Category Archives: Training Trials

More than Fetch

Recently, I made sort of a whim of a purchase. I was walking around Petco and saw the Outward Hound Zip and Zoom Outdoor Agility Kit, and immediately thought it was pretty cool. I mean, the agility course comes with three obstacles and in a handy carrying case.

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Really, how could I pass it up? I must admit though that I almost did pass up buying it due to the price. It was $50, which (to me at least) seems awfully expensive for something that comes in such a small bag and was not very heavy. Yet, I wanted it. I wanted it because it’s not something I’ve ever seen before. Of course, I have looked into dog agility courses previously, but besides books that cover building one’s own course or simply assume that the course pieces are easy accessible, I haven’t found an actual kit with pieces. Unfortunately, I am neither crafty nor handy enough with tools and such to build my own course obstacle pieces. DIY-er I am not. Still, I’ve wanted to try doing agility with Simon and Rosee for a while. Along with being a good form of physical exercise, agility training can also be mentally challenging for dogs, which is very good for dogs like Simon. I do know that actual training classes for agility are out there, but there’s really no class available close to us and these classes typically require your dog to listen to you well off leash. Regrettably, Simon does not listen so well off leash because he finds everything and everyone else he encounters more interesting, which is why he is only allowed off leash when we go to a dog park. Rosee is pretty similar, and, well, she is very lazy. If left to her own devices she’ll mostly choose to lay down and take a nap. She doesn’t like to exert herself if she doesn’t have to, and I can imagine she would decide to lay down instead of listen to me. Also, training classes can be expensive, and I wanted something that we could all do at home on our own time. As a result, I broke down my initial misgivings and decided to buy the Outward Hound Agility Kit to try.

The kit comes with three obstacles: a tunnel, weave poles, and a high jump.

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It seemed like a pretty good deal at first, and very good for a beginner like me who doesn’t know too much about agility. I know the basics from watching the annual dog agility competitions, but, really, that’s not a whole lot. Luckily, this kit comes with a handy-dandy instruction manual along with a tunnel, eight poles (six for weaving and two for the jump), and several curved pieces that create a circle in which your dog is supposed to jump through. There are also metal spokes included to hold the tunnel down, stakes to attach to the poles to stick them in the ground, and clips that attach the circle-hoop jump to the poles that hold it up.

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It’s all fairly easy to set up, and can easily be taken down and packed away when you’re down. I like the fact that it comes in a case because it makes storage easy and all the pieces can stay together so as to avoid losing any of them.

Now, I have to brutally honest here. While I may have initially liked the idea of this product, the actual product is kind of a letdown. The tunnel is awfully short, maybe three feet long.

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The poles are made of very thin plastic and tend to fall down when a gust of wind hits them, let alone a 75 lb. dog. In fact, after setting up the weave poles Rosee decided she wanted in on the action and stole one. The plastic was so thin that just by her carrying the pole around in her mouth left it dented. She didn’t bite down, but rather simply held the plastic piece in her mouth, and when she dropped it it had two pretty serious dents—pretty disappoint.

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Lastly, the circle-hoop is barely big enough for either Simon or Rosee to jump through, and some creative problem-solving was needed to create a jump that was actually usable. I actually had to take one of the weave poles and attached curved pieces to each of the ends to make a high jump that could accommodate Rosee and Simon.

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Plus one of the tails from the tunnel that is used along with a metal spoke to attach the tunnel to the ground ripped way too easily. Seriously, all that happened was Rosee went through the tunnel and when she came out she hit the end and the tail ripped.

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Tunnel tail with metal stake to hold it down.
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The metal grommet ripped right off of the tunnel tail.

Despite all of these issues with the agility course I do have to say that Simon and Rosee along with us humans have had an awful lot of fun with it so far.

