Loose Leash Walking 101

One of my favorite followers is having some loose leash walking woes, since I’ve been there done that for months with Pricessface Maizey I decided to turn my reply to her into a post of my favorite LLW tips.

It’s important to use the correct tool for the job. Sure, you can use the wrong end of a screw driver to pound in a nail, but it’s going to be hard and take longer. Simple solution-use a hammer!

So what’s the correct tool for LLW? A regular collar and leash. I’m picky about leashes. I only use leather. Leather is soft on the hands, absorbs those shocks of a dog lunging to the end of the leash and last forever. I truly believe once you use a leather leash you’ll never go back.

For those dogs like Maizey that just took forever to learn that a tight leash gets you nowhere I recommend harness as a management tool. I love the Freedom, Sensation or Sensible for front hook no-pull harnesses. However a front hook harness can be tricky for a small dog. With Maizey I’ve used a Puppia. It’s two years old, has seen some serious use and barely wore out this week. Frown and sigh. Oh well, now I get to get a new cuter one!

I know there are people out there thinking, “regular back attachment harnesses encourage pulling” and it may be true, but stick with me for the explanation of why I chose that when we talk about methodology.

The most important part to LLW is consistency. A tight leash never gets the dog where he wants to go. If the leash gets tight, stop! Then don’t move until the dog has come back into the golden zone. (The golden zone is anywhere around you where the leash is not tight. Some like to define it as the hook of the leash being in a ‘J’ shape.) This is hard! Trust me, when you want to get from point A to point B and it takes forever because you have to stop 5000 times it can be frustrating.

The times I found it the most challenging were the times Maizey was the most excited and just didn’t have the brain cells to concentrate at all. That’s where management with a harness came in. Dogs are brilliant, and quickly learn contextual clues. Wearing the harness is like recess, it’s free time, the rules are relaxed and the dog learns if they want to pull, pull. It’s okay. Basically it buys some freedom for a handler that wants to be able to go from the house to the car in less than a half hour. The key is to keep the collar sacred. If the leash is on the collar, pulling gets him no where. If you or your dog are too tired, rushed, frustrated, or whatever to be consistent don’t use the collar. Start a walk with the harness and once those initial crazies are worked out switch to the collar. Recess ends, class starts.

Once you have your mind made up to never follow a tight leash again, how do you get the dog into the golden zone? Make the golden zone exciting. Make yourself exciting. You’re competing with the whole wide world of sniffs and smells, blowing leaves, other animals and who knows what else, so encourage your dog to be with you. If you want him to walk on the left side carry the leash in your right hand and pat your leg to encourage him to come back to where you are. Talk to him, tell him when he’s doing good. I like to carry a little squeaker in my pocket to get the dogs attention, when he comes back to find out why you’re squeaking, the leash naturally loosens and shazam! You can reward by moving forward.

Remember if the leash tightens, you stop. Dog choses to return to the golden zone, mark with a “yes!” Forward motion is the functional reward.

Another method is to back up from the direction of the pulling. It’s basically penalty yards for pulling. I used this method with Maizey, but with Magnus combined the two. So if I stopped and he didn’t come back into the golden zone I would back up until he caught on. I liked that better.

One more tip and it seems strange, but don’t teach LLW in a straight line. Swerve around, walk in circles and large S shapes. It keeps your pup more focused on figuring out where in the world you’re going and less focused on what’s down the street.

Now to further refine the LLW position get out your clicker and treats. (For those of you training for CGC, put the treats in your pocket not a treat bag, eventually you’ll be weaning off these treats completely.) Start LLW with the red light green light method, but when your dog comes into position C/T. Remember you’re holding the leash in your right hand, so put your clicker in that hand too. That leaves your left hand free to be the treat dispenser. Don’t treat by reaching across your body to the dogs mouth or you’ll encourage him to forge forward and get out of position.

By this time he should be getting the idea to look up and pay attention. Reward those check ins! Any glance at you is a great thing to C/T. Remember you want him to focus on you for LLW, so pay him generously for doing so. Gradually LLW will become second nature.

