Loose Leash Training Helps a Beverly Hills Cocker Spaniel Behave on Walks

ailey-beverly-hills-cocker-spaniel

Bailey is a five-year-old English Cocker Spaniel who is lives in Beverly Hills. His guardians called me in for a dog obedience training session for some leash training, stop his leash aggression; lunging, barking and nipping some dogs and humans when out on walks.

Because Bailey’s family lives behind a security gate, one of the guardians came out to escort me in. This gave Bailey a chance to see me coming which is something I usually try to avoid as seeing how a dog reacts when surprised gives me an insight to their mindset and energy.

At first Bailey was barking in an excited state, but as I stood outside the door chatting with his guardian, I started to see a little bit of a territorial display out of the dog.

Once inside, I sat down with Bailey and his guardians to chat about what they wanted to accomplish during the session. In the course of this discussion I learned that Bailey did not have very many rules or boundaries to follow.

Because dogs go through life probing to identify and determine where boundaries and limits are, a lack of rules can cause some dogs to get the impression that they have the same authority as their humans. When this is the case, then listening to the humans becomes optional to the dog. So if you are reading this because your dog has similar issues, let me ask you this; what rules does your dog have?

I spent a couple of minutes going over some easy rules that the guardians can incorporate that will help Bailey start to see and identify himself as being in the follower position.

I also recommended that the guardians start to practice my Petting with a purpose strategy of emphasizing petting the dog when it does something to earn it first like sitting or laying down. Asking a dog that thinks it is in a leadership position to start earning it’s praise and affection can go a long ways towards helping with dog obedience.

Next I went over some nonverbal ways for the humans to communicate with Bailey. Like many frustrated dog guardians do, one of Bailey’s guardians had resorted to verbally disagreeing and reprimanding the dog. But if a dog does not understand the words that we are saying, all they can tell is that we are upset or animated.

Knowing how to communicate with our dogs in a way that it understands can go a long ways towards helping us eliminating unwanted dog problems. This is why positive dog training is so effective.

Now I was ready to start some leash training for Bailey. Ironically enough, I started out my leash training section of the appointment without using a leash. I wanted to show Bailey’s guardians how to use positive reinforcement to motivate Bailey to want to walk next to his humans.

The key to the technique outlined in the video above is to immediately reward the dog anytime it takes a step towards you at first. You want the dog to understand that approaching the human is not only a good thing, it is rewarded.

Once the dog catches on, the guardians can start asking for an additional step or two before giving Bailey the treat. It will be important however that they do not go to far too fast. One extra step per practice session, max.

I recommended that the guardians practice this technique a couple of times a day in different open areas of their home until Bailey starts to immediately approach or follow them anytime they start walking around him in a clockwise circle.

Next we headed outside so that I could show the guardians the next stage of training the dog to walk with a loose leash in the heel position.

Because he was nice and calm and the previous exercise had started the conversation, Bailey caught on to the outdoor heel or leash training beautifully. Clearly this is one smart dog.

Of course, I do this for a living. The real measure of success is if the guardians can achieve the same results themselves. I handed the leash to one of Bailey’s humans and coached her up through the exercise as she did it herself.

Although the guardian was a little bit slow in her treat delivery speed and did not have the best technique at first, she steadily improved throughout the exercise. She commented to me that it was a lot harder than it looks which is often the case for the first time or two. But based on how quickly she picked up on the other things from the session and this exercise, I’m guessing that it won’t take longer than a day or two before she becomes a pro at this.

The other guardian took a turn next and benefited from all of the previous work we had done with Bailey as he was following a right along.

I recommended that the guardians practice this technique a few times a day but only after they had transitioned from the first exercise where we treat the dog anytime it starts approaching us.

Of course the more the humans practice, the better and faster Bailey will develop his loose leash skills. They need to make sure that the dog training sessions do not go too long (1-2) min max and always end on a good repetition.

But the biggest mistake most people make when practicing this technique is pushing too far, too fast. If you go to quickly, the dog starts to lose interest. This is why I recommended that the guardians start to only add one additional step per each practice repetition and if the dog starts to lose interest, to back up one step (for future repetitions not literally) and keep repeating that number of steps until the dog has it down before adding an extra step again.

I also shared a couple of other tips and suggestions on things to avoid when teaching Bailey to heal in the video below.

While the guardians will start to see some gains, the real loose leash training progress will take a couple of weeks before the guardians are seeing consistently good results outside on real walks.

To make sure that the guardians had the tools needed to control Bailey on a walk during this transition, I showed them how to apply a special twist of the leash to a Martingale collar to give them more control.

We made sure that Bailey was calm and relaxed before we headed out on the walk. This is a crucial step that many people skip. The energy your dog has when you leash it up is the same energy they are going to carry with them throughout the walk. If necessary, I suggested that Bailey’s guardians stop what they are doing and go and sit down to watch a little TV or read if Bailey walks in front of them as they walk to where the leash is or if he gets over excited once they pick it up.

By stopping every time that Bailey moves in front or gets excited, his guardians can communicate to him that the only way they are going to move forward is if he is in a completely calm and balanced frame of mind.

By the time we got outside for an actual walk, it was easy. Bailey’s guardians both marveled at how dramatically his walking behavior improved. One of them told me by this point Bailey would’ve dragged her down the street. The fact that she said this as he walked calmly right next to her with a completely loose leash put a big smile on both of our faces.

After offering that guardian a few tips and suggestions, the other guardian took the leash so that I could coach him through the new techniques as well. Bailey continued his outstanding loose leash walking for him. It looked like he had been walking in a heel with a loose leash for years!

By the end of the session, Bailey was much more relaxed. He was showing respect for his human’s personal space, had stopped nudging them for attention, was starting to follow the new rules that we had only introduced an hour before and as detailed in the above video, was walking with a loose leash like a pro.

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