A leash is a great dog training tool that can be used in multiple training scenarios. This is a must have in the dog training world, without it you won’t be able to teach your dog properly. Let’s see why.
Training your dog to sit
To train your dog to sit, you should use one of two variations of the same technique or even a mix. You either use the leash to guide your dog to the sit position, a treat, or both. You should mix methods from time to time, to avoid having the dog learn only one way of sitting.
For example, a dog might only sit when you have a treat in your hand if you’ve always trained him that way. To make sure you use positive training only, on this basic task you should use a harness and not a collar.
I start by saying the command word “sit” in a serious manner (not to serious though), and pull the leash gently backwards, at the same time I lift his chin slightly towards me. If pulling on the leash makes the dog move backwards you can make this exercise near a wall, where the dog can’t move backwards, or use your hand to gently press his back down. When the dog sits completely I strongly praise him saying “Good job” or give him a treat to reward him. It’s important to use always the same praise phrase. Like clicker training, the praising has to be consistent for good results.
So let’s see a resume of the steps you must follow:
Pull the leash gently backwards and touch his back
Lift his chin up towards you
Praise him / Give him a treat
Repeat this process 5-10 times a day, always praise him when the task is done successfully, and be gentle, this process must be fun for the dog.
Training your dog to lie down
To have your dog lie down on command, you should first teach your dog how to sit.
And then follow the technique explained bellow:
Make your dog sit
Place yourself in front of the dog
Kneel and hold a treat in front of the dog’s nose with your hand closed
Say “Down” to him and lower your hand slowly while you pull the dog’s leash down
If he lowers is head only, pull the leash and your hand with the treat in front of him slowly
When he lies down give him the treat and praise him a lot
This exercise, in the same way as the sit exercise, must vary a bit, with treat and no treat (just the leash).
Repeat this exercise for 5-7 minutes, don’t overdo-it because you don’t want to tire your dog of the training. Training must be fun.
Training your dog to come
Training your dog to come can be really a life saver. This is a very important command, and also a very difficult one to accomplish. When you have your dog on a leash, this is not so important because you can always drag your dog to you if really necessary, but in an off leash situation, this is extremely important and can save your dog from potentially fatal accidents. So, let’s see how to do this, and remember don’t expect your dog to learn this fast, because he won’t.
Preparations for training
OK, to start your dog’s training you must be completely sure he knows his own name. Start indoors to prevent runaways, and always use a long leash, 4-5 meters depending on the size of your house.
This leash must be lightweight, and must be very simple, so a rope will do just fine. Let the dog drag the leash around for at least 2 hours before starting so he gets used to it and doesn’t associate training to the leash.
If you’re up to it, you can even let him use a dragging-leash full time while indoors because this will maximize your chances of having your dog come every time you call him, you’ll see why in the next topic.
OK, I’ve leashed my dog to a thin rope, and I’m ready to start.
While your dog is not looking or paying attention call his name, and say “Come” in a very excited tone.
Make sure you’re in range of his dragging-leash so you can step on it in case he runs away, or that you can grab it and pull towards you (calling him always in an excited tone)
If you have him always on leash, and you make sure he can never run away from you by having the leash on range to grab it or step on it, you will be making a consistent message to the dog, that he cannot run away from you, ever, and that when he comes he gets praised. So for the dog it has become quite easy to choose if he wants to runaway or not. He simply won’t because there’s no reward in doing that.
If on the other hand, you start calling him, but don’t have a leash to pull him in case he runs away, then you’re actually rewarding him for not coming, because running, smell new stuff, and do whatever he wants, it’s always more rewarding to him.
Off leash training
When your dog comes to you flawlessly while indoors, you can start his training outdoors (please use a fenced yard). The training method is exactly the same, but you must use a bigger rope, 10-15 meters, depending on the size of your yard. You must never let him run away, and must be very consistent and positive. Training your dog to come must always be very positive for the dog. That way he knows that when he comes to you, he will be praised.
In the beginning avoid wireless dog fences like the P I F 300 or something similar to avoid your dog from running away. It’s important to train the basics before going to something more elaborate.
Training with a loose leash
Taking your dog for a walk should be a pleasure and not hell like so many owners start to think when they cannot teach their dogs to walk on a leash properly. When you start taking your dog for walks around the neighborhood, you should start in more quiet areas, if you cannot find a quiet area, please try to go out in a less noisy time. Puppies get scared easily with loud noises.
What type of leash should I use?
For most dogs, a small leather leash will do just fine. It must not be too long, but long enough to allow your dog to be loose on the leash.
What type of collar should I use?
For this, you must use your common sense. For small dogs, a normal leather collar will do just fine. For larger dogs a slip collar should be more appropriate because of their strength, but not always is the case. For tougher dogs, like Pit Bulls or Rottweilers it might be necessary to use a prong collar. This must be used with care, because even Pit Bulls can be very eager to please its master so there won’t be a need for a prong collar, in fact, it will only hurt your dog’s training.
A head collar is also very effective, as it becomes unnatural for the dog to pull ahead of you, because it forces him to turn is head.
What exercises should I do?
You start by walking the dog in one direction and say a command “Follow”. As soon as the dog starts pulling ahead of you, turn in the opposite direction immediately and say nothing to the dog. This will surprise the dog, and with a few more repetitions he will start thinking that you are the one who knows the way, not him. This is extremely important to make sure the dog sees you as his chief or Alpha Leader.
As we’ve seen in this post, Leash Training a Dog can be quite easy as long as you follow the rules and techniques explained here.