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The course is not very big, but for the size of my backyard that’s okay. It fits on our small patch of grass, and is long enough to be good exercise. However, it’s not too long and overly complicated so as to have either Simon or Rosee become bored and run away to do something else– which Simon totally does by the way. Overall, I would recommend this product, but only if you happened to find it on sale or maybe you have a coupon. Frankly, I don’t think that it’s worth $50, especially considering the quality of the course pieces and the fact that it’s not really made for large dogs. There should be a recommendation on the tag that says for small to medium sized dogs (just my opinion, of course). Nevertheless, it is easy to use, to store, and has been fun to use so far.

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She just loves it so much she can’t wait!
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Tethering: Simon Dos and Don’ts

Simon knows no boundaries, and it’s not for a lack of trying. Really. My family and I tried and try and will try to always give Simon limits, borders, and edges. However, he is a very willful boy. Apparently, that has meant just being calm and assertive when telling him what to do is not only harder than it looks, but needs to last through every minute of every day. Simon needs his people to constantly and consistently be calm and firm. Turns out, Simon is extremely sensitive to everyone’s wayward emotions. When I’m upset, he’s upset. When I’m excited, he’s excited. When I’m tired, he’s not tired (have I mentioned he could play for 23 hours a day before?). Anyway, learning to be Simon’s point persons and taking control of his defiant ways has been a seemingly endless rollercoaster ride, one that probably won’t reach its end until Simon does, but of course I wouldn’t have it any other way. This doesn’t change the fact that Simon needs boundaries.

His love for butter knows no limits.
His love for butter knows no limits.

When Simon was a puppy my mother stumbled across the idea of tethering. Tethering usually consists of setting up a slightly long, slightly short leash somewhere within the house, and when he is attached to that tether Simon would be forced to stay in one spot instead of being allowed the free reign of the house. Ultimately, tethering would provide a way of teaching him boundaries and limits because he would be unable to just do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. Simple idea with a simple action.

So, armed with new knowledge and fledging optimism my mother purchased a rubber-coated leash to attach to the leg of something in our living room that could act as a tether for a puppy Simon.

IMG_1737Now, the tether is useful for many reasons, the main one being it ties Simon down to his bed. When both Simon and Rosee (who received her own tether when she joined the family) are left alone they cannot be left to their own devices. My family tried to leave them outside in the backyard, but unfortunately that caused more problems what with Rosee barking at the fence with the neighbor dogs, so that idea was quickly squashed. Instead, it became much safer and quieter to tether the pups to their beds and leave them waiting comfortably inside the house. And since they each had a tether of their own it worked out perfectly. Scoreboard standing—tether: 1, free reign: 0.

IMG_1738However, as much as tethering was winning the battle, it had (and still has) yet to win the war.

You see, Simon never “got” the tether and whatever it was trying to teach him. This being the same dog that even when buckled up in the car will pull on his seatbelt and collar until he’s practically choking himself, so clearly the tether was yet another object for him to just pull, and pull, and pull. . .

Where Rosee will give up and give in, though not when it comes to giving up her favorite rubber football, Simon’s brain just does not have this function. He would steal food from the kitchen counters while I was making dinner or jump on people walking through the front door, so he would promptly be tethered in order to show him some restraint and his place when certain exciting activities were happening. However, Simon never seemed to understand the connection. Anytime I walked into the kitchen to cook he would be there. No matter how many treats he received for being good while tethered to his bed, the lightbulb never went off signaling the fact that he realized when I go into the kitchen to cook he goes to his bed. Now, my mother might disagree with me, but I believe that tethering Simon wasn’t actually making him learn anything. Tethering just forced him to stay in one place, it did not actually teach him to do so.

IMG_1743After more than a year of fighting with Simon and the tether, and him not actually learning from it, I stopped. My sister Theresa and I decided, a little more implicitly than explicitly, to just stop tethering Simon and at this point Rosee too unless we were leaving and they needed to be left on their beds. No more having to deal with Simon’s whining howl voicing his displeasure with his tether. No more having him endlessly gnaw on the tether as if he could try break through the wire one day. Instead, Theresa and I just told Simon what to do. When I started to cook in the kitchen we would make him sit in “his spot” right off to the side, so he could see what I was doing, but he was far enough away to not be a nuisance. Anytime people come through the front door both Simon and Rosee have to go “park it” on their beds. Sure, their commands didn’t work overnight and once in a while Simon doesn’t want to stay in his kitchen corner, but for the most part it does work. Simon, when he’s feeling cooperative, will put himself in his spot while I cook. The first time he did it I was amazed! I couldn’t believe that this was my dog deciding to actually give himself boundaries!

