All dogs respond to training methods in different ways and with so many options available it’s always best to find the method that suits both you and your dog. Below we offer an insight into some of the training methods that have proved successful with our own dogs and also those of our friends and family.
Some dogs are particularly food motivated – this can really help with training. Use it to your best advantage!
Common Problem 1- Pulling on the lead
Solution 1 - Walking on a loose lead
For particularly highly strung or nervous dogs, walking to a close heel can just heighten their stress levels and in turn make them pull against the lead further. An alternative is to walk on a long loose lead without pulling. A happy medium for both you and your dog.
Start in the house or garden where your dog is relaxed and comfortable. With you dog on a training lead (180cm approx) make a clicking or squeaking with you tongue (use this same noise constantly throughout the training) to get your dogs attention. When the dog responds offer a small tasty treat (cheese, sausage or meat). If your dog is food motivated it shouldn’t take long for your dog to catch on. Let your dog carry on sniffing and then repeat the exercise. Then start to walk, making the noise at intervals to grab your dog’s attention (particularly if they walk in front).
When you are happy with progress, move on to an area just outside your house. Don’t plan to go anywhere, just carry on the exercise walking up and down until you have a dog that is walking along side you without lunging and pulling. Continue with the training using it further and further a field. This isn’t a quick fix so above all have patience.
Solution 2 – Walking to heel
This is a more traditional training method where additional control is required. Again take a longer training lead and loop a section in your hand. Walk together with your dog giving the heel command and your dog’s name. When your dog starts to surge ahead, turn sharply in the opposite direction dropping the extra loop. The slack lead and then jolt should get your dogs attention. Encourage your dog towards you into the heel position with a treat and carry on walking at a swift pace (gathering up the lead into a loop again). Keep changing direction until your dog understands that he should be walking with you and not the other way around! Again patience and lots of praise and treats is key.
Why use a Harness?
If your dog is a little unpredictable off lead or is still in training to walk correctly with you, a harness is a great way to give your dog a more comfortable walk with less stress on their neck and throat.
Ideally you should practice walking your dog for a short period on the collar using the Loose Lead or Heel techniques above. Then when you reach an area where your dog is allowed to sniff and socialise, attach the long lead to the harness to indicate this ‘free time’. We also use a flexi lead once we arrive at the field or park again on the harness to indicate ‘free time’.
Common Problem 2 - Your dog doesn’t come back when off lead
Solution - Use a long line
Attaching a long line (up to 20 metres) to your dog is an intermediate between your dog being on a lead and completely free outdoors. We use a lightweight webbing canvas (available at DIY stores) with one of our rescue dogs. Securely tie a trigger hook (available in ‘Walkies’ accessories) to one end and attach to your dogs harness. Created a makeshift handle by knotting the other end.
Initially practise your recall in the garden using the long line. Continue to recall and reward your dog. In a large open area allow your dog more freedom but continue to engage your dog with recall, treats and praise. If you think they may be distracted, hold on to the end and reel them in to ensure they follow your command. As your confidence grows you can drop the line and let your dog free secure in the knowledge that it is far easier to catch a section of long line than an excitable dog!
Extreme care must be taken when using a long line to ensure people or other dogs do not get tangled in the line. Use in open spaces. Attach the long line to a harness rather than a collar as a sudden jolt to your dogs neck running at speed could be painful. For strong, powerful dogs this method is not recommended.
Common Problem 3 - Jumping Up
A very common problem and just your dog’s way of saying hello. However it can be frightening and very annoying to you and your visitors especially on wet days with muddy paws!
Consistency here is important. Whenever your dog jumps up at you or any family member simply turn your back on them and fold your arms ignoring them completely. If your dog then stops jumping you can then reward with a pat and affection. If you can also get your dog to sit this is a real bonus.
For visitors, try an exercise where all visitors have a treat with them as they enter the house. The dog must sit calmly to receive the treat. It may mean that you run through this a few times with the same visitor to ensure your dog understands.
If you have multiple dogs in the house – one at a time might be best initially as they can tend to encourage excitable behave in each other.
Your Training Tips
If you have a kind, reward based training method that you would like to share with other loving dog owners please email firstname.lastname@example.org with you ideas.