Freedom No-Pull Harness: Day 3
These past few days I am learning a few new things about loose-leash walking that I probably wouldn’t have, training with Boogie’s usual long leash and harness (as much as I like it)
This Freedom No-Pull Harness and Leash set-up is pretty cool. I LOVE IT!!! Thanks so much Sarah, for lending this to me!
The thing about using a shorter double-ended leash is that I can feel the tension as soon as Boogie pulls. This is BEFORE Boogie reaches the end of the leash, before all 26lbs of Boogie’s weight is engaged in stretching the leash completely taut… at which point he is already 200% committed to the direction that he wants to go in, and no longer responds to his name, food lures, or hand targets…
It seems that timing is important. The trick is to get Boogie’s attention BEFORE this point-of-no-return. (Bit like working under-threshold in BAT, right?) As soon as I feel tension on the short leash, I have 3 options:
- Connect with him. (“Boogie!” or Hand Target) “Yes!” and treat. What’s cool too is that because the leash is short, I have to feed treats right next to me (vs. tossing on the ground), which further reinforces for Boogie that “heeling next to Mom” is a good place to be.
- Move along with him. For example when he turns to sniff/pee on a bush, I walk with him to keep the leash between us loose, and to prevent it from tightening. This is something that I never had to do when I was holding a long leash so it’s new for me…
- Change direction and keep walking boldly forward. (“Let’s go!”) The leash attaches to front and back – which gives me a lot of extra leverage to move Boogie along. I do this when I really have to move along. “Yes!” and treat.
The NO-FUN parts:
- The two leashes can get disorganized. Thankfully, my smart little dog has figured out how to slip his head in the space between the two leashes so that the front-clipping leash hangs on the convenient side of his body.
- Being extra careful about not pulling him. The Freedom Harness is designed to give the dog walker more control and power so it is quite easy to drag Boogie around if I wanted to and because it’s so easy, I really have to make an effort not to. The whole point of this exercise is to teach LOOSE-leash walking. I would mess everything up if I pulled him.
- Wet Grass, stinky stuff. A shorter leash means that I have to trudge through long wet grass with Boogie, and stand closer to lamp posts and doggie poo. (This includes other dogs’ poo or icky stuff on the ground that Boogie is checking out) Ew.
- The harness itself – Don’t ask me how to tighten or loosen anything and if any pieces get twisted up, I am sure I will be calling on Sarah to help me sort this out. I get confused just looking at the thing.
Some happy walks:
BIG SCARY DUDE
Last night Boogie and I were standing by the traffic lights when a big guy stood next to us on my right side, only a few feet away. With this shorter leash, I knew that even if Boogie lunged, he would not be able to reach the guy. Perhaps this gave me some confidence to do nothing instead of moving Boogie away. As it so happens this big guy was staring at Boogie (uh oh) and Boogie was seated in front of me, staring back at the guy. I called Boogie. He got up, walked away from the guy and stood on my left side. He was also pawing at my treat hand but wow – I was so impressed that we had a major trigger in close proximity and Boogie did not lunge. He moved away from the guy like it was the most natural thing in the world to do and completely ignored him. When the lights turned green, we ran across the street and I gave him a treat.
Later in the night, Boogie and I saw a coyote dash across our street. Boogie pulled. I stood still. The coyote dashed across the next street. Boogie turned and pulled in that direction. I still didn’t move. Then the coyote stopped in the middle of the street, turned around and stared at Boogie. I called Boogie “Let’s Go!” He disengaged from staring at the coyote, and ran home with me. First thing he did when he got inside was pick up his tennis ball and run to the window. “Coast is clear, mom. Let’s play”.
Today an off-leash sweater-wearing terrier approached us on the sidewalk outside a restaurant where the owners were having dinner. (I hadn’t seen him) I stood in front of Boogie and said to the owners: “Please call your dog! Mine isn’t friendly”. Thankfully the dog was well-trained and returned to his owners immediately when they called him, but in that split-second a huge leashed-dog approached us from behind. I pick Boogie up until the dog passed us. I put him down again when the dog had walked off several feet ahead of us. Boogie pulled towards the dog for a few seconds (more curious, than triggered). I waited, then he turned his head to look at me. “OK!” I said, and off we went, turning down a side street. No reactivity. :)
In addition to BAT, I wonder if the new harness plays some part in making Boogie feel safer and more connected to me?
Some time this week I think I will take Boogie to the park and train some loose-leash walking there…
By the way, everyone with a reactive dog should read the BAT book!!! And I’m not saying this just because my Boogie illustrations are in it :)
This is a screengrab from the e-book version which has color pages.
* Podcast Interview about BAT with Grisha Stewart –> http://www.animalcafe.co/dog-behavior-adjustment-training-for-fear-frustration-and-aggression/