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Tuesday Training Byte: Walking your dog with the brakes on

Many people know that driving with your brakes on is a bad idea. If you have your emergency brakes on, your engine strains against it, and if your foot is constantly on the brake pedal, you will wear out your brakes to the point of them not being effective. Are you walking your dog with the brakes on? This is very common. I first heard this type of analogy years ago when I took riding lessons on my horse. The instructor told me I am riding with my brakes on and STOP IT! The concept is the same: if you are holding the dog's leash tight, you are walking with the brakes on. I prefer to hold the leash in my right hand with my dog on my left side, so there is a slight "J" loop in the loose leash as pictured, or a bit more than that. I gather up some extra leash so I don't trip over it. Most people grab firmly on the leash closer to the collar so that the dog doesn't pull away from them, and they don't trust the dog to stay close. By teaching focus and loose leash walking, the dog will learn to cue to stay near your left knee with no pressure. If my dog pulls ahead, I must stop all forward motion. When my pup gives it up on his own and returns to me, I mark the good behavior with a "Yes!" and proceed on the walk. Grant it, at first you will be stopping a lot and not making much forward progress, but your dog will learn quickly that it gets praise & attention by being near you, and gets to go forward again! When you start to teach this, be sure it is not when you need to get somewhere in a hurry, or you will be inclined to let your dog drag you along rather than stopping and waiting. Start small. Have a short session where your goal is to walk on a loose leash for ten consecutive steps. Then stop and praise your pup wildly for such a great job and then play for a few minutes before going back indoors. If your pup is too distracted or overly excited in your driveway or front yard, start practicing this in the house to set your pup up for success. Just get your left hand off the leash and get off of the brakes. Happy heeling!

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