According to developmental psychology, dogs are very similar to humans. It is possible to alter their behavior by changing their early experiences. It’s not too late to train your dog but early intervention is the best way to make a difference.
Training your puppy is essential for their health and well-being.
There are many ways to train dogs, but we will be focusing on one that will have a strong influence on their daily activities. Leash training would be that!
Dogs are often associated with collars, leashes, bones and kennels. What does each of these items have in common? All of them are associated with domestication. Dogs would never eat bones that were not separated from their flesh in nature. Dogs that follow a leash are not following their instincts. This behavior is learned.
Leash training can be a lengthy process. It’s important that you cover all steps.
Introduce a collar
Collared dogs are not natural, as we have discussed. Get them to wear one if they haven’t worn one before.
Pro tip: Don’t spend too much on your puppy’s first collar. Puppy’s grow quickly so it’s OK to start with a cheaper model. Otherwise, you could be wasting money!
Image: Stylish Hund
Make sure your dog has a collar that can be worn by two people. This will ensure the collar is secure but not too loose to pose a danger of choking. Your collar should be flat and made of nylon. It should also have a metal buckle.
Use the right leash
There are many types of leashes. There are certain models that you should avoid if your dog is learning to leash train. Retractable leashes are not recommended. This model encourages jumping and other undesirable behaviors. A 6-foot/1.8-metre leash is the right length to achieve that balance between freedom and proper restraint.
You’ll know if your dog is following a consistent pace with you and not pulling on either side. You should not let your dog pull on the leash. You will need to adjust your approach if you find yourself pulling your dog along.
You can double the length of the leash by holding it in one hand. This will prevent dragging. Move forward by holding your hand at the belt buckle.
Reinforce positive behavior
We tend to use operant conditioning when training dogs. Operational conditioning, in a nutshell is the practice of rewarding and punishing behavior with reward- or punishment-based methods. The most popular method for dog training is treat-based training. Clicker training is also an option.
This dog knows that he is getting a treat! Image by Stylish Hound
If you are partnered, it is likely that you have a preference for which side of the bed you prefer. This side continuity is important when training your dog. Ensure your dog always walks to your right or left side when walking.
Don’t deviate! Make sure your dog is able to see the treat you are holding before you begin walking. Use a verbal cue like “let’s go!” to lure your dog forward as you walk. To reinforce proper walking speed, hold it at the nose.
Your dog will associate the positive emotions evoked by treats with appropriate behavior, which is part of operant conditioning. Will Durant, not Aristotle (to whom this sentiment is often misattributed), said that “we are what repeatedly we do”.
Do you have proof behavior?
After teaching your dog new tricks, it is time to continue building on their skills. Do not give your dog a bare-bones training program and then sit back. Dogs will need repetition because it takes them over a decade for a good school education.
You can gradually expose them to more distractions in order to ‘level up their behavior. You will see a greater tolerance for external distractions and a stronger discipline.
If you have walked in quiet environments before, it might be a good idea to start walking when there is more traffic. While they work on their training, the traffic noise should be a distraction that they can tolerate. It’s similar to a Learner driver who is exposed to more hectic traffic conditions.
Depending on the season, the beach may be an ideal place to practice behavior proofing.
Treat-based training can lead to the dog being motivated only by the treat. You want your dog to do ‘what they’re doing repeatedly’ so you should reduce the amount of treats that are given. You can ‘wean’ your dog from the reward system and they will be able to behave no matter what treat is coming.