Of course, I had to be frank with myself. Simon was learning what behaviors were expected of him. He was learning what was considered good and acceptable. Case in point: he was learning!

Simon resigning himself to "his spot."
Simon resigning himself to “his spot.”

Now, I say he because Rosee has never exactly been the chowhound that Simon is. Sure, she loves her food and any treats she can get, but she’s never been as pushy or audacious as Simon. Where he has jumped up on the kitchen counters to steal food since the time his tongue was long enough to reach (his legs hadn’t quite grown tall enough yet), Rosee is content with just sitting and waiting for food scraps to be given to her. Rosee has always had a better sense of boundaries and limits than Simon. She just has a more people-pleasing personality whereas Simon is a little more self-centered. I believe this personality difference is mostly due to Simon being an only child for the first year and a half of his life with four people constantly doting on him (yes, I take one-fourth responsibility for his rascally ways). However, a slightly older dog can certainly learn new tricks and Simon did wonderfully.

Don’t take my split from tethering as any indication that it doesn’t work for other dogs. It just isn’t a useful technique for Simon. Tethering has really only shown itself to be beneficial for both pups when all adults are gone from the house and they cannot be left in the backyard or to wander the house unsupervised. The fact is Rosee steals pretty much anything she can find around the house (socks and tissues being her favorite) so she can chew, and Simon would just break everything left on countertops because he loves to surf on them without any regard. At least when they are tethered to their beds while we are all gone they do have to stay in one place, but they still have enough length to move around and be comfortable. However, for my guy Simon it is more important for him to learn commands by way of his people directly teaching it to him, rather than the more indirect way of tethering forcing him to exist only in one place. So, learning boundaries and limits is certainly still a work-in-progress, but it is actually progressing.

She thinks she's so sneaky.
She thinks she’s so sneaky.

In fact, it seems this whole foray into tethering was a way for me as a human to recognize the ways in which my dogs learn. I had to distinguish between making Simon do something and teaching him good behavior that he will know for the rest of his doggy life. And it seems that Simon’s brain is particular in that forcing him to do certain actions, making him stay in one place for instance, had absolutely no effect on him whatsoever. He needed to go through the process of sit, stay, good boy. It may take longer, it may be more frustrating, but it is also very gratifying.

As for Rosee, well she’s always a good girl compared to her crazy brother Simon!

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Compilation of Tips: Loose Leash Walking (Part 3)

I know, at this point you’re probably wondering how much really goes into teaching a dog to walk on a leash without pulling, right?

All I can say is some dogs are natural born walkers, and some need more help learning. Simon and Rosee fall into the latter category here, and even then they both respond to techniques differently. The most important thing is to find what works for your own dog. However, sometimes you have to go through what doesn’t work to find what does, which is how I have come to know of so many tips.

Again, my disclaimer: The tips I will present, explain, and discuss throughout this series of posts are ones that I’ve gathered from training books I’ve read, training classes I’ve attended with Simon and Rosee, and from trainers I’ve talked to. I want to be clear that I am not a dog trainer in any way, shape or form, and my knowledge of dog training comes from the aforementioned sources while training my own dogs. I can assure you however, that all these tips have been tried and tested by everyone here at Play Hard, Bark Often.

Tip #7: Try a shorter leash. The length of a dog’s leash may not seem all that significant. However, if the goal is to have your dog walk next to you without pulling then trying a shortened leash may be a good idea. To be honest, I had never considered trying a shorter leash. Of course, while walking with either Rosee or Simon I would try and shorten the leash they were on by looping some of the excess. Yet, it never seemed to work as I would get frustrated with their pulling or holding so much of the leash and eventually let it go and just hold on to the leash handle. It was only when me and Monica had ordered Rosee her Ilusion collar that realization hit. You see, when you order an Ilusion collar it also comes with an accompanying leash.