A note about distraction, especially if you have a champion puller who’s has had lots of practice, start from scratch in the least distracting environment possible. Start in the house, once he’s reliably staying in the golden zone, work towards the closed door, once he can walk nicely to the door, open it and start over. Remember, if he can’t LLW to the door he’s bound to fail once you’re in the real world, and we never want our pups to fail!

One final note, bad habits take time to form and time to break. If he’s had lots of time to practice pulling, it may take time to teach him to choose not to pull anymore. Eventually he will understand all good things happen in the golden zone. For Maizey that means she rarely pulls, even on her harness. Be patient! It’s worth it in the end.

For my friend with the LLW woes, hang in there. I thought Maizey would never get this and she’s mostly good now. For anyone out there who may have a trainer encouraging them to try more forceful methods, please consider this is a force free way of teaching your 4legged friend to choose the best behavior. When he does choose on his own, you’ll be thrilled with his choice!


Cavalier (or Any Other Breed Query): How Do You Walk Two Dogs At Once?

First, a special thanks to all you have joined the 2011 Walking Challenge! Many are off to a banner start, especially those who live in warmer climates than the frigidly cold weather we have been having. (You know who you are and you know I am jealous!) It’s exciting to have so much support.

Thanks to Kathleens’ thoughtful suggestion, I made a badge for us all to post on our sites if you would like to. If you have any suggestions of how to make it better please let me know!

Miss Kodee and Becky passed along this great site to help figure out and track mileage. I have been playing with it and it is super cool. I also have used google maps and google earth, but I think I Map My Walk even better.

Be sure to update me with our progress in a comment in any post, it doesn’t have to be a walking challenge post. Again if you have a good walking story to share feel free to post a link, I will love to read everyone’s adventures!

Query: How To Walk Two Dogs At Once
I’m just full of questions lately! So here’s another Cavalier Query for you:

How do you walk both of your dogs at once?

Now I know there are a lot of rules about loose leash walking and both must be good on leash before they go together and all that jazz. . .

Be reassured both dogs are getting plenty of individual practice. But I really need to be able to walk them together sometimes. Time is short, energy is low, the weather is lousy and I am doing good to get out there at all, let alone twice, or whatever the case may be-I need to be able to walk them both at once sometimes.

So I want the inside scoop here!

What kind of leash do you prefer? Leather? Nylon? Flexi-lead?

How long is your leash? Six feet? Four feet?

Do you use one of those dog couplers that lets you use one leash and have two dogs on the end? (I hesitate to think the kind of chaos that could create when they decide to zoomy around and tug on each others ears!)

I prefer a nice 3/8 to 1/2 inch, six foot leather leash for one pup, but two nice 3/8 to 1/2 inch, six foot leather leashes, each with their own dog on the end is not working well for me either. (Insert sighs and rolling eyes here!)

What about different kinds of walks? When we walk by the river we use a long line for more freedom. I have a pretty good setup with a 15′ long line with  hook on each end, and I hold onto the middle. Keeps tangling down, my hands are free for c/t’s, it can be gathered up for nice walking. It works pretty well, but what better ideas do all you brilliant people have?

And what about taking a nice stroll through the city with two dogs on one sidewalk? You know the quick jaunt around the block? How do you make that as fun and leash tangling free as possible?

Once again I beg and thank you for the benefit of your wisdom. We have 361 miles more to go and need your advice to make it happen!


Graduation was Great! What Did We Learn?

Saturday was graduation day for Magnus Puppy Prep class. It was a really fun day, and I was a very silly, very proud crazymomlady.

He got a certificate, a fluffy stuffed toy, and some treats. It was a great time. I am so glad you all talked me into going!

But typical me, my favorite part of the class wasn’t the graduation march, complete with music, or the clapping and cheering. Although that was fun!

No my favorite part was my brave little guy working hard for me and loving it.

