I think there
is a lot of attention given to techniques like 'be a tree' and '"penalty yards" (TM pending, Lana Horton)', but sometimes the most important part of these techniques isn't
emphasized, which is the reinforcement for being GOOD! I think a lot
of times it's portrayed that teaching a dog to walk nicely on leash
is very difficult and time consuming using positive reinforcement as
opposed to using aversives - and this just isn't true in my experience!
I have had a
tremendous amount of success teaching LLW with just a clicker, a leash,
and bag of tasty treats. I've had very limited success using things
such as choke chains (which I'll admit I started out with) and halties
or gentle leaders.
behavior is no different than any other. Start SMALL, don't lump, and
work up in distraction. It's not a magical formula! Here's the basic,
baby steps formula we used for training our cross over dogs and for
training our new puppy:
- In your living
room start by 'warming up' the dog with the clicker with a few basic
tricks (sit, down, etc.) so the dog knows that there are treats to
be earned for the savvy pup!
- Walk away
from your dog, he will most likely follow! Click and treat! Don't
worry about where the dog is, just that he's following and in your
- Turn around
and go the other way - the dog will most likely follow! C/T! Most
dogs LIKE to follow us around, especially when they know we've got
treats to be earned!
- Repeat! You
soon have a dog that understands, "Following that person around
gets me treats - how easy!"
- Start SLOWLY
raising your criteria. Click when he's closer to you, or maybe if
he's near the side that you eventually want him to heel on. Repeat,
- Keep raising
that criteria. Go faster, go slower - where's the dog? Right with
you? Good! C/T! Is the dog wandering off somewhere? Ask yourself,
am I acting like this is a GAME or a CHORE? What level or reinforcement
are you giving? If the dog is not having fun, you're not doing it
right! Also, make sure you keep the sessions SHORT, don't bore the
dog to death!
- Once the
dog is onto the game of Following Mum (or Dad, as the case may be)
Around, break out the leash! Now you've got a new job, your job is
to make sure the leash is never taut. This is not the dog's job yet,
it's yours. Start with baby steps of Follow Mum again, as this will
be a whole different game for the dog. You may have to just drop the
leash and let it drag while he relearns the Follow Mum game.
- Play the
same game, only with a leash, where your job is to not only c/t when
the dog is in position, but also to make sure that dog NEVER has an
opportunity to pull! Luckily, since dogs are so super smart, and they
like playing games, it won't take long before they start ignoring
the leash and just following you around the living room.
- With a little
practice, your dog will soon be following you with his leash on around
the living room! He wont' be pulling because he's following you around!
Success! Not very useful, you say? Not true! Baby steps let you move
FASTER than attempting to start training the dog outside with all
sorts of distraction.
- Go into your
backyard with your dog, your clicker, and a bag of treats. Do a few
'warm up' exercises so your dog knows that treats can be had for the
smart puppy. Turn around and walk away from your dog - does he follow?
Well c/t that dog! Does this sound familiar?
- Repeat, repeat,
repeat steps 1 through 9 in the relative safety of your backyard.
Pup should be onto this game, so maybe it won't take as long to get
him to understand the rules of the game! Or maybe it will, after all,
outside is mighty distracting! Once your dog can successfully LLW
in your backyard, it's time for the front yard!
- Okay, this
is a little different, in that your dog should be on leash from the
start. And someone had the excellent suggestion of a flexi-lead, or
just use a long line to start with. Then, guess what, repeat steps
1-9 in your front yard!
- Adding distractions.
I think the problem most people have with LLW and his method is that
they add WAY too much too fast. An actual walk is so full of distraction
and environmental reinforcement for not listening to you that it's
hard to expect a dog to listen to you at all, much less learn about
something as ambiguous as LLW.
SMALL. Have a friend/spouse/child distract the dog while you're
practicing IN YOUR LIVING ROOM with the dog offleash (right back
at step one!) Turn and RUN away from your dog, does he follow? C/t!
