Posts Tagged ‘walking on a leash’

My Dogs Are Perfect, I’m Not

October 5, 2013

Me Maya and Pierson

You may have some misconceptions about my dogs. I bet you think they are perfect and can do no wrong. That’s because most of what you see on my blog are photos of them doing cute or fun things or articles on training tips or health tips. I generally don’t tell you the bad stuff. Why is that? Two reasons. Firstly, my dogs bring me such an enormous joy that I don’t really think about their imperfections. Secondly, I’m a bit embarrassed that I don’t have my dogs completely well-trained. Well, today you are going to get to peek into the real Dawn, Maya, and Pierson.

For the most part, I think many of Maya and Pierson’s imperfections are my own fault. They are dogs and do some doggy things that many in society don’t think are appropriate. But it is up to me to try to work through and redirect their most annoying behaviors. And here they are:

Barking

Pierson barks at almost every little thing. Since he is mostly indoors and it doesn’t really bother anyone but those inside the house, his barking isn’t a big deal. In fact, we’ve gotten really good at tuning him out. But what about when he is outside? As a responsible dog owner, I should really be working with him more on not barking so much. Believe it or not, teaching him to bark on command helped a little with teaching him not to bark on command.

Jumping on People

Even after six years, Maya is really bad about trying to jump on people. I’ve trained her not to jump on me or my husband, but it has been difficult teaching her not to jump on others. She gets so excited that it is difficult to control her when she is in this state. I tend to blame her behavior on the fact that she is an excitable dog, but truthfully her behavior is my fault. When she was younger, I did not actively seek anyone to help me teach her not to jump on them. Sure, I took the opportunity when the chance arose, but there was no consistency. Lately, I’ve been trying to amend that.

Pull No More dog harness

This dog harness / leash helps reduce Maya’s ability to pull.

Walking on a Leash

This is by far my biggest downfall. I have done a number of posts about it and have been great about giving tips. But I haven’t been so good at following my own advice. When we go for a walk, I just want to walk. I don’t want to have to stop and correct. There are some days when I focus on the training, but I don’t follow through on every walk or even every other walk. I think I am only about 20% consistent. This has helped. Maya and Pierson are not as bad as they used to be. But if I would only be consistent, they could be much better.

I have genuinely tried the Gentle Leader on Maya. I followed their instructions and advice very consistently every day for a month. All to no avail. I should try again, but probably won’t.

Pierson Group Walk Photo

Look how much progress Pierson has made with his leash reactive behavior.

Leash Reactive Behavior

Now this one I have been fairly consistent with on with Pierson. And I am so proud of how far he has progressed. The part where I may fall short is when winter comes. We won’t see as many dogs on our walks when the weather gets cold.

Maya is leash reactive too, but in a different way. Where Pierson barks because he hates other dogs, Maya barks because she is excited about other dogs. She does very well in public settings, such as the recent Responsible Pet Owner’s Day event and the Mutt Mixer event. But on walks, she does not do so well. I’m not quite sure how to handle her behavior. The methods that have been doing wonders with Pierson are not working on her. The only things I have not tried out is hiring a professional dog trainer or using an electronic collar, and I don’t want to do either. I can’t afford the first one and I don’t want to resort to the second one.

So there you have it. Maya and Pierson are not perfect because I am not perfect at training them. I think I’ve done a pretty darned good job with what I have done. And I believe they are mostly very good dogs. But I have fallen short on being consistent. It is my fault they are not perfect by society standards. But they are perfect to me. And I love them just the way they are, barking, pulling, jumping, and all (although it would be nice if I would train them to stop doing those things).

Do you have any shortcomings when it comes to training your dog? Come on, admit it. I won’t tell on you if you don’t tell on me. 😉

Two Simple Tips to Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

October 19, 2010
Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

I have had dogs my entire life and considered myself pretty good at training them.  Teaching a dog to walk properly on a leash is not easy, but I never had as much trouble with it until Maya came along.  Walking her often caused my arm to ache and blisters to form on my hands where I held tightly onto the leash in order to keep her from getting away.  Maya is an energetic dog who is super excited about walks, ready to sniff every tree, and eager to greet every person and dog she can see.

The method I had used to train my other dogs did not work on Maya.  I was using an old-fashioned method which involved leash jerking and harsh collars.  I started out with the choke chain, then eventually had to move up to one of those pronged collars.  The prong collar worked but I felt awful about using it.  And it only worked when I used it.  If she wasn’t wearing that collar, all training was forgotten and Maya was back to her headstrong pulling self.

It wasn’t until I started taking classes to be a certified dog trainer that I learned a better method.  Last year, I earned my dog trainer’s certificate with the Animal Behavior College and used my skills to teach Maya to walk on a leash without a special collar.

The first technique I used was the hardest for both me and Maya.  If she pulled too hard, I would make an eh-eh sound and stop.  I would stop and wait until she stopped pulling and looked back at me to see why I wasn’t following her.  This was difficult because it would take a very long time for us to even make it a block.

The second technique was to bribe Maya with treats.  Whenever she walked nicely beside me, I said, “Good girl!” and tossed her a treat.  Some dog trainers are against using this bribery method because they believe that the dog becomes dependent on the treats and only behaves when treats are present.  This can be true to some extent.  I am currently in the process of weaning Maya off the treats.  But I would rather have her behave because she wants a treat than to behave because if she doesn’t the prong collar will pinch into her neck.

Although these tips are simple, they are time consuming.  It took a good couple of months to get Maya to behave on the leash most of the time.  We still have some issues to work out, but I am really glad that I can walk her now without using those terrible prong collars.  If you have trouble walking your dog, consider the above techniques.  Set aside fifteen to twenty minutes a day for walking.  Keep it up for as long as it takes.  Remember that nothing good ever comes easy.