I just finished up a Home Dog Training session in Gainesville last night. This was a new Bullmastiff puppy and they brought out all the equipment that they had bought for their new puppy. There were bowls, toys, chew bones, a harness, and an extension leash. I didn’t say anything for a bit until I got partly through the training and they were beginning to understand their role as being new puppy owners. At that point, I decided to talk about what the extension leash is really communicating to their new puppy. The good news was that they really hadn’t started using it so that there were not a lot of bad experiences we needed to correct…
Many years ago, before I was a dog trainer, I was a “computer geek”. Because of that, I always have a great affinity to anything with buttons, widgets, switches, and gizmos. When we go out to get anything, if there are more buttons the better. If we are looking for a new car, we are always asking what the buttons are for and what buttons are missing from the knockout panels on the dash. Now, let’s look at the extension leash. This is great! Look at the great handle and that big button for my thumb! And it gets even better! There is another button right next to the first! This is going to be a great toy to play with while I am walking my new puppy!
The only thing I can (politely) say to those comments is “NO, NO, NO! Put the extension leash down and slowly step away!”
The first lesson that I always teach my clients is that their most important role as being the owner of their puppy is that they must keep him safe and that we will always be protecting him. This is very important if we have him away from our home and we might be walking around the block, in the neighborhood park, or at the mall. Just like with our kids, in order for us to keep them safe, we must have their focus so that they can respond to our actions. If we are walking and turn around, they must immediately understand that in order to stay with us and remain in our protection, they must respond. If we come to a point where we stop, they must understand that they must do the same. This allows them to follow our lead and stay safe. It is exactly the same as when we tell our kids “Don’t wander off”.
In order to accomplish this, our dog must always have an eye on us and we must have an eye on him. We do this through peripheral vision and always having him around us. If he starts to move away, we must be able to guide him back. When this takes place, we are providing the proper consistency and repetition of our actions to communicate to our dog “don’t worry, you are with me.”
So question is “How the heck are we going to do this with the extension leash?” Many people think the leash is great because it is easy to use and their dog isn’t pulling or bugging them. What is really happening is that your dog is doing whatever he wants. He might be twenty feet in front of you, behind you sniffing the bushes, or even in the street. Your dog is doing everything but focused on your actions. From your dog’s perspective, you have put him in the driver’s seat. He is doing everything he wants and you are right there letting it all take place. You are telling him he is the boss, he can do whatever he wants, and he needs to protect himself if anything happens. Of course, he is the boss!
Because of all this, when another dog or person starts to approach, he will bark and jump at them. He is simply taking the leadership/protective role in the situation. You might get mad and yell at him, but you are still allowing him to lead. He is the leader. Through your actions, you have TOLD him he is the leader.
A six foot leash allows you can keep your dog right next to you and naturally provides the leadership he requires. You will have a well behaved dog because he is now focused on you, waiting for direction and commands.
Please call Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 if you would like to continue this discussion or have any other dog training questions. We have written about many of our dog training experiences and successes at Best Dog Trainers Gainesville Georgia. All of our contact information can be found at Dog Training Help Center Gainesville Georgia.