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Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Teaching Contented Confinement    

What is close tethering?

Close tethering basically means your dog is on leash with you or attached to heavy object such as a table or desk leg that is near you. The dog is kept near you and does not have freedom to go anywhere else. This is gentle and effective way to reinforce the dog's position as a follower in the human pack. When dog's perceive themselves as followers and not the leaders of the family, they are more relaxed and motivated to learn how to please the family. Dogs naturally follow their leaders with love and loyalty.

Close tethering  and housetraining

The first reason to teach close tethering is for housetraining purposes. By confining the dog to a small area using a leash or tether, the dog's instinct not to soil the den, is a natural inhibition that prevents elimination and gives the dog a reason to "hold it". 

NOTE:  Do not tether train a puppy until the puppy is first "leash" trained at about 10 to 12 weeks of age.
Do not use any physical punishment or scolding during close tether training.  The secret to teaching close tethering is to move your body towards the dog as a reward and away from the dog as a correction.

What's in it for me?

When introducing any new exercise or concept, make sure you make it in the dog's best interest to comply. Think about your dog asking you this question, "What's in it for me?" 

NOTE: Begin close tether training after the dog has been on a long walk; usually at the end of the day so you can sit and read or watch television with the dog near by.

When first introduced to close tethering, most dogs will go through at least one temper tantrum. The dog may attempt to get your attention in a variety of ways including pawing, whining, barking, rolling, and other difficult behaviors. A tired dog will be a more cooperative dog.

First, find something soft and comfortable for the dog to lie on and provide a special chew toy when you begin close tethering. Praise the dog for being on leash and  resting quietly in a specified place. If the dog has recently eliminated, but whines, paws, or begins other attention-seeking behavior, tell the dog, "Quiet!" in a firm but not scolding tone. If he or she stops the attention-seeking, immediately praise the dog with soothing words like "good girl (or boy)."

Whenever a dog initially begins what we will call "fussing," the first option is to take the dog outside to the toilet area to determine if he or she needs to eliminate. Second, offer some water or, if it is feeding time, some dry food (not treats) to determine if that is what is needed. Similar to a child who is fussy, once the basic needs have been satisfied,  then it is simply a matter of the dog learning to be comfortable on its own.

Positive chew training

Teach the dog that the best chews are given when he is close tethered or in the kennel. For close tethering, provide a mat and praise quiet, relaxed behavior. As long as the dog is lying quietly, praise and reward this quiet behavior every 30 seconds or so. As the dog adjusts to the close tethering, gradually taper the frequency of praising and rewarding quiet behavior to every few minutes, and then offer intermittently. If the dog begins fussing or puts on a temper tantrum, the solution is to simply turn away so that the dog cannot reach you or see your eyes. If the fussing is repeated and expanded, continue to ignore the dog until he or she is through the entire repertoire and finally settles down. Listen carefully to the dog. Then, when the fussing stops, turn and give praise and reward the dog with eye contact and attention. If he or she begins fussing again, turn away.

Freedom is not free

Once the dog is close tether trained, it means he or she will lie quietly when tethered to any person or solid object without fussing. This is similar to the horse who is taught to rest outside of the cowboy's saloon. Close tethering actually gives the dog more freedom because now you can take the dog with you more places and more often. The goal is to have the dog tethered close to you and have him or her be completely relaxed and at ease. Close tethering is a gentle, effective strategy for teaching acceptable household manners and preventing household destruction in addition to providing a means to spending more quality time together with your pet.

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