Today I took a trip up to north side of Chicago along the lake and saw many-a-dog on a Saturday morning stroll with their owners. More power to ya, owners! Get those pups exercised and socialized! What was upsetting was seeing one dog wearing a prong collar dragging its owners along. I think prong collars have some short-term uses as a training device–I’m not against them in the right hands. But what made me feel so awful is that this dog had not been taught to walk on a loose lead and as such the owners were allowing the prongs to dig into the dog’s neck for the entirety of their walk. That is torturous!!!

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the city and I took one of my afternoon walks to the park were there were 9 dogs off-leash socializing. I knew most all the dogs by name and their owners–it was a great time to reconnect after a long and brutal winter. One owner had added a puppy to the family (she felt sorry for it and “rescued” it from a pet store, but that’s another story). She was paper training the toy poodle and this was the pup’s debut into the outside (the dog was 3 months old).  The part that I looked most unhappily upon in this whole situation is that she had a harness on her pup and was encouraging her to walk in front at the end of the leash. Early on she was teaching her pup that “tension on the leash is what I want.”

One topic of conversation amongst the group of dog owners was a certain very large Norwegian Ridgeback who dislikes a few dogs in the park. One owner commented that the best way to handle that dog is to double-up on the leash and hold on for dear life because “if he ever got away it would take several grown men to separate him from another dog”.

These situations made me want to shout to the heavens again that there is another way! If you think the only way to control your dog is through muscle strength you’re about to have a revelation: you can communicate with your dog in such a way that HE is the one does the work. When your dog is at the very end of its lead: it is impossible to give a proper leash correction, it is impossible to control how your dog meets and greets others, if you are using the wrong equipment you can inflict lasting bodily harm on your dog, and it forces the owner to be tense and communicate tension to their dog.

So this week I want to propose two things. First- practice having a tense leash only when you are giving an instantaneous leash correction. I don’t care if your dog is in front of you or not at this point, just focus on having some amount of loose swoop to your leash. Second- try to get your dog to do what you want on his own. More on this next week, but here’s what I mean: if your dog is on the couch, don’t pick him up and set him on the floor, make him get off himself by pointing and claiming the couch with your energy and body language. Lead your dog–don’t muscle him! 🙂

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