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Leash Pulling

Leash Pulling Cane Corso

Dear John,

Three days ago my husband and I rescued a three year old female Cane Corso mix. She was brought to the shelter as a stray. She is very sweet. At some point in her life, someone took time to socialize her, and teach her basic commands, I hand feed her and she is very gentle all lips and tongue. My questions are: What is the best way to stop her leash pulling? I am using an ez walker, it works okay except when we see squirrels.. doesn’t give enough correction. She is becoming protective and territorial . When I walk her I ask every person I see man, woman, child to greet her…So far so good. What else should I be doing?

Sally (Pennsylvania)

Hi Sally,

“Correcting” leash pulling with equipment is one way to go but it’s more of a last resort in my mind and usually not necessary if you go about teaching a little more logically. If time is of the essence then it may work but it can backfire. I personally think a correction should be the dog owner’s disapproval, typically expressed with tone and body language.

I’m not a fan of using any device as a means long term control of a dog. I’m far more interested in teaching the dog to exert self-control than I am just controlling the dog. Nor am I as a rule a fan of using any device to physically through pain or discomfort “correct” a dog. It’s not that I would take the latter right off the table because it’s true that mother dogs do indeed physically correct their pups, however and this is important – it’s not something they do very often, let alone on a constant basis to teach life skills. If you structure your training you’ll find you don’t need those physical leash corrections.

From a training perspective for me the purpose of any equipment I use (and what that is depends on the dog and the owner – none of the tools of training concern me anywhere near as much as the “tool” at the end of the tool) is to allow me to get the dog’s attention so that I can teach it with my tone and body language to exert self control (You’re warm, you’re cold). I have no problem with you using what it takes to keep yourself and your dog safe on your outings but from a training perspective if I find the equipment is likely to cross over from simply getting attention and actually causing physical discomfort or pain I reassess whether I

a) Have a dog that understands that I’m the teacher and if not address that before the skill I wanted to teach

b) Has the dog clearly demonstrated it understand what’s expected around no distraction?

c) Have I picked the right level of distraction to start with?

More often than not trainers that use equipment to “correct” a dog in a leash pulling situation often have put themselves and/or the client or the dog into an untenable situation. They’re essentially trying to teach a child to do geometry at the gates of Disneyland. They can’t get the dog’s attention and so they resort to force. I’m absolutely not opposed to minor physical corrections if the need exists however as I said earlier it is extremely rare that need arises if you’re structuring your training properly.

Try walking your Cane Corso on leash around the house just using a flat collar with the expectation of no zero leash pulling. Set your timer for 3 minutes, say “Heel” and walk around. The chances that a light bulb goes off in your dog’s head saying, “Oh, I know that means do not leave his/her side” and can do it without street level distractions is slim to none. Now imagine what you’re expecting of the dog and your self when you go out in a real world context.

I really don’t know teachers of any kind that teach anything in this manner. It’s just become sort of the way to do things in a lot of dog training circles. Most teachers break it down into more manageable steps so they don’t need the physical corrections or the copious amounts of treats that is also so often abused in dog training. Instead smart teaching is done in steps so you don’t lose so many students along the way.

Step One – Bond with the dog so the dog knows who is the teacher and who is the student.

Step Two – Teach the skill in simple surroundings with relaxed expectations and tighten them up a little at a time.

Step Three – Add distractions in as controlled a manner as possible.

Hope this helps with your leash pulling somewhat.


John Wade
Difficult to Control Dog? – Try the WadeCollar

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