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Leash that comes with a Large size Ilusion collar.

The leash length varies depending on what size of collar is ordered. For instance, Rosee has a large and the leash is about a foot long.

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Simon has a medium size collar and the leash is a little longer than Rosee’s and not quite as wide. (Personally, I don’t like the leash that came with Simon’s Ilusion collar and do not use it because it’s not wide enough and difficult for me to hold on to.)

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Leash that comes with a Medium sized Ilusion collar.

Really, it was a “Eureka” moment because the first time I put Rosee’s Ilusion collar on with the shorter leash it all became clear. I found that with a shorter leash not only could I keep her next to me, but I was much more consistent in my efforts. I couldn’t backslide and let go of the excess leash as I had before when things became too much. In turn, I was much less stressed and could focus more on Rosee instead of on keeping the leash a certain length. Now, practically, I know it may not be so easy to find a short leash at a regular pet store. Still, it can be worth looking for one on the internet if you’re working on your dog walking next to you without pulling and not just loosely on a leash.

Tip #8: Try a longer leash. For some dogs a shorter leash might be all that’s needed to get them to walk beside you without pulling. For other dogs, such as those similar to Simon, more work and a whole lotta patience might be required. Simon, you see, is a “horse of a different color” (figuratively, of course). He can pick up tricks like shake, roll over, high five, etc. in a day, but learning to walk without pulling has not come as easily. It’s not that he doesn’t know how to do it either. It’s just that he’s not usually consistently successful at it. Now, I’ve done my best to keep myself consistent in feeling and technique when I walk him, which has helped a lot. (Think Cesar here) Unlike Rosee though, using a shorter leash has never worked well for Simon. He’s a dog that has needed to learn to walk next to me by himself. I mentioned in the beginning of Part 2 that I’m not necessarily too strict about leash length with Simon. I use a standard length leash to walk him and for most of the walk I give him the whole length of it. Originally, I decided to change my tactics with Simon because I was getting nowhere otherwise. Then I visited positively.com and read that dogs typically walk faster than us slow humans and for them to learn to walk next to you can be very difficult. It’s certainly not impossible, but sometimes their walking ahead of us isn’t about dominance or over excitement. Sometimes it’s just because we walk too slow. The suggested training technique I found was to give your dog the full length of the leash and any time they walk next to you you give them a treat. This teaches them that good things happen when they stay beside you and eventually they’ll learn not to pull while staying closer. I like to also use the turnaround method if Simon starts to pull too much. Overall, I love this method for Simon because I don’t get frustrated and he has actually learned to walk calmly beside me. Also I like to use this method when I put Simon on a really long (10-15 ft.) leash. He can go out and roam (safely), but then when he comes next to me and watches me for direction he gets a treat.

Tip #9: Strap on a backpack. Lastly, a useful tool can be a doggie backpack. Backpacks are typically available at almost any pet store and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Although, the basic principle of a backpack remains the same. It goes over a dog’s back, clips around their neck and underneath their stomach, and has a pocket on each side. Originally, Simon got a backpack when he was a puppy, but still old enough to venture outside, because we had hoped it would help slow him down. Personally, to weigh the backpack down I like to use bags of rice because rice conforms better to Simon and isn’t as oddly shaped as bottles of water. Unfortunately, the backpack never quite worked out for Simon. It did help him slow down, but it never really taught him to walk without pulling as he would still pull if he wasn’t wearing it. Also, we overestimated his size when he was a puppy and now the backpack is a little too big for him. (He didn’t grow into it like we thought.) For this reason it never seems to sit quite right on him. Still, it’s a nice tool to have around when we go down the street to a nearby park and we work on training because I can pack his extra-long leash, treats, and (for hot, hot days) bottles of water and collapsible bowls.

