One of the biggest complaints I hear from dog owners is their dog pulling so hard on the leash that walks are anything but enjoyable. Often people misuse the leash to pull the dog back over and over again as they pull forward or to pull them around to where they want them during training. This can lead to desensitization of the leash, (where the dog no longer responds to tension on the leash) rather than the leash being a communication tool. This is one of the reasons that I love teaching owners to use a hands-free leash because they aren’t even holding it, making it much harder to overuse or misuse. Rather than desensitizing them to pressure, this exercise involves sensitizing them to it. For a dog that already pulls hard, you can use this exercise to take a step back and re-sensitize your dog to leash once again.
In my practice, I hang out in the positive reinforcement quadrant as much as possible because I believe in using the least aversive, minimally invasive methods to work with my dogs. To learn more about the four quadrants, watch this video: https://youtu.be/3P7uohZJfjM With that being said, for this exercise, I dip into negative reinforcement quadrant meaning something that is removed reinforces a behavior. In this case, the dog moving alleviates leash pressure.
I do this because I want tension on the leash as little as possible so that the habit we form when walking together is a nice loose leash. Sensitizing your dog to leash pressure helps them self-adjust on walks when combined with other practices, such as rewarding them when they are in the right spot or nice and loose next to you, which can lead to a much more enjoyable leash experience with your dog. Not to mention, less likely for injury to their neck or your arm.
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