While I DO NOT recommend going to YouTube for dog training tips in general – please don’t trust just anyone who happens to call themselves a dog trainer to give you humane, effective and non-fatal dog training advice – Kikopup is a happy exception to that rule!
Kikopup videos are posted on Youtube for free by Emily Larlham, a dog trainer based out of San Diego, CA, USA who believes positive reinforcement-based dog training advice should be free and accessible to all. The reason that I feel that Kikopup videos are humane, effective and note-worthy can be found in Larlham’s positive reinforcement manifesto. Her dog training methods incorporate psychological, scientific and welfare considerations into compassionate, consequence-based leadership by owners. The effectiveness of this training style is clear in her advanced behaviors and tricks videos!
Today, Kikopup released a new No Pulling! leash training video. (Larlham also has an entire playlist about loose leash walking, covering everything from basic advice to equipment and how to handle reactive or shy dogs on leash.) This new video is particularly great, in my opinion! Here are just a few reasons why I like it so much:
1. Larlham makes a great point about not assuming a dog has any idea of what you want them to do when you attach a strip of nylon to their harness. Loose leash walking is maybe the least intuitive behavior we expect from our pups. Thus, dogs require clear, consistent leadership and positive reinforcement to learn what loose leash walking entails!
2. Even for a dog that isn’t normally shy or reactive, it can be difficult for her to concentrate on their leash manners in a noisy, smell, car-, pedestrian- and other dog-filled environment. In the video, Larlham begins loose leash walking training in a non-intimidating environment so the pup can concentrate on learning.
3. Despite practicing in a calm environment, some dogs aren’t going to be calm enough to take treats when you’re trying to positively enforce their loose leash manners out in the “real world”. Larlham uses “penalty yards” in the situation where a dog is too nervous to take treats: when the dog pulls the leash, she directs the dog to walk away from whatever the dog was pulling towards.
4. “Penalty yards” doesn’t mean yanking the dog back when it pulls on the leash. The goal of directing the dog away from what they were pulling towards is to teach the pup that pulling doesn’t get her where she wants to go. By encouraging the dog with positive verbal instructions or patting your leg, as Larlham says, and rewarding the dog when she chooses to come towards you, she’s (humanely) learning that she needs to follow her walker’s leadership while on leash.
5. Finally, my favorite part of the this video: Sniffing is as important as the walking during a walk. Larlham makes the great point that walking should provide both exercise and mental stimulation for a dog. As long as the leash is loose, it is perfectly appropriate for a dog to smell all the smells! Teaching your dog, “Let’s go!” after they have had a little sniff and rewarding them for following you is an important part of loose leash skills.