In life there is a thing called opposition reflex. It’s a natural reflex to resist pressure. If I push you, you will automatically lean into this pressure to steady yourself. If I pull on your arm, you will pull back in the opposite direction.
When training your dog you can use opposition reflex to your benefit but it can also create problems in your training if you don’t understand it.
Think about the way you hold your lead. Do you put it around your wrist and then wrap it around your hand until you have some tension to feel like you have control of your dog? Yes? What you’ve just done is triggered your dogs opposition reflex and made your dog pull on the lead and given you less control.
Here are some tips to help you achieve a relaxing loose lead walk.
- Get yourself a good lead. One that isn’t too long and is made of a good material. Steer away from the nylon types that burn and have no padding on the handle. Leather, Cotton Webbing and Biothane leads are good to hold and you can get a good grip on them.2. Practice the ‘safety grip’. Place the loop of the handle over your thumb and then grip the remainder of the handle in your palm. This is a secure grip that you won’t let go of but if necessary, you can.
3. Forget the notion that dogs pull because they are ‘alpha’ or ‘being dominant’. Dogs walk quicker than us and walking is exciting so they are driven to get moving. Increase your pace.
4. Ask for your dogs attention and move off. Praise your dog when the lead is loose. Right before the dog puts tension in the lead, change direction sharply. At this point you can add a verbal correction at the exact moment you turn. When you get the dogs attention, praise the dog again. Encourage the dog strongly to focus and pay attention and reward/praise them heavily when they get it. The idea here is to make the direction as clear as possible. YES you are getting it right and NO you got it wrong. Make it as black and white as possible. This may take a few turns but by being consistent and making the rules clear, your dog will get the picture.
Remember that tension creates tension. If you want to increase tension in a dog then hold a tight lead. If you want to decrease tension, you need to remove the pressure in the lead.