Saturday, July 16, 2011

Walking Without Pulling

Last night was yet another 4-H judging opportunity. The club I work with hosted a fun match, we had about 10-15 kids attend, I did all the showmanship, obedience, and rally judging and it went a bit smoother than expected thanks to some great helpers and ring stewards.

Yet again, I saw a lot of tight leashes. It's actually becoming a hugely interesting thing.  Some events last year, the kids gripped the leash right up against the collar.  And they led the dog through the performance like that.  I was completely unsure on how to judge that and ended up with a sort of "standard deduction" value, with any extra leash pulls (esp on the halt-sits) as additional points deducted.  

Even my own club members did this! I see nice loose leashes every week!  I saw pulling for the sits! Hands raised to shoulder height!  Stress does very interesting things to people and dogs.

Luna and Griffin both tell me that leash
 pulling is not a problem if you just let your
dog off leash...
It's led me back to a talk Megan and I have had a dozen times over the last few weeks.  It's hard to teach good walking. It's hard to get dogs to walk nicely without pulling, without punishment.  I've spent the morning to work on reviewing my walking training plans and looking at the variations between what I do and what I have clients/students do.  We'll be doing a lot of walking training tonight at the shelter and see what happens.

A few initial thoughts on the challenges:
-- By the time people get help for walking training....the dogs have been pulling for quite a while. The humans have continued walking while the dog is pulling, meaning the dog got a TON of reinforcement for the pulling ("Look, it makes the humans walk!").
-- People get into habits and patterns. They want to continue with normal walks during the training period, letting the pulling happen there, and thus compromising the training.
-- It's hard to look at the big picture, all the little times where the dog pulls on leash and the dog is allowed to continue forward.  And we miss those moments.   I am so guilty of that, today I counted (...after the fact each time, 8 points in our morning routine where reinforcement is distributed without me being careful to have the behavior I want before that reinforcement is delivered.)

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