Compilation of Tips: Loose Leash Walking (Part 2)

It’s finally here. The second part of my compilation of tips on loose leash walking.So, here is Part 2, which focuses on three main methods I’ve learned and used with Simon and Rosee.

In general, I know that the command “heel” is the common way to teach a dog to not pull and walk beside their person on a leash. However, I am not exactly a fan of “heel” because I feel that it’s not a permanent solution. (That didn’t make much sense did it?) What I mean by this is that with any command there must be a release from said command at some point, and when walking my dog I want their behavior to be more natural and to not have to rely on a command. Don’t get me wrong, I did use “heel” at first with Simon when he was a puppy, but frankly it was frustrating to have to continually tell him to “heel” when we went on a walk. We have since tried other methods.

Before I start though, I have a confession to make: I am not strict when it comes to making my dog walk right beside me, at least when it comes to Simon. Let me qualify that. With Rosee I have come to learn that it’s important to keep her close to me and not let her walk ahead due to her anxiety and fear issues. By keeping her close I’m more aware of when she starts to become upset and stop it before it happens. However, with Simon I don’t always make him walk right beside me. Of course, when we cross a street, or walk by a person, or if we go in a store or something similar I make him stay next to me. Otherwise, I don’t. I give him the full length of his leash. I do this with him because his issue is impulse control. I’ve found that the shorter I keep his leash and the closer I keep him to me when we begin our walks then the more agitated he becomes, and therefore, the more likely he is to pull. This doesn’t mean that he can’t and hasn’t learned to walk beside me because he definitely has, but it has caused me to take a different training approach with him as well as a lot of patience. My point here is that every dog is different and sometimes it takes the use of a different technique to teach your dog what you want them to do.

Once again I give you my disclaimer: The tips I will present, explain, and discuss throughout this series of posts are ones that I’ve gathered from training books I’ve read, training classes I’ve attended with Simon and Rosee, and from trainers I’ve talked to. I want to be clear that I am not a dog trainer in any way, shape or form, and my knowledge of dog training comes from the aforementioned sources while training my own dogs. I can assure you however, that all these tips have been tried and tested by everyone here at Play Hard, Bark Often.

Tip #3: Walk around a more neutral space. If your dog pulls a lot and you are a person that gets easily frustrated, it can be best to begin your walking journey by walking around a more neutral space. What I mean here by “neutral space” is a space that is comfortable for you and one where you are less likely to become frustrated while working with your dog. Personally, when I started out teaching Simon and Rosee how to walk loosely on a leash my neutral space was my immediate neighborhood, and a nearby park where we could walk the perimeter over and over. My immediate neighborhood was neutral because I was still close to home and didn’t have to walk Simon or Rosee very far while they were still learning not to pull, and for some reason it gave me peace of mind to know that if I wanted the training session to end we were only minutes away from home. A park was also neutral for me because it was repetitive, not too far away from home, and giving Simon and Rosee something to sniff helped to slow them down some. I always felt overwhelmed when I tried taking either Simon or Rosee out on a longer walking route when I was first trying to train them to walk beside me and not pull. Just the idea that I had several blocks until we finally got home or had twenty minutes left of a forty-five minute walk was excruciating to me when they were still working on not pulling. Frankly, my patience levels were not that high, and so I decided that to avoid becoming frustrated (because that didn’t help anyone) I needed to change my approach. Walking your dog should be an enjoyable experience. In my opinion, it’s a good way for both humans and animals to receive their daily exercise. However, in order to achieve a good walking partner some training must be done. So, if you’re trying to teach your dog how to walk loosely on a leash and beside you it helps to think of it as a training exercise in the beginning. Start out with small, but concentrated efforts and work your way up from there. Remember it’s a (learning) process, not a race.

