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Leash Walking Awesomeness

Author: Sarah Gaziano | Date: November 7, 2012

About a month ago, I was sitting for my parents’ one-year-old puppy, Sophie. She doesn’t really like to walk outside. The main issue is her love of the house. They live across the street from a park and often walk all the way around it. When you make it about half way around the park, you can see the house.

Whenever she sees the house, she starts to pull toward it.

This has been going on for the entire time they have had her and my mother has not had any success breaking her of this habit. We would like this dog to be a therapy dog, and I would like her to work with me in my training classes as well. So I took the weekend to work on this with Sophie, and it totally worked!

I began this endeavor with a Gentle Leader. She is about 100 lbs., and I’m not going to deal with her shenanigans. Then I ran away from the house. Like I said, she pulls toward the house if see can see it. I try to pull her away from that particular visual stimulus, and she is more likely to move if I move quickly. Also, I only planned on walking about two blocks. We were not going on this excursion for her to eliminate. We were just going to train. So we had gotten away from the house. I had my string cheese in my back pocket and leash in my hand. Then she wouldn’t budge. She sat down and wouldn’t move, so I started to run backward. That got her to get up and I gave her a jackpot of cheese. I kept moving. I knew I had to keep moving so that she would keep moving. For the first block, I walked backward the whole time. My parents live in the suburbs so there wasn’t really anyone around, but I think you can accomplish this in the city. Even if someone is coming you can just pull over and do some focus exercises or keep walking past while rewarding. (Some advice for walking backward: don’t wear backless shoes.) Every few steps I took I would reward her with a bit of string cheese. She couldn’t be pulling, the leash had to be loose, and she had to be moving with me as well.

We had made it all the way to the crosswalk, and I waited for her to sit. We crossed the street and headed for the house. I walked by her side and rewarded her every so often, every few steps. She never pulled because she wasn’t sure when she would get a treat and every time she looked at me I would reward her. Even in just that one block she didn’t pull, she didn’t run toward the house, she didn’t stop behind me. Breakthrough!

I am always teaching people what they should or should not do with their dogs, but I rarely practice it at home.

It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment to actually put the tools I have to use.


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