So Artemis has been pretty good in the obedience classes I’ve been taking her to, but when walking around the local area she still pulls on the lead. She loves sniffing and exploring everything and leash pulling, in a way, rewards her: when she pulls on the lead she gets to sniff more as a reward.
I have Youtube’ed some tips on preventing leash pulling and gave the tips a go, but I ended up going to a leash pulling workshop for more hands on guidance.
The trainer advised to have a word for walk, such as: “let’s walk”, “let’s go”, “with me”, or “this way”.
I say “this way” if I want Artemis to be close to me and I say “let’s walk” or “let’s go” when crossing the road or opening the door at the start of the walk.
Right way and wrong way ie yo-yo
The trainer advised to walk forwards (the right way ie away from home) with the dog, aiming for the lead to be loose and relaxed. If the dog starts to pull, just turn back and walk (the wrong way ie back towards home) without saying anything.
When the dog walks the wrong way correctly ie not pulling, then praise them and then walk the right way and praise them.
This is positive reinforcement. Then as soon as the dog starts to pull again, you turn back and walk the wrong way without saying anything.
As the dog wants to go out and explore instead of going back home straight away, the dog will soon realise that if they walk near you without pulling, then they will get further along on their adventure. In other words, leash pulling means going back home with no adventure.
This was similar to the Youtube videos I had watched forlornly. The only difference being that the Youtube videos advised for you to change direction more frequently so that the dog’s attention is on you rather than the surroundings.
So it’s the same process, walking like a yo-yo, but you are the trigger deciding when to change direction instead of the dog pulling being the trigger.
Part of the positive reinforcement is to praise the dog.
I of course praised Artemis whenever she was walking near me and not pulling. When we walked near a set of swings in the park, which was the furthest she got on this route, I praised her – but I praised her a little too much!
She went absolutely berserk!
The trainer advised that there’s a middle ground: praise them enough so that they know they’ve done a good job, but don’t praise too much so that they get way over excited and pull again.
The trainer said that distractions are good and that when there are other dogs, ideally you should ask the other owner to get their dog to sit. This has not happened in real life for me though!
The trainer also said that distractions teach your dog restraint. An ideal scenario would be to sit with your dog in the city centre where there would be lots of distractions, which I have done before but Artemis was sniffing everywhere so she learnt very little restraint that day!
Since watching the Youtube videos and attending the workshop I have combined the two approaches with my own. I don’t really walk Artemis like a yo-yo, but I do praise with words and treats, so I do practise positive reinforcement heavily.
The trigger for praise I follow is more akin to the Youtube video, where I praise to keep Artemis’ attention on me.
Is it perfect? No. But Artemis certainly pulls less, and when she sees a bird she looks at me in the first instance for a treat instead of pulling or running towards the bird. That – to me – is massive progress!
Of course she still gets excited, she is still a dog, after all. When the hubby walks Artemis, he put it perfectly: “when Artemis comes to you for a treat and then walks quickly again, you feel like a teacher saying ‘I said walk not run'”.
Slow progress is still progress. Have you got any tips on loose leash walking or preventing leash pulling?