I was in Atlanta yesterday at a Home Dog Training lesson for a new client and his great Belgian Shepherd named Bradley. The biggest issue regarding Bradley was the fact that he wasn’t listening or respecting my client. We spent most of the time inside working on simple focusing techniques and leadership establishment so that Bradley would agree that my client was the boss. This would, in turn, direct Bradley’s focus to my client. I also spent a great amount of time teaching my client “how to be the leader and Bradley’s teacher”.
The lesson went very well, and we accomplished all the “A Priorities”. It was later in the afternoon and unusually “cool” for Georgia in the summer. My client asked if we could take Bradley outside for a walk. I told my client to “prepare Bradley for a walk”. He hooked a leash to his collar and said “OK, what next?”. I then told him to “do what he normally does when taking Bradley for a walk. This is where it gets interesting…
As soon as we got out the front door, I could clearly see that Bradley was getting excited and adrenalized. He started to jump and pull on the leash. My client was getting equally excited and was yanking back on the leash.
Things obviously weren’t going well. I wonder why my client hadn’t mentioned this earlier? I assume this was not the way he would want to walk Bradley.
I then did the “time-out call” and asked my client to bring Bradley back inside. Once inside, I told him that Bradley obviously wasn’t giving him the needed focus or respect when they went outside for a walk. It was time to change that.
The first thing we did was to place an Easy Walk Harness on Bradley. The key characteristic of the Easy Walk harness is that the hook is in the front on the dog’s chest. I then had him hook Bradley’s leash to both the Easy Walk harness (hook in the front) and to Bradley’s collar.
Now, whenever he needed to give the leash a tug, it will tug Bradley from his front. This means that Bradley will always be turning back to my client when he is doing something wrong and receives a leash tug. My client will now have Bradley’s focus in order to direct him to the “right thing”.
On top of this, hooking the leash to the Easy Walk harness and collar requires far less adrenalized energy to regain Bradley’s attention than the standard collar. This means that my client is showing a “calm and in-charge” nature when Bradley looks back at him. Since Bradley’s main form of communication is body language, my client’s calm and assured demeanor will communicate leadership. Bradley will naturally comply.
Well, enough about the Easy Walk harness and it’s importance as a “walking tool”. It is now time to start the walk…
I told my client that it was critical for him to take control even before the walk began. In order to accomplish this, he had to gain Bradley’s focus at the very start of the walk. The “start of the walk” is the front door. I instructed my client to take Bradley to the front door and place him in a sit and stay. He should then calmly open the door and step through. Bradley needs to remain in place until my client is on the outside of the door and must remain stoic until my client releases him and he can calmly step through the door to my client’s side.
Once Bradley is calmly at my client’s side on the outside of the front door, they can begin their walk. If Bradley is calm and respectful during the walk, all is wonderful and no further action need be taken. Long story short, Bradley still was pulling on the leash. We needed to resolve the situation.
As soon as Bradley started to pull on the leash or do anything that my client didn’t want him to do, I instructed him to give several quick tugs on the leash while verbalizing a correction sound such as a low toned and forceful “No”. As soon as Bradley stopped tugging and calmly looked back at him, he should let Bradley know he did the right thing by saying “Good Puppy”. All is now good and they will continue walking.
Every once in a while Bradley was a little too adrenalated to have the “quick tug while still walking” get his attention, so I gave my client a “ramp up” option. When Bradley wouldn’t respond to the “walk and tug”, I told my client to stop, plant his feet in the ground, and give the leash multiple, more deliberate tugs. This will naturally swing Bradley around and will have Bradley clearly view my client’s “large and in charge” presence.
Once Bradley is calm and focused on my client, I instructed my client to “give Bradley and additional order”. This was to assure my client that Bradley was now respectful and obedient. I suggested that he have Bradley sit. Once this was accomplished, I told him to confirm Bradley’s correct behavior by saying “Good Puppy”. Since “all is well”, they can continue their walk.
There was one instance where Bradley got even more out of hand. Again, I ramped up my instructions to my client. This time, I told my client to tug the leash and turn completely around. He should now walk Bradley the way they came for about thirty to fifty feet. He must be calm through this entire process. Once he sees that Bradley is no longer adrenalated and respectfully focused on him, they can turn around and continue their walk in “the correct direction”.
The ”not so secret” to all the above processes is that my client is always displaying leadership. This is done by the consistency in his correction and his ability to remain calm.
Well, we took a walk that lasted about thirty minutes. As I mentioned earlier, it was rather cool for a summer afternoon in Georgia. By the end of the walk, Bradley was calm and focused on my client. Both were having a great time and a wonderful bonding experience was established.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over seventeen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.