I was in Big Canoe last week working with a current Home Dog Training client and his Cocker Spaniel, Lola.  It was our third lesson and both “owner and dog” were really getting it.  Most of the obedience and behavior issues that we had been working on during the last two months were completely resolved.  We were now in the process of fine tuning any issues to make sure that Lola was now a wonderful dog. 

At the end of the session, my client said that the training of clear and consistent rules made total sense to him.  He easily observed how Lola could understand his commands and always obeyed.  He wondered if he could ever “slack off just a little” and if things would still be great.

This is a great question and the answer has to fit the particular situation.  If you want to give your dog more leeway with his rules, you need to understand some simple facts:

  • Teach the clear and consistent rule first. You first need to establish a base line that establishes a consistent rule your dog will obey. It might be “no jumping” or “walk by my side”.  You must enforce this rule whenever he disobeys.
  • Time is on your side. Continue with your consistent rules until your dog is naturally obeying.  This means that he doesn’t jump anymore or he always walks by your side and doesn’t pull on the leash. After he is successful in this respect, continue your enforcement for a period of four or five more weeks.  This helps to naturally engrain the action with your dog.
  • “Lighten up a little”. Let’s say that you don’t mind if your dog walks ahead of you a little bit.  You don’t think he is going to lunge after other dogs or people and he isn’t going to pull on the leash. Here is what you can try:
    • As you are out on a walk on a quiet street, start giving him a little more leash.
    • Let him slightly wander for about ten to twenty seconds and then call him back to you. You can do this with a slight tug on the leash and a low, correction vocal.  When he comes back, have him sit and then praise him.  Start walking again.
    • Repeat the above process until all you need to do is to give him the low, vocal correction for him to return to you. What you are doing here is to confirm that, even though he is walking ahead, he is always aware you are there and waiting for your next command.
    • Now, start walking in areas of more people and dogs. Repeat the above process.  If you can’t get him to return to you, shorten the amount of freedom or ramp down the number of people and dogs in the immediate proximity.
  • Understand your dog’s limitations. Giving your dog more freedom should only be done if he clearly understands that it is a privilege you are providing as his master and protector.  He must always “step back” to your original rule if you command him to do so.  This shows he is giving you the focus you deserve as his leader and protector.  If he is unable to do this, don’t lighten up on that rule.
  • Remember, you are still being consistent. The fact that your dog still gives you focus when you give him a little slack on a particular rule and will instantly revert to your rule, when asked, is critical.  This shows that you have maintained consistency in your rules and that your dog understands that.

I want to emphasize that “giving slack” is very difficult when you are trying to portray consistency and repetition to your dog.  Some dog owners will not be successful with this process, and that is OK too.  The goal is to use the rules and respect you have built up over time to have a great relationship and bond with your “best friend”.

It is important to remember that you are really building a lifelong relationship between yourself and your dog.  The rudimentary behavior, obedience, and socialization training techniques are simply the initial tools to create the appropriate point of origin.

You can always contact Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help.  We have a lot of some dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Big Canoe Georgia.  Get all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Big Canoe Georgia.