The "Drag Line"
Sometimes a plain, simple tool, like a "drag line", can be a tremendously easy and effective way to deal with unwanted behaviors, and can even save your dog's life.
A drag line is simply a length of cord, with a snap on one end and a fused, no knot end at the other end. Usually, a light weight utility cord, commensurate with the size of the dog, is used. The length depends on how it is used. For outdoor use, 10-20' might be appropriate, and for indoor use, maybe 6-10', again, depending on the way it is to be used. The snap end is to be attached to the dog's collar or harness, with the line attached to the snap, and the loose end is allowed to trail along behind the dog. The trailing end should be plain, with no knot or handle in it, so it does not get hung up around furniture legs and the like.
The drag line allows you to influence your dog's behavior, without triggering reactive behaviors like biting or running away, because you can simply go to the far end of the line, and pick it up, without directly approaching your dog. For dogs that bolt out the door (and could run into the street and get hit by a car), you can just step on the line, as the dog whizzes past you, and stop the escape.
Dogs that are head/face reactive will often jerk, bite, lick, run or snap when hands approach their head or face, such as when you are trying to "catch" the dog, or hook a leash to their collar, or sometimes even just wanting to pet them. While you are working on ways to reduce the reactivity, its a good idea for the human to stop doing the triggering behavior of reaching for the head/face of the dog.
It's another useful "tool" to have in your tool box. Used thoughtfully and wisely, it can be a great benefit in your training program.
Balance for Better Behavior - TTouch
A simple, but effective way to aid your puppy/dog in using its body in a balanced fashion is by way of engaging two points of contact, as we do with TTouch. Notice the slightly slack leashes (attached at two different places, one more forward, the other further back), dog alignment, and handler position turned slightly towards the puppy and forward of shoulders. This allows the handler to give signals, as needed, with either end of the leash, and assists the puppy/dog to find their most balanced position and efficient movement. Balance in the body creates more balance in the mind, and that, in turn, affects behavior in a positive way. It is much more effective than one point of attachment, and fair to your dog. It is very useful for directing and redirecting your canine companion, and can reduce or eliminate behaviors like pulling on a leash.
Training Tip - Speak Gently with Your Leash
Often times, we get so involved with
giving verbal and/or hand signals to our dogs, that we forget about the
communication going down the line (leash), directly to our dog. Remember
that your dog feels each and every pressure on their body, even the tiniest
little signal, from any tightening on the leash. From their perspective,
it usually is associated with a correction, or negative communication.
The longer I work with positive motivational methods, the more convinced I am about the important part intention plays in working with and training our canine companions (or any animal). My work with various energy methods, has further emphasized this concept. In large part, our intention, focus, and thoughts significantly influence the outcome of whatever we do. I am finding that the human factor has even more influence in the canines behavior outcome, than I ever thought. To be sure, there are other factors involved. But the lack of good, clear intention, has enormous ramifications in the training outcome, usually detrimental.
Energy follows thought. Successful trainers believe in the ability of their dog to do something (right/well), rather than thinking/focusing on the dog's past or current seeming inability to do it "right". If you think your dog is stupid, dumb, or unable to do something, chances are good that they will demonstrate that for you. Over the years, I have watched many students bring about significant changes in their dog, just by changing their intention.
So, how do you do it? Start by setting your intention (thinking, envisioning, verbalizing ahead of time), about the outcome of your training session. Decide you are going to have a great training session, rather than waiting to see what transpires. Be proactive rather than reactive. For example, I will say "today Fido and I are going to have a great training session, and he will do (name some specific exercises) faster than ever before, with less help from me, and in perfect position." The more clearly and detailed I can "see" it, the better.
And of course, you need to do this more than once. Pay attention to the changes that you start to see happening, over time. Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are little. If you find it difficult to believe in actual changes, perhaps you can find it acceptable to believe in the POSSIBILITY of change. In addition, you can change the idea from focus on your dog changing, to focus on you changing, saying something like "I am going to experience a wonderful training session with my dog. I will be clear and concise in communicating with Fido." You can go even further by describing in detail how you will do this (be prepared, have motivators ready, clear my mind of everything else that I have been thinking about today, etc.)