Tips #4: Whenever your dog pulls turn around and walk the other way. The “turnaround method” is one of my favorite methods to employ when dealing with leash pullers, and it’s actually one of the most recent ones I’ve learned as well. I learned this method about a year ago when Monica and me took Rosee to a refresher training class. It’s pretty simple, and I like it because it makes me feel like I’m able to address the problem of leash pulling right when it occurs. The “turnaround method” goes as follows: as you’re walking and your dog starts to pull, stop, say “No, your dog’s name,” and walk a few steps backward while your dog turns around and follows you, then start to walk forward again and give your dog a treat/praise when they walk next to you. Some dogs might not need a treat when you begin to walk forward again, and instead be like Simon in which his treat is walking forward again. Now, if your dog pulls a lot it’s probably going to take quite a few turnarounds before they start to walk next to you for a more extended period of time. But don’t give up because this method can work if you’re consistent in using it. I found that this method has really helped Simon learn not to pull on the leash and walk beside me, and he is a dog that I thought nothing would ever help him learn to do that. Using this method with him also helps me not get so frustrated with him too since, like I said, I feel that I can correct his behavior right when it happens.

Tip #5: Take a break. Sometimes there are times when your dog decides to pull non-stop or they might see another dog, garbage truck, or whatever excites them and pull. It’s during these moments that having them focus on you is difficult and it can feel that no matter what you do they just won’t listen. At times like this the best thing I’ve found to do is to stop and take a break. I stop and make my dog sit next to me and simply wait for them to calm down. This can take some time, especially if whatever your dog saw really excites them. For instance, if I’m walking Simon and we pass by a park where a dog is off leash (even though all our parks have signs that say dogs must be on a leash, but I digress) and running around, Simon can, at times, become extremely excited, and pull on the leash. In instances like this it can be hard to get him to pay attention to me, which is necessary if I want him to walk next to me without pulling. Instead of fighting with him, it’s much easier to stop make him sit down and wait for him to relax. I also have treats so that when he makes eye contact with me I give him one, which helps encourage him to learn to pay attention to me more so than anything else. It’s not that I don’t want him to look at anything else going on, but I want to be the main source of his attention. Mostly I like this method as it allows me to remain calm and not become frustrated, while it teaches Simon that he should remain calm in times when he would normally become excited. Think of it as a way to desensitize your dog to exciting or agitating situations. Now, I have to admit that I actually picked this tip up from Leslie McDevitt’s book Control Unleashed in her chapter on how to deal with reactive dogs. This was a method I first began using with Rosee to help her get used to seeing other dogs while we were at parks and such, and not become so anxious. Honestly, I have to say this is one of the best methods I learned and has worked wonderfully for Rosee. As I came to work with Simon though, I found it to be very helpful in those few moments he became overly excited and wouldn’t pay attention to me whatsoever. Not only does he pay attention to me more, he also doesn’t become as excited anymore.

Compilation of Tips: Loose Leash Walking (Part 1)

Last week in my review for the Illusion Collar I mentioned an upcoming post on loose leash walking methods. Well, ladies and gentlemen I would like to present my compilation of training tips on loose leash walking.  I call it a compilation of tips because I did not sit down one day and come up with these training tips all on my own. Rather, the tips I will present, explain, and discuss throughout this series of posts are ones that I’ve gathered from training books I’ve read, training classes I’ve attended with Simon and Rosee, and from trainers I’ve talked to. I want to be clear that I am not a dog trainer in any way, shape or form, and my knowledge of dog training comes from the aforementioned sources while training my own dogs. I can assure you however, that all these tips have been tried and tested by everyone here at Play Hard, Bark Often.

Part one of my compilation of tips on loose leash walking pretty much covers what I feel is important when you first begin to teach your dog to walk loosely on a leash beside you. It’s the beginning stages to loose leash walking if you will.

Tip #1: Start as early as possible. If you get your dog as a puppy then you should start getting your dog used to walking on a leash as soon as you can. It is much easier to deal with a small dog pulling on its leash, than it is when they grow to be over 50 lbs. Even if all you do is walk with your puppy around on a leash in your living room or backyard, just do it. Now, if you adopt an older dog (like we did with Rosee who was 9 months when we got her) you should still start walking them as soon as you can. In fact, the first thing me and my sister did when we brought Rosee home was take her on a walk with Simon. The point is, is that teaching your dog to walk loosely on a leash is an important skill to impart to them, at least in my opinion, because taking your dog on a walk can solve so many other behavioral issues. Does your dog destroy things around the house, or continually try to get into things? It could be due to the fact that they have too much excess energy, and no way to get rid of it.

