Marie Miller, author, behaviourist, Tellington TTouch Instructor and a founder member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (UK), looks at how to stop your dog pulling using Tellington TTouch groundwork and leading exercises.
Does Your Dog Pull on the lead?
It’s not great to feel as if your arm is being pulled out of its socket when a dog drops his weight into the lead and heads off at high speed with you in tow. Why does he do that? Is he being dominant? Does he want to ‘be the pack leader’? No, the answer is ridiculously simple and much more logical. He simply has not learned to walk on a loose lead.
Start by teaching your dog to be calm when his lead is produced. If he leaps about like something possessed, then as soon as the lead is attached drags you through the front door and out onto the street, you can hardly blame him for continuing the whole walk in the same way. Teach him some boundaries like sitting quietly to have the lead put on and walking through the front door beside you or slightly behind if he is a large dog. If you want him to go through the door in front of you train him to go forward and sit until you come out and shut the door.
If your dog is normally pretty steady when walking and just has the occasional lapse, teach him to target your hand so that you can regain his attention and encourage him back to your side to walk on a loose lead.
If your dog always pulls on the lead it may be that he has just never learned to walk slowly and in balance. Remember that his natural movement is probably much faster than human walking pace so he might be finding it difficult to walk without pulling into the lead. He might also lose focus and balance when excited by interesting scents and movements around him. If he rushes forward to the end of the lead and you reward this behaviour by following him then he will simply drop his full weight into the lead and pull. It takes two to maintain a pull so you also need to think about your own posture and balance. If you respond to your dog pulling by bracing against the pressure it will trigger exactly the same response in him.
There are a number of ways to help a dog to learn to walk in balance on a loose lead. The TTouch Balance Lead technique requires the use of a 6ft training lead. The simple action of looping the lead to form a containing barrier on the dog’s chest can be really helpful to teach him to walk in balance and can help the dog to regain self control if he becomes over excited. If he leans into the lead, briefly meet the pressure and then melt by relax again, giving the dog nothing to lean against. He may immediately lean again so repeat until the dog stops leaning into the lead and stands/moves in his own balance. This is a smooth movement, not a jerk. Meet the pressure and then melt away.
If your dog is small or jumps and wriggles out of the barrier, the TTouch Balance Lead Plus may be more successful. Loop the lead over his chest and encourage him to step over the lead with his off side leg so that it crosses his chest and then pass the end near to you up through the flat collar. Again, meet any pressure he puts against the lead and relax, giving him nothing to lean on.
You can also use the Meet and Melt technique when the dog is wearing a harness. You need a lead with a clip at either end so that you can have two points of contact. Your harness might have two clips, e.g., a ring on the back and a ring at the chest or you could clip onto the back ring of the harness and the flat collar.
Also doing some simple TTouch Groundwork exercises, teaching your dog to slowly step over, through or round obstacles on the ground and walk across different surfaces can help by making him more aware of his movement and balance, improving self-control and confidence.
Walks will be so much more fun for all concerned if your dog learns to walk in balance on a loose lead.
USING THE LIBERTY LEASH OR FREEDOM HANDLE
The liberty leash or a freedom handle on a double-ended lead writes Alex Wilson, (with its clips at either end and a sliding handle) allows for two points of contact on the dog with one clip attached to the back of the harness and the other clip attached either to the front ring or the collar. This allows the dog an element of freedom to find his or her own natural point of balance and teaches the dog naturally not to pull on the lead. This method is a great alternative to using the standard Tellington TTouch two points of contact if the handler finds that walking the dog with two handles is impractical. The Liberty Leash is also an ideal TTouch lead and great for scenting dogs like spaniels. The secret is keeping the hand still and allowing the dog to move and balance on the lead. If the dog pulls, simply lift your hand and take up the tension (don't lift the dog off the ground!) and as soon as the dog responds release the tension returning the dog to a loose lead state.
If you want to help your dog change direction, or if the dog lunges towards something. Simply melt towards the dog, it can help to bend your knees, as soon as the lead is slack move your body in the direction that you want to go. Your dog will then move in the direction that you are going. This technique will also stop your dog going into opposition reflex.
Linda Tellington-Jones and Robyn Hood host a webinar looking at stopping dogs pulling on the lead
Groundwork Exercises with Marie Miller
Fluffy is demonstrating how the 'step-over' is used to teach dogs how to use their legs mindfully and independently. The soft poles can be set at different distances, heights and angles. A wand is being used to help her focus on the direction we are moving. A soft rope harness is being used to help her to balance as she learns to lift each leg independently while moving slowly.
In this photograph, the soft poles can be adjusted to different shapes and angles to help Fluffy to learn to co-ordinate and shift her weight over her legs as she turns. Notice how hard she is having to concentrate.
In this photograph, the teeter-totter helps Fluffy to move up a slight incline, halt and re-balance. Move forward a pace, halt and re-balance as the board tips forward sightly so that she can walk calmly and slowly off the other side.
Another photograph showing different shapes and angles of the poles to help Fluffy to learn to co-ordinate and shift her weight over her legs while turning. Again she is obviously having to concentrate hard.
In this photograph (left), the labyrinth also teaches a dog to change direction and remain in balance.We have found that reactive dogs can often be more easlily de-sensitised to the presence of other dogs outside the labyrinth while they are inside it. We can then progress to them following other dogs through it.
Special thanks to Marie Miller for sharing her knowledge and information. Click here to visit her website.