The hardest part is usually in remembering to do it. It only takes a few seconds to change our way of thinking. It gets easier, the more often you do it. Start taking charge of your training sessions, in a positive way, and become a more successful trainer. Think it, "see" it, do it..intend it. The rewards follow.
a Clue--Observe Your Dog's Posture and Body Language
This dog (left) has a painful back. Notice how high its back is being held, with its stomach pulled up. Also notice how wide the back feet are placed, relative to the rest of the body and the front feet. These can all be attempts by the dog to relieve stress, tightness and/or pain. How do you suppose this dog would feel if you tried to make it sit by pushing down on its rear end? If it was being "uncooperative" for a sitting exercise, would you think he was being difficult or ornery? Or would you ask yourself why and go looking for clues to the unwillingness to sit?
This is a free standing position that this dog naturally stops and stands in. It is not being influenced by a collar/leash attachment.
1. Play some soothing music.
Halters - Help or Harm?
Head halters can be used in two ways: as mechanical devices to control the dog, or as educational tools, used to teach the dog the desired behavior, through balance. Dogs can still pull with them on, but usually not quite as much, when used the first way. I prefer the second way, with the goal being to eventually not have to use it at all, the dog having learned balance and self control.
When you attach the leash to the head halter, under the chin, there can be significant stress and strain to the dog, possibly damage to the spinal column or, even death, if/when the dog gets its neck wrenched or snapped back. For sure it is not conducive to clear headed thinking and good choices by the dog while this is happening. Especially if they are in pain from this process.
Instead, think about using two points of contact, the head collar and a balance harness (TTouch methods). With two points of contact you can influence the outcome to a much safer, more desirable and less damaging result. The dog's neck does not get folded in two by the dog hitting the end of the leash because you can intervene before he gets to the end, thorough the additional attachment to the balance harness. The snapping and jerky motions on the head collar can lead to neck injuries, which may very well go undiagnosed. According to Dr. Sue Ann Lesser, DVM, (16 years experience in canine spinal manipulation) "A nonprofessional may see this as a dog who is squinting, doesn't like his neck touched, carries one ear higher than the other, has a painful facial expression, snaps when petting is attempted, or hides in seclusion." (Animal Wellness Magazine, 2007) "The two points of contact approach minimizes the torque to the cervical spine caused by the use of a headcollar alone." She especially warns against using head collars as the sole point of contact on dogs with cervical disease or wobblers disease.
The next time you see someone using a head collar on a dog, pay attention and watch what is happening to the dog's body in the process. You might be able to suggest an alternative method (with balance harness) that brings about the desired behavior with less stress and strain on the handler and the dog.
1. Clearly mark your kennel(s), with a
distinctive design (see below).
Be Objective about Training
Many students tell me their dog "knows" how to sit (on command). When asked to demonstrate this, we see that the dog does not sit on command. The dog may just stand there, or start pulling on the leash, or mouthing the leash or any of a multitude of other activities. It is probable that the event(s) that the student remembered did indeed have the dog sitting on command. The stumbling block here is that the student thinks the dog understands "sit" in all situations, based on a few examples, and doesn't realize how limited the dog's experience and understanding is. "He did it yesterday" seems to translate into "he knows it."
However, without realizing it, the student has probably generalized from the fact that the dog did indeed sit on command, under a few certain circumstances, to the dog knowing and understanding sit, under all circumstances. This is true of the other "commands" as well, the "come" or recall, being probably the worst for unfortunate or even tragic outcomes, due to this generalization or misunderstanding. Far too many people start off-leash/uncontrolled setting work, before their dog has a solid foundation in the exercise, on the basis of one or two correct responses.
One needs to appreciate the fact that when any part of the cue (command) word is different (sights, sounds, smell and more) it is a new and different exercise to the dog, and therefore not necessarily the same response is required. If your body position is in any way different, if your clothes are different, your voice or inflection is not exactly the same, if there is someone talking in the next room or yard...all of the variables affect the whole, complete picture of what your dog is taking in, in response to "sit". If you change ANY part of it (whether you realize it or not), to your dog, the exercise is different, and might need a different response. (If you repeated your cue word "sit", did you say it exactly the same way each time, or did your intonation change?) It is much less likely that your dog is being "stubborn" or deliberately trying to sabotage your efforts, than that he has noticed something different about your behavior, and is responding accordingly.
So reassess your powers of observation. Be honest with yourself about what your dog really observes, does and understands, not what you want to believe or hope your dog knows. Be aware of the whole picture (including yourself) that your dog sees and senses, so you know what may be causing the confusion (and hence, not achieving the behavior you desire). Without objectivity, you will be guessing at what it is you are trying to change. Your "target" behavior might be a supposition on your part, rather than an actual behavior, if you are not careful.
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