes on the dog. Daily training sessions should be pleasant for you and the dog, so if you do find you are getting frustrated or confused about what you are doing; stop and try again later or another day.
I remember the late, great Roy Hunter, dog trainer who advocated a rolled up newspaper being available in every room in the house. When the dog does wrong, we must quickly grab a newspaper and hit……ourselves over the head, while chanting “bad trainer, bad trainer, bad trainer!” Excellent advice I thought!