This last class was a review of the things we covered in the class. We got a chance to show the progress we have made over the weeks and ask for tips on how to polish up out skills.

“Follow Me” Lessons
At class we learned a “follow me” to start out LLW. It is basically a lure so your dog learns to stay close while you are walking. This turned out to be one of those techniques I didn’t really get at first, but in the end I learned more than I expected.

I learned I can fade a lure much faster. When our instructor saw how well he was doing she said to wait to treat him, in fact she had us walk about 15 feet before treating him. After that I realized I was treating about ever three to five feet, and he could handle much more.

Another reminder was the importance of what we communicate with our body language, tone of voice, etc. Now I already knew this, but when you get to watch someone experienced demonstrate what you are trying to do, it is the smallest changes that make a difference.

For instance when training loose leash walking I realized I always treated for correct position from my right hand. Watching our instructor I saw her lure withthe treat in her left hand. Much more efficient that reaching across my body to treat from my right hand. That small change in my posture is making a difference in both my pups loose leash walk.

Leave It
The class environment really lets you see progress that you don’t notice in your most common training grounds.

It was so nice to have mehusbandy with us for our graduation class. After class he commented how he hadn’t realized what great focus Magnus was getting.

I saw this in Magnus too, when we tried a leave it with the treat on the floor. This is one of those things that had slipped through the cracks when training at home. We have worked tons of puppy Zen but not with the treat on the floor.

So when she told us to try it, I wasn’t sure how he would do. Of course it was no problem!

In fact he added his own twist by offering me a down, staying off the treat and when I cued “leave it” he started scootching backwards with his belly on the ground. I had to laugh. Not my final picture of leave it, but a pretty funny thing for him to figure out on the spur of the moment!

But it was his focus during leave it that I loved. He is learning to look at me and not at what ever he is leaving alone. This is the same puppy I spent the first month laying on the ground hand feeding just to get a glance out of. He has come a long way!

We both learned so much and are looking forward to our next class!


Training Challenge Week 7: A Reactive Maizey Victory

This is an exciting training challenge for me to post.

We have loved being a part of Ricky’s Training Challenge, it pushes me to be creative and I am learning so much from following the others challenge posts. (For a real treat check out Ricky’s challenge this week, his mom must be a super hero for hauling his chute around to so many places!)

As for the exciting part?

Maizey and I walked three miles past numerous dogs and how many barks did we have? 2, 406?

Wrong! Two!

Two you say? Yes literally two barks!

How can that be possible of the Princess-Of-The-Shrill-Bark?

Honestly I don’t know what brought the change. Let me tell you how it went.

Because I new this walk was for our challenge I chose a route that I knew had more dogs on it, but would not be TOO much of a challenge. On our street alone we must pass Mr.’s Red Pit Bull and White boxer, who feed each others fence fighting into a frenzy, the fluffy Aussie mixes whose main joy in life is frenzied fence chasing, my friend Baxter, whom Maizey believes is evil incarnate (she really hates all Labs) and Baxter’s friend Thelma who doesn’t believe any dog in the world is her friend. And that was just who was out on the night of our walk!

Because of the level of difficulty on our street I always take the precaution of having Maizey wear her Halti until we pass that major test. Usually we will have barking and lunging but with careful reinforcement it is getting less.

Until the night of the famous walk. That night we still had some lunging, but I added her leave it cue, and maybe that made a difference, because for the first block past six barking dogs-not one bark!

Well at this point I was flying high with pride at me little girl. I switched to her buckle collar to do some loose leash work. So when we walked past the black lab in a rod iron fence who always sends her over the top and still barely a lunge and not a peep out of her, I pretty much figured someone had replaced my girl with a voiceless impostor!

Still though it got better! Through three miles, past two dogs loose in their front yards, and others in their fences, the only time she barked was at the Big Black Scary Boy on the corner. Since it was dark by then and he wasn’t there the first time we passed, he even scared me! So she got out her two barks, but with a leave it she trotted along with me.

