freedom

The Leash

I have found myself saying this even more frequently here lately, so I thought I would expound upon it in a post:

The leash may be the most underutilized puppy training tool.

Now, there are several really important training tools for puppies and dogs alike – the crate being the other potentially most important that comes to mind – but I find the leash is horribly underused indoors.

Yep – INDOORS.

Your puppy runs off behind the couch to pee.
Your puppy steals your shoes out of the closet and chews them.
Your puppy bites at your legs as you walk down the hallway.
Your puppy runs away from you or hides in unsafe places where you can’t reach.
Your puppy launches at other members of the family (usually kids) whenever it is given the opportunity.

In each of the above scenarios, a leash worn indoors, and possibly even tethered to you, could have either prevented or significantly mitigated the issue.  Now, your crate plays a large role in the above as well, but your pup can’t live in a crate all day every day – nor would you want him to!*

When your puppy is out of its crate, it should be 100% supervised until it is old enough/mature enough/trustworthy enough to be given a little freedom.  The easiest way to do this and still be able to do some things around your house?  A LEASH.

Need to do laundry and take care of your pup?  Tether your leash to your belt and have the puppy follow you from room to room, to the laundry room, and then lay calmly next to you or chew a bone while you fold it.  Use the “Sit on the Dog”** exercise often.

Want to allow your pup some freedom but know he’s likely to grab a shoe and run under the bed?  (First of all, if that’s a big issue, maybe freedom isn’t the answer.)  Let your pup drag a leash so that when he dives under the bed, you can just grab the end of the leash to retrieve him safely and end the “game” of stealing and chewing.

Now, don’t let your puppy drag around a $50 custom leather leash that you hope to use with him as an adult.  That just begs for trouble.  Go buy a cheap little nylon leash – something easily replaceable if you forget to watch your pup for a moment and he chews through it.  If your pup is a horrible chewer, you may even want to get a thin metal line to start.  And bonus, for pups who really hate leash walking, this is part of getting them used to the idea in the environment that is the most comfortable and familiar to them.

People are always amazed that I was able to raise Tucker, my Labrador, without loosing any items to puppy teeth.  This method is how I did it.  You wouldn’t leave a little baby alone in a room with no direction, protection, or supervision – so why would you do that with your puppy?

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In this photo, I am using a leash to control Tucker’s movements as he meets my friend Suzie’s dog, Apache.  This kept Tucker from 1) jumping all over Apache if he got excited or 2) running away and practicing “flight” if he was scared.  This allowed me to have a lot of control over the situation and help walk Tucker through the appropriate behaviors and reactions.

*Puppies DO need a fair amount of structured rest in their crate.  Most puppies need to be getting 18-20 hours of sleep a day, and the crate is the best way to make that happen.

**Sit on the Dog – essentially placing the leash under your foot close to your puppy and just standing on it until your puppy settles into a sit or down.  Only give the pup as much leash as it needs to stand next to you – no more.  If your puppy flops around a little, it’s okay.  Most will settle quickly next to you when they realize it’s the only option.  Start creating a “coffee shop mentality” early with your dog.

Categories: Blog, dog training, freedom, Puppy, training tips | 1 Comment

Leash Laws – They Aren’t Just About YOU!

This one is going to step on some toes – sorry folks!

I often hear people explain their choice to have their dogs unleashed in public/leash-required areas by saying, “My dog is super friendly – he won’t hurt anyone!”  I’ve also heard, “He doesn’t go too far, and he almost always comes when I call.”

These individuals assume that the leash law is just for them – and that because their dog is friendly or usually comes when called that the law is irrelevant to them.  Friends, this simply isn’t the case.  Nearly every week, I hear my clients complain about off leash dogs who run up on their leashed dogs.  And here’s the thing – most of these client dogs ARE REACTIVE.  Dogs who are aggressive or fearful do not need your happy-go-lucky pup running up into their faces – no matter how much of a social butterfly your pup may be!

I have clients who have worked extremely hard to improve their dog’s behavior, but they are still nervous about going to our local Greenway because of the large number of off leash dogs who show no obvious training or manners.  That is simply unacceptable.

Listen folks, I get it.  Most of you don’t have large yards to let your dogs run and we only have one dog park (which I hear negative reviews on regularly) in the area.  Regardless, it doesn’t give you the right to ignore a law or rule that has been put in place not only to protect other dogs and people, but your dog as well!  If you need to practice obedience at a distance, or even play a small game of fetch, why not use a lightweight long line to make sure you remain in control?

Please, respect your fellow dog lovers and keep your dog leashed where required – especially when that area is a high traffic area.  Remember that some of the dogs you see at the Greenway have been attacked by off leash dogs – and they are still affected by that fear and anxiety!  

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Fall 2017 – I needed to work on off leash obedience with Beau, but since we were at the Greenway, I used a green parachute cord as my long line to make sure we were still being respectful of other patrons.  Choosing a material that blends in and isn’t heavy helps simulate an off leash environment.  

Categories: Aggressive Dogs, Behavior, dog health, Dog Parks, dog training, Fearful dogs, freedom, leash laws, training tips | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Freedom is Earned

In my domain, my dogs have always earned freedom.  What does that mean?

It means that before Tucker earned unsupervised free run of the whole house, he had to show good unsupervised behavior in my bedroom.

And before he earned unsupervised free run of my bedroom, he had to show good partially supervised behavior in my bedroom.

And before he earned partially supervised behavior in my bedroom, he stayed in his kennel when I wasn’t able to watch him – because that was the safest place for him (and my stuff).

It would surprise most people to know that Tucker was not left outside of his kennel if I wasn’t home until he was somewhere between 2-3 years old.  Why?  Because I knew his kennel was safe, and when he was an adolescent, I didn’t 100% trust him not to stick his head in a trashcan or steal some kleenex.

I have received numerous calls, emails, and text messages from folks who have provided their dog (usually a puppy) with too much freedom too fast.  Young dogs are like children – they get distracted, they “forget” rules, and they are easily tempted.  You shouldn’t feel guilty for limiting your dog’s unsupervised freedom – it can save you money and your dog injury!  I have heard of dogs destroying couches, digging through walls, and even ingesting foreign objects – all because they were trusted too soon.

But here’s the reality folks – as you begin providing freedom, you may have great success for a while and then your puppy does something very “puppy.”  So what then?  Just like a parent with an unruly teenager, it’s okay to take freedom AWAY again for a time until you feel it can be handled appropriately again.

Exhibit A:

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Ellie just turned a year old this past Saturday.  She’s a firecracker, so she has not been given much freedom yet.  It’s only been in the past few months that she’s even been trustworthy enough to leave in the living room while I walk down the driveway to get the mail.  Lately, she had been showing much improved maturity – so the hallway gate blocking off half the house was used less frequently and fewer doors were closed when she was out of her kennel.

This morning I took a phone call from a client.  I didn’t realize that Ellie was no longer in sight until the call ended – less than 10 minutes.  I found her ripping up Tucker’s bed in the back room.  So what now?!  We’ll take away some freedom – we’ll spend a while using the gate again and closing more doors – and when she has gone a while without an incident, we will slowly begin providing more freedom again.

Restrictions and boundaries aren’t mean folks – they’re a safety net for you AND your dog.  Don’t feel guilty – feel in control!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Behavior, Chewing, crate training, dog training, Ellie the Warrior Princess, freedom, kennel, owner encouragement, Puppy, training tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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