Michelle & Harley pulling on a walk

I just spent a great day listening to and learning from the inimitable Barbara Sykes and in the breaks I got chatting to a lovely lady called Michelle. We spent all lunchtime talking about her dog Harley, and how we might work on his lead pulling. He is a rather gorgeous chocolate Lab and a very strong puller.

Barbara showed us a lovely, slow-paced technique where you block the dog step by step to prevent even his head getting past your body and I showed Michelle a technique learned from John Rogerson whereby you do the usual 180 degree turns on a walk but the trick is to keep your eye on the corner of the dogs eye at all times. If you lose sight of the dogs eye you have let him go too far in front! Then just before you make your turn you must gently pull the dogs lead in a downwards direction, as low as you can, before gently pulling him towards you. This manoeuvre protects the dogs neck and also engages what is called “the opposition reflex”. The last thing the dog expects is for you to pull him along so will automatically pull backwards! As soon as he is level you can slacken off the lead and after a few repetitions you will find he will be staying closer to your leg. Of course you should praise him in a calm and smiling fashion when he is finally walking nicely on the lead.

HarleyWell, we have had 2 walks today using the technique you’ve given me combined with what Barbara showed us and we’re amazed at the difference! He’s been absolutely great. We’ve stayed away from the beach so he’s not too excited and after the first initial minute or so of trying to pull, he has fallen into line beside or even behind our heels.

My husband is amazed, we have had lovely walks. We used cheese as a reward this morning but took no treat this afternoon and he still responded. So you’re quite right – the old dog can be taught new tricks!

Harley did bark at a pack of about 6 dogs which came round the corner on this afternoon’s walk, but Michael stood in front of him and he stopped straight away. It works!

We will keep going with the training and can hopefully lose the halti before long.

Thanks again for your help, it’s really appreciated.

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