The first thing you must accept is that your dog really doesn’t know too much. She’s willing to learn, but until you follow a good training regimen, she probably won’t respect your rules. The complexity of the human household—the furnishings, the walls, the counters, the garbage pail—doesn’t mean too much to your dog. Don’t worry, though. She’ll understand soon enough!
Teaching involves communication. You must convey your expectations in a way that gets through to your dog. Remember, dogs aren’t human. Lengthy explanations aren’t going to impress her. You’ll have to be a little more inventive. Need help? Let me share with you a little invention of mine called the Teaching Lead°.
I invented the Teaching Lead® concept when training one of my own dogs, Kyia. Coming from the shelter, she was nervous, peed frequently in the house, and chewed things. Because the crate terrified her, I tied her to me and clipped her to things around the house. Soon she caught on…and the Teaching Lead® training method was born.
Working With the Teaching Lead® (Or a Reasonable Facsimile):
The Teaching Lead® is a leash designed to communicate control and condition appropriate household manners without discipline or force. Have I peaked your interest? Here’s what else the Teaching Lead® can do:
- Take the place of the crate when you’re home
- Help you house train your dog
- Eliminate excessive jumping and counter sniffing
- Encourage appropriate chewing habits
- Discourage nipping
- Calm your dog around company
Leather leashes provide better leverage while training your dog. I’ve always insisted on leather for my Teaching Lead® and have been complimented on its sturdiness. If you have a chewer, protect your leash with Bitter Apple® (available from pet stores) or Tabasco sauce.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many hidden benefits to using the Teaching Lead®. The best thing about it is that it’s completely dog-tested, veterinarian-approved, and user-friendly!
The Teaching Lead® can’t be bought in stores, but I’ve patented it and made it available through the order form in the back of this book. Its attractive and innovative design enables you to quickly clip the dog from your waist to immovable objects without fuss.
You can make your own by buying a sturdy leather lead and tying it around your waist. Though it’s more cumbersome, it is equally effective.
It’s a solution that allows you to keep your dog with you and hang onto your sanity…are you ready for more? The Teaching Lead® has three applications: leading, securing, and stationing. I’ll describe each of these next.
Leading with the Teaching Lead®:
This is the most humane training technique out there and it’s not as hard as it sounds. Leading involves securing your dog to your side and leading her around the house using specific commands. (Once she understands this, you can extend your control outside.) Eventually, she’ll respond to you off-lead. However, right now, she needs some direction.
Here’s how to lead with the Teaching Lead®:
- Make sure you are using the right training collar. (Remember, until your puppy is 16 weeks, use the regular buckle collar.) Please review Chapter 7, if necessary, to find the collar best suited for you and your puppy.
- Slide the leash around your waist like a belt. Put the clip to your left side if you want your dog on the left or your right side if you want him on your right. Everyone who walks your dog must keep the him on the same side (do not have one person walk him on the left and another on the right). Connect the end clip to the appropriate waist hole and you’re ready to begin!
- To teach your dog proper leash manners and prevent pulling, take your dog to a hallway. Walk straight ahead, but watch your dog.
- The second he walks ahead of you, call out his name as you pivot and dart in the opposite direction. Praise him, even though you may have pulled him. Continue to turn away from him until he pays attention to his name and stops trying to race ahead.
- Now you’re walking in style! Where you lead your dog must follow. This is your big chance. All household decisions are up to you. It may seem awkward at first, but soon you won’t even know he’s there. You might even call it fun! Remember, you’re teaching your dog to follow you, so if there’s a conflict of interest (he wants to go left when you’re going right), go your way and encourage him to follow.
- As you lead your dog around, start using commands conversationally. Encourage everyone around your dog to use them, too. Speak clearly, give your commands once, an enunciate your syllables; dogs understand sounds not words. Here are five foundation commands to get you started:
- “Name, Let’s Go!” Give this command whenever you start walking or change direction. As you turn, hold your head high and don’t look at your dog until he’s turned with you.
- “Sit.” Use this command whenever you offer your dog something positive like food, praise, a toy, or a pat. Say the command once, helping him into position if he doesn’t respond. The most important rule of thumb is, say “Sit” once only! Dogs understand sounds; “Sit-Sit-Sit” sounds much different than “Sit.”
- “Name.” A few times each day, stand in front of your dog (proud and tall as a peacock!) and call out his name. If he doesn’t look up immediately, direct his eyes toward you with a finger and a fun clucking sound.
- “Wait and OK.” This duo is a real prize. Imagine getting your dog to stop before he races downstairs or across thresholds. Each time you’re crossing a threshold or heavily trafficked area, command “Wait,” and bring your dog behind you with his lead. He may get excited, but wait until he settles down before you command “OK.” Make sure your feet cross the threshold first. Leaders must lead!
- “Excuse Me.” Use this whenever your dog crosses in front of or behind you. Also use this if your dog presses against you or blocks your path. As you say “Excuse me,” gently knock your dog out of your way. Remember, dogs respond to hierarchies, so you need to establish yourself as the leader.
If you feel like taking a break, you can do two things: have interactive play time in an outdoor enclosure or a using Flexi-Leash®, or station him as described later in this chapter (make sure his bladder is empty). There will be days when you station much more than lead—that’s okay. Use both methods interchangeably, but keep that dog with you when you’re home!
Everyone who can lead the dog around should! You don’t want your hierarchy to become a dictatorship. The only unacceptable combination is small children and big puppies. Other than that, everyone should take part. If the lead is too long for a child, she can wear it like a banner across the chest.
Some dogs like to imitate mules. It’s a passive form of resistance. Your dog is hoping that you will rush back and give him lots of attention, but please don’t. There are two approaches to discourage this, depending on the dog and the situation.
- Keep Trucking. Don’t turn around! Praise the air in front of you and walk a little faster. When your dog catches up, praise him happily and continue. This method works well with large breeds who have a reputation of being stubborn.
- Kneel Forward. If you have a more delicate breed or dog with a timid temperament, kneel down in front of your dog when he puts on the brakes. Tap the floor and encourage him to come to you. When he does, praise him warmly, then go to the end of the leash again and repeat yourself. He’ll catch on soon. Remember, no attention for stubborn stopping and absolutely no pick ups!
Letting your dog run free in your house before he’s trained can be a big mistake. He’ll run wild, you’ll chase him, and the whole thing will be remembered as one big game! He’ll think dogs lead and people follow. Instead, leading will give you the upper hand. Your dog will learn to follow your lead and you’ll be able to quickly discourage all inappropriate behavior and reinforce the good stuff!