A big part of helping reactivity is always being aware of the environment, looking out for triggers and being prepared to deal with them. This can be very tiring, but by choosing a route where I could anticipate where many of the “big mean scary dogs” would be I could be prepared. So I started rewarding for attention early, putting the most distance possible between us by moving to the far side of the road, and then when I saw her start to orient to the dog I cued a leave it marking correct response with a calm, yet emphatic “Yes” and reinforcing fast and furious until we were past the dog.

Did adding her leave it cue make the difference? I have avoided using it with reactivity for fear of poisoning one of her strongest cues. Perhaps that could still happen, I will certainly have to keep an eye on it. Maybe she is maturing, and that is helping her be more confident.

Regardless, I was happy with her progress and happier still when we had a repeat performance with slightly more reacting on another walk later last week.

I just get giddy thinking of it again tonight. There is a 4legged lesson there, one I visit over and over: our pups joy is our joy, their success our success.


Week 1 Training Challenge: Practice Travel

We joined Ricky and all his 4legged friends for a training challenge.

The challenge is to train once a week outside of your or your pups comfort zone. For week one we did a ‘get ready for the big trip’ run through.

Although not very exciting as far as training challenges go it was helpful to me for we have a family vacation fast approaching that is definitely out of my comfort zone. Ten days camping in South Dakota with 17 members of my family. Try not to all be envious okay?

Really I am looking forward to it, but it is Maizey’s longest trip yet and I want to make sure she is prepared. Things I am looking at as a new experience for her include two Chinese Crested’s and my cousins baby. (I can’t think if she has ever seen a baby before so that should be interesting.) She has never camped before or traveled that far so I know there will be many new things.

Which brings us to our training challenge for this week. I tried to think of things she may need to brush up on and then took her running around with me as much as possible. Things we worked on include her riding in the booster part of her car seat without the crate, some LLW work, sit and down stays while mehusbandy washed the car. (Good new experience with loud noises and busy street) We also worked on her staying in the car alone. (Don’t worry it wasn’t too hot and just for a brief bit at a time.)

"I like this booster since I can see out the windows!"

So while not completely out of our comfort zone it was things she need to practice and it went really well. Thanks for getting us going Ricky!

"Okay I'll stay, but man is it hot out here!"

Next week we have a brand new experience for Maizey that involves milling people, that way she can be ready for the milling hordes when we are camping! But you’ll have to come back and see what it is next Sunday!

Meanwhile check out some really exciting challenges from Ricky or Marie.

"My crazymomlady worries too much, doesn't she know I'm a no fuss no muss traveler?"

Each week of the challenge will include a summary of what we did, feel free to peruse as you’d like, but as it is mostly for my benefit it will appear in my short hand.

DATE and TIME: Tuesday August 3, 2010 evening
LOCATION: car, gas station, car wash, restaurant parking lot
SKILLS TRAINED: first time in booster without crate, LLW, sit-stays, down-stays, staying calm when crazymomlady is gone w/ mehusbandy and alone in car.
SUMMARY: Did good w/ booster, no complaining settled into down. LLW is miraculously still there. Only a couple back ups then worked fine, with treats. no clicker. L3 LLW 40′ w/ one distraction. Apx 50′ along curb w/ pink treat bag as distraction she paid no attention to it at all. Also worked sit-stays wants to settle into down. Don’t work downs for a while, pay for sits @ food with me working away form her. She stayed in car alone, I walked around corner she barked for apx 20 sec then quiet, I return jack pot through window. Then left again she barked for apx 25 sec but ry came back so got interrupted. Need to work alone time w/ out me.


Maizey’s Level 2 Video-Part One

Time for the L2 video of Maizey’s Training Levels progress. She has tested 8 out of the 16 behaviors. So we are half way there.

She tested her first behavior on April 1, 2010 then the last behaviors we tested were on June 6, 2010 so 8 behaviors in 2 months is pretty good. Keeping good records, which I admittedly am not great at, does help. It’s quite encouraging to look back and see how fast her progress really was.

