How can you pick out a lab owner standing in a group of dog owners?
Answer: The lab owner is the one with a sling on her arm, a black eye, and using crutches.
That's a bad joke that I used to tell when ever I was doing one of my leash walking seminars. I used to do weekend seminars just on leash walking and I always told that bad joke because of an incident that happened shortly after I opened my dog training business.
You see, one Saturday afternoon I was finishing up a day of teaching classes when a very nice lady walked into my office. She looked like she was in a Rocky movie. She had two huge black eyes, a piece of tape over her nose and her face was red and puffy.
I found out that her face was puffy from crying, she started to cry almost as soon as she walked in the door. She then told the story of her big 90lb. black lab that was the cause of her injuries and her crying.
She went on to explain that she was about to take her dog for walk, something she absolutely dreaded because he was such an awful roller. He would drag her around for about thirty minutes and taking him for a walk was terrible.
She added that the other day she was getting ready to take him for a walk. Just as she was about to exit the house her husband called to her. She stopped just as she was walking out the door. Her lab was outside the house and she was still inside the house.
As she was standing in the house holding her dog's leash as he was outside, her dog saw a cat. Her lab seeing the cat took off after it full speed. She had the loop of the leash around her wrist.
With the speed of a boat pulling a skier out of the water she went face first into the door, breaking her nose and injuring her wrist.
It was then that she started to cry – she said that she loved her dog. He was sweet, never chewed, never had any housetraining issues but she could not control him on the leash. He dropped her everywhere and it was becoming impossible to walk him anywhere.
I assured her that she was in the right place and that we would get her dog walking on leash in no time. A few days later she showed up with her happy, excitable, strong lab and we started our leash training. I explained to her that the best place to start training is to understand why dogs do certain behaviors.
When it comes to pulling there are three reasons why dogs pull. Once you understand what the reasons are you can take steps to fix the problem. Here they are:
Reason # 1: Your dog has no clue that they are supposed to walk next to you.
Reason # 2: Opposition reflex.
Reason # 3: Your dog is constantly being rewarded for pulling.
So let's look at the first reason why dogs pull – Your dog has no clue that he is supposed to walk at your side. When you put your dog on leash your dog does not know that he is supposedly to walk politely at your side. Your dog sees a big world in front of him and starts to pull.
The second reason has to do with Opposition Reflex. When you apply pressure your dog applies counter-pressure. Ever notice that the harder you pull back on the leash the harder your dog pulls.
The third reason your dog pulls is simple. Your dog is constantly being rewarded for pulling. If your dog sees a fire hydrant that he wants to explore and pulls you all the way it, your dog has just been rewarded for pulling. Unintentionally on your part, but still rewarded.
Once you understand why your dog pulls you can take steps to teach your dog to walk on leash. I always teach that the trick to walking a dog on leash is to make sure there is no tension in the leash.