Creating kinder, gentler experiences for pets


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Pet Perception Management by Rolan Tripp, DVM

Starting With A Puppy
When first introducing leash training, start by allowing the pup to lead you to sniff and explore outside. As you begin to lead, every pup will initially resist. Use treats at your side, then try to get him to follow by leg patting and coaxing. Praise any positive response; ignore negatives.

As you begin to lead, every pup will initially resist. Give a tug to get him started, then try to get him to follow by leg patting and calling.

If he takes the leash, don't allow him to lead you. It is OK to allow him to bring you the leash, but if he has it in his mouth while walking, you have less control in an emergency, and it encourages him to consider chewing the leash later. There are several methods to keep the leash out of his mouth.

  • Don't go anywhere fun when the leash is in his mouth. If walking, stop and be boring.
  • Soak the leash in a safe taste deterrent.

Head Halters
A good alternative for solving pulling on the leash is use of a canine head halter. This halter loops over the nose and behind the ears similar to a halter on a horse. The advantage is that by controlling the direction of the head, you easily eliminate pulling without choking the dog. Introduce Head collars with treats.  It may still take a while for the dog to accept, so make it fun.

Adult Dogs
While walking, if he begins to pull quickly turn 180 degrees and walk in the new direction. You may not make much forward progress at first, but the dog will learn he will get to go in one direction faster if he doesn't pull on the leash. A second benefit of the "Change Direction" approach is that the dog is constantly reminded that you are leading the walk. You lead every time you decide to change directions.

The Heel Cue
This is a much more advanced event than merely not pulling on a leash. The ideal heel is when the dog walks closely on your LEFT side. He matches your pace, and looks at you whenever you stop.

This Instruction is best learned in a formal class from an obedience instructor. You are less likely to start bad habits. In addition, the distractions of the other people and dogs in an obedience class or with a private trainer make the training more reliable. The dog also learns to follow cues in different locations.

Praise the dog or use a clicker-food reward, any time he is in the correct position. If he "forges" (moves ahead of you), turn in front of him. As he strays from the correct position, use the "Change Direction" technique. If you turn and change, he will need to catch up and pay more attention.

Dog Leash Aggression

A training foundation needs to be established first by using the "Learn to Earn" daily reinforcement method. The dog must learn how to focus on the pet parent and respond to "sit" and "down" in a variety of locations. Start with the home and backyard. When the dog is responding consistently, add distractions by asking a second person t make noise or try to entice the dog's attention away by bouncing a ball or squeaking a toy. Try to keep the dog successful by introducing small distractions and gradually building to longer ones.

When the dog has enough experience ignoring the distractions and staying tuned in to the training, then begin working with the dog on walks off the property. The pet parent needs to:

  • be hypervigilent on walks (aware of surroundings)

  • control the distance to the dog's triggers

  • determine what the reaction distance is  (ie. 10ft, a block, etc.) - at what distance will the dog still respond to Instructions?

  • respond as soon as the dog starts to react with a U-turn, if necessary using a knee to physically guide the dog into the U-turn. (Once the dog is under control giving the dog lots of reinforcing praise.)

  • move farther away from the stimulus If the dog will not focus on the pet parent

If the dog "freaks" out then wait it out until the dog calms down. It is important to remain calm, showing emotional leadership.


Desensitization and Counter Conditioning can be worked on to help the dog gradually learn to ignore the stimulus while responding to instructions and praise from the pet parent.

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