When you train a young horse you have to use very intense and persistent leg corrections, but a “finished” dressage horse responds to the rider’s leg moving one inch back or forward. The way to get from a young-rough horse to a finished light-touch horse is progression in intensity. This week I want to encourage you to think about the intensity of your corrections with your dog. Start light and get progressively more intense until your pup gets the idea. Soon they will be putting two and two together and will be responding to the lightest correction possible. Here is how I put this to practice in my own life. Princeton, my German Shorthaired, still pushes the boundary on our walks. He is next to me on a loose lead, and then he creeps forward past the end of my toes. First I say “shhh”, if he doesn’t respond by waiting for me to catch up or giving me eye contact, I bump it up a notch by saying “hey” or giving a light leash snap. If he still doesn’t respond that’s when I give a major leash or foot correction, make him back up, sit down and give me eye contact. This increase in intensity can apply to so many areas of discipline with your dog. Give it a shot! The one time when a slow progression will not work is when you’re dog is fixated or aggressive. In that situation you can start light by catching it before it escalates (those subtle changes in body language like a raised tail, alert ears, or puffed chest), but once your dog is at level 10, you need a level 10 correction to snap him out of it. Lead your dog!

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