USING THE LEASH FOR CONTROL AND LEADERSHIP

Many people dislike leashes for their dogs.

"My dog pulls too much".
"My dog stays right by me".
"My dog wants the freedom to sniff and mark trees".
"It's not fair to confine a dog with a leash".

"So, WHY should I leash my dog?"

SAFETY REQUIRES CONTROL

Once you teach your dog that walking on a leash does NOT mean pulling (please attend a local dog obedience class - they will teach you how!), leashes are a wonderful control tool. Proper use will be most symbolic to your dog - you are the leader and YOU decide where both of you will go. Leashes set boundaries for dogs. A dog that runs loose and "thinks for himself" has no reason to respect another. A dog that runs free can, in a split second, decide to dash into the street, chase another person, dog, car, cat, or just plain take off

"My dog stays right with by me". Trust like that can be a dangerous thing!

If your dog walks with you without a leash, they are free to do anything you may - or may not - want them to do! Other loose dogs, strays, or wild animals may tangle with your dog. You have no control. On leash, you still may not have control over the other animal, but on-leash control (along with a good "LEAVE IT" command) could help prevent the encounter in the first place. Dogs are very instinctive and reactive. If a running squirrel, cat, rabbit, or deer crosses your path, the dog's chase instinct (prey drive) clicks in. No amount of voice control will stop the chase! Many dogs have been lost chasing deer. A strange noise or movement can instantly change your dog into a non-thinking, reactive beast. Off they dash, brains out of control, leaving you definitely out of control.

EFECTIVE TRAINING REQUIRES RESPECT

Training, in general, involves well timed and consistent praise and correction. You cannot control a dog, let alone train a dog, without leash and collar control. Leashes help keep your dog close by you so you can use well timed corrections and praise.

One of the most important things to teach a dog is the recall ("COME") command. Many dog owners find this one if the most difficult excercises to teach and reinforce. Because people often view the command as easy to understand, they quickly move to off leash recalls. The fact is, consistent and repetitive training ON LEASH is the ONLY WAY to achieve a recall that happens every time (watch for more about recalls in upcoming articles). Without a leash, your dog has choices: that neat tree with all the smells, that squirrel, or you. Hmmm...I suspect you will be number three on that list of choices! You need to remove the choices so that there is ONLY ONE CHOICE - YOU. By removing the wrong choices, you can avoid all the negative (and nagging) attention your dog may get from incorrect choices.

"I said COME. COME SPOT. COME. COME HERE NOW!! RIGHT NOW!!!!
Sound familiar?

By quickly showing the dog the correct choice - with leash and collar attached - you can quickly praise for that correct choice, even if you had to make the dog obey. This will help to show that your, as leader, have everything under control and your dog has nothing to worry about.
You can build a trusting relationship on your confident leadership - by using a leash!

 

Pam Young, LVT CDBC CPDT  
Dog Gone Good LLC
Dog Behavior Consultant
Personal Dog Trainer