The video shows the tests as outlined for L2, I view it as sort of the basic foundation to build on.

Then after you lay a firm foundation the levels outline a “Continuing Education” section. We are working on much of the continuing education skills for the skills she has already tested. These are some of the great ideas:

COME: call her with my back to her, and recalling her and gently grabbing different parts of her body helps her learn to be caught.

DOWN: work on using other forms of payment. Try a back scratch or Maizey loves it when I clap for her, apparently she loves applause! A toy, or before being released to go through a door are some other ideas.

PARK IT: This has been a really fun one. Part of it is too move the mat around and teach them to figure out where it is and go to it. One time her floppy lion was a few feet closer to her and in front of the mat so she ran over and pounced on it in perfect park it position and just grinned up at me like, “How ’bout this? good enough?” Such a silly girl! This has proved a very practical skill also to help with her reactivity so we have been doing a lot of mat work out side and in many locations.

CRATE: Location of the crate becomes very important now and so far she has learned to be crated outside in our yard, at numerous other peoples houses, at a training field, and in the car to name a few.

To really understand the depth of the levels you really have to just visit Sue’s Training Level book and dive in, but it is a great program, especially if you aren’t in a position to do a lot of classes.


30 miles in 30 Days Makes Loose Leash Walking A Snap

Fait accompli! Okay so I think I deserve a little slack in the fancy word department as a way to say: we did it! It is an “accomplished fact, something already done and beyond alteration.” The fait accompli? We successfully walked 30 miles in 30 days. Challenge complete!

So I am a little full of my self, those of you who know me realize that for someone who is a self confirmed energy hoarding sloth this really was an accomplishment.

Many four legged lessons were learned. But my favorite thing was learned by Maizey. Not too long ago we started L2 Loose Leash Walking(LLW), and since I think Maizey was as determined a puller as our 90lb Alaskan Malamute, whom we will always miss, I was admittedly not too optimistic. Especially since this is what LLW does not look like:

“Ahh crap, I’m about to go turn around and follow you walking backwards aren’t I?
You do know the neighbors think your a nutcase for walking me down the street backwards all the time?
Pardon me while I roll my eyes in disgust”

But the progress was amazing. And it is so nice to walk down the street and not look like a fool of a grown woman bing dragged down the sidewalk by nine pounds of girlie hair! So this is what LLW does look like:

But first of course we have the celebratory “pretty girl shot” before we start our last miles of the challenge.

On our walk I cue, “get ready” and make sure she is ‘in the game‘ and paying attention.

“Get Ready? I AM ready crazymomlady! Lets Go!”

So with a chipper and completely unslothful, “let’s go” we start off.
L2 LLW is defined as,  “a loose leash [is] a leash with the snap hanging straight down from the collar. If the leash supports the snap in any way, the leash is no longer loose.” So that is our criteria. At close to perfect it looks like this:

Now there are two ways described to reinforce the LLW and I strongly recommend reading the details at Sue’s Training Level site, but for purposes of our picture commentary I’ll just comment that I chose the option of c/t when she is in the position I want her and while we are moving forward. I feel it gives a clearer explanation of, “Yes! You are perfect right where you are.” 

The theory goes that a dog can be taught to know that when on harness it’s “recess”, so to speak. It’s play time, with a looser interpretation of the rules. Then when put on flat buckle collar they realize, “Okay, class time! Time to have a nice LLW and pay attention to crazymomlady.” It works great! By now she is getting used to the position I expect her to walk in, namely her shoulder at the seam of my jeans, and often times even on her harness is walking that way.

I think we are going to make her a new section, “LHW” for loose harness walking.

Of course this is recess so it doesn’t always stay loose. But its okay.
 ”WHOA that’s some foot ya got there crazymomlady!”

In conclusion Maizey would like to say:
  “Yeah I know I’m the princessface and not only am I pretty, now my knees work I can walk on a loose leash 30 miles in 30 days! Ya, I rock it.!”