Repeat, repeat, repeat until pup is onto this game and you can't
pry him off you with a stick. Try throwing balls, squeaky toys,
bowls of food just out of leash range, etc. Proceed to the back
yard, once again starting offleash at step one!
incredibly time consuming, but it isn't. A couple 3-5 minute sessions
a day and you're done. This should be a GAME, it should be fun and
you should set your dog up to win. It's important to realize that
with each new distraction you add you must set your expectations
for success back at 0. If he breaks, laugh it off, set him up for
success next time! Dogs like games, dogs that are having fun with
you aren't as likely to look to the environment for reinforcement.
- So you think
you're ready for a walk down the street, do you? Your dog so loves
playing the Follow Mum game that even a small child eating ice cream
two feet away can't distract him from moving from the 'zone'?
- Grab your
dog, a bag of treats, your clicker and a long line. Warm your dog
up LLW in the front yard, get him into the game. If you live on a
road that is not very busy, start walking down the MIDDLE of the road
(otherwise just use the sidewalk). Keep your reinforcement VERY high,
keep him interested in you! If he wanders off out of the 'zone' that
you want him to stay in, turn around and walk the other way. If you
have a particularly hard headed dog, RUN the other way! Does he follow?
C/T! Then start again, with an even HIGHER rate of reinforcement.
(By the way, it's not necessary at this stage, in my opinion, to use
the clicker all the time, feel free to shovel food.) Don't go far!
End on a high note, and reward that dog all the way home.
- Repeat until
you have a dog that can reliably walk up and down the road in the
- Putting the
leash on for walks. If you feel you and your dog are ready for the
big test, put on pup's normal leash, grab your treats, your clicker
and head out down the street. Does your dog have a very good idea
of what behavior you want while he's on leash (aka following you around?)?
Does your dog associate being on leash with getting a tremendous amount
of reinforcement for staying close to mum? Well then, you shouldn't
have much trouble.
where I think Be A Tree and "penalty yards" (TM pending, Lana Horton) should come in. At the
end. The dog knows the game, he knows the rules, but what if pup
should choose not to play your game anymore? What if he starts to
pull on leash? This is where it's SO IMPORTANT that you ALWAYS freeze
and BE A TREE. Cause and effect are very obvious to dogs: I Pull,
Therefore I Move. If he's erratically rewarded for pulling, he will
continue to pull, and will continue to ignore you! After all, what
does he need you for?
all, pulling is an indication that either a) you have not trained
under enough distraction, b) your rate of reinforcement was too
low, or c) the dog does not understand the 'game'. Either way, you
must go back to the basics!
In the meantime,
I use first Be A Tree, in which case I often get a dog that jumps
backward back into the 'zone' with a 'whoops!' look about him, ready
to try again. If I have a dog that ignores my stopping and tries
to forge ahead I slowly start walking backwards, and continue walking
backwards until the dog has come all the way back into the 'zone'.
This does not mean I stop walking backwards when the leash is just
no longer taut. The Game Rules state: only dogs in the 'zone' will
have forward movement! Once I start moving forward again with my
dog in my zone, I make sure I get a couple of paces of good 'zone'
work, and reward that lovely response!
Wow, that took
forever and a day to write up! Really, it's a very easy, fun, staightforward
process where I had all my dogs heeling nicely within two weeks of starting
One last thing:
Stopping on walks - not allowed! I often walk all three dogs at once.
The Rules State: All dogs on walks must be in heel position at all times,
and while sniffing is allowed, no one gets to stop the parade! I have
a No Elimination on walks rule as well. These are simple rules to enforce,
as these are not part of the game! If you're not moving with me, you're
not in the 'zone', and you're not playing the game! If you're taking
a leak on a tree, you're not with me, and you're not playing the game!
This sounds harsh, but my dogs love going for walks! But it would impossible
to walk three dogs with them randomly pulling, peeing, and stopping
all over the place. Now we all get to have a wonderful time together
Good luck with
the loose leash walking!
copyright 2002 Lindsay Newman
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