Tip #2: Choose the right collar/lead for your dog. Make sure when you take your dog on a walk that you’re using the proper collar and/or lead for them. Most trainers and training books will recommend using a Gentle Leader, also known as a head halter/harness, or a chest harness that connects to the leash in the front while your dog learns not to pull and walk beside you. Both of these are good options. Unfortunately, for Simon and Rosee a Gentle Leader only helped to a point. As I explained in my review on the Illusion Collar, I felt that this option helped me and Monica control Simon and Rosee better, but they weren’t necessarily learning to walk beside us. In the case of a chest harness, we did try one when Simon was younger (way before Rosee), but he just wouldn’t stop chewing on the material that went across his chest. Then before we knew it, two brand new harnesses were ruined. Other options include a martingale collar, chain collar, prong collar and even a traditional type harness which connect to the leash on your dog’s back. Personally, I found that chain collars are too hard on Simon and Rosee’s necks, and have trouble staying where they’re most effective on their necks. As for prong collars, I have to admit that I just don’t like anything about them. In my opinion, prong collars look, scary, painful, and I feel like I’m telling the word that my dogs are bad dogs when they certainly are not. Martingale collars seem to be a good choice if your dog doesn’t pull too much, and what I really like about them is that they are truly inescapable, unlike head halters. Last but not least there is the traditional harness, which I have to say is my least favorite collar/lead and personally I would never use one. I know for small dogs these harnesses are often the preferred collars/leads to use, and they are most likely better than other collars/leads that can be too rough. For medium and large dogs however, especially dogs that are considered to be a “powerful breed” such as Mastiffs, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and (of course) Pit Bulls I would not recommend using a traditional harness. The problem with using a traditional harness on a bigger dog is that your dog can use his/her weight against you when they pull. Since the leash attaches on the dog’s back, they can pretty much throw their whole body forward to get where they want to go. Also, if, you try to pull them back to you they will rear up on their back feet instead, which only gives them more leverage to continue pulling. Overall, I am not advocating for one collar/ lead over another here. The most important thing to do is to find out what works best for your dog. My experiences with these various options could be different from others. For instance, I know some people who swear by the effectiveness of prong collars. Like I said, you just have to find what works best for your dog.

Tip #3: Employ the use of treats. I am a big believer in positive reinforcement when it comes to dog training. Of course, I am not saying that you need to ply your dog with treats in order to get them to listen and behave accordingly, but I am saying that it is important to praise your dog for what she/he does correctly. It’s usually so much easier to tell your dog “no” when they’re doing something wrong, however how often do you tell your dog “good boy/girl” when they do something right? I get it. I really do. For a long time I was so focused on what Simon and Rosee weren’t doing right, that when I realized how many times I was telling either of them “no” in one day I knew something had to change. Therefore, when you’re training your dog to walk loosely on a leash I recommend using some type of treat. Now, a treat in this case can be anything that lets your dog know they did what you wanted them to do. Most dogs respond well to food treats, but treats can be a favorite toy, or some heartfelt praise. No matter what type of treat you use, treats can be very helpful because your dog should soon recognize that when they do what you ask of them they’ll earn a reward. Namely, it’s just positive association. You do have to be careful though, as there is a fine line between rewarding your dog and bribing your dog to do something. In the case of learning to walk loosely on a leash, treats should be given whenever your dog is walking next to you on your walk. Anytime your dog is next to you walking nicely give him/her a treat. Over time as your dog gets better at staying next to you, you can start to slowly phase out the tangible treats by using more praise in their place, and sooner or later loose leash walking should be as instinctive as “sit.”

Stay tuned for Compilation of Tips: Loose Leash Walking (Part 2) coming soon. In the next part I will explain and discuss more specific methods to use when actually walking including the turn-around method.