Heeling and loose leash walking, what’s the difference?

Heeling and loose leash walking are two very different things. As long as the owner struggles to understand the difference the dog will never be clear with what is expected while out on walks. 

Loose leash walking doesn’t have to be on one side as long as they keep slack in the leash. I prefer not to use special tools and use mostly flat collars or martingales, but this can also be achived in a harness. Instead I use a clear system of communication.  The idea of loose leash walking is that when the dog feels any pressure on the collar that the pressure is actually a cue that means move closer to my owner and check in.  Unfortunately many dog owners accidentally teach dogs to ignore leash pressure and actually unintentionally teach their dogs to pull.

Loose leash walking is communicating with your dog through the leash. I teach my dogs to understand how to give to collar pressure, so that they can easily be moved around by collar pressure. While giving into the pressure of the leash they cannot be pulling because those two behaviors are incompatible.

 Heel is a consistent placement of your dog’s shoulder to your leg. If I move backwards, pivot, sideways or any other direction my dog’s position should not change it should be dog’s shoulder to my leg.  This position can NOT be taught with a magic collar or leash.  It can only be taught through clear and consistent training.

Video of loose leash walking:

Video of heeling:

The Hard Breed Myth

I hear the myth all the time that corsos, neos , rotties, american bull dogs and pitbulls are hard dogs on a lifelong quest to establish their role of dominance and they can only be tamed with methods that use bulling and assertiveness. Okay, maybe that is a little exaggerated, but I commonly see new students bringing in bullys and acting like real bullies. Their dogs are seldom thinking about dominance, but are seeking out some fun or self-rewarding behavior. Even though their intention is to provide them with good structure and teach them to be good dogs there are far more effective ways of doing this.  
I often wonder how these highly motivated, drivey, and highly trainable dogs ended up with such a label. I can’t say for sure where these ideas came from. Maybe it came from the fact that these are working breeds not content to lay on the couch all day, maybe because they need more socialization with people and dogs than the average golden, but I think it may have a lot to do with where training has come from.
20 years ago most competitive dog trainers and many pet dog trainers relied on escape avoidance training.  Most people who went to puppy classes or dog classes 20 years ago where handed a choke chain OR told to go buy one. The basic go to training methods taught dogs to turn off pressure. Pressure based dog training required the dogs to be uncomfortable enough that they would actually work to turn off the pressure.

 Many of our breeds that are considered to be “hard” have a high enough drive that adrenaline may make them appear to be more pain tolerant in heightened situations. Which means that in order for escape avoidance training to have worked they had to issue harder corrections than to the lower drive breeds or softer breeds. Which meant in order to successfully get compliance an owner had to be really get comfortable giving a high-level correction.
In recent years even the highly competitive obedience, IPO, agility and ring sport trainers have started switching the way they look at teaching dogs. Even at this year’s police canine training seminar there was a huge focus on making the switch to motivational methods.

 Many haven’t made the switch because they are “bunny huggers” or truly believe a jerk on the collar is going to break the spirit of a 120 lb presa, but because motivational methods create a better product. A stronger heel, a better recall, and a dog who truly wants to dog those things. 

These training methods are built off of harnessing and utilizing the dog’s drive and creating win-win situations that teach the dog to want to work for the things that were once thought of as a distraction.
 I encourage you to go to a trial near you and see what dogs are placing the highest now. It’s the dogs who love what they do and want to work. We are also seeing a switch in what breeds professional trainers are wanting to work. They no longer think of a pitbulls as a difficult breed, but a dog that has so much potential and willingness to work. Maybe that is why this breed has earned more UKC Superdog titles than any other breed combined.
People often see my dog heeling beautifully with joy, animation and engagement. Guess what, that’s what judges want to see too. I think that many people who aren’t familiar with my breed think he is a little bit of a marshmallow when they see how hard he tries to work to get his prized toy. I can assure you he is no marshmallow, just a dog who REALLY REALLY enjoys working for me. He doesn’t enjoy working for me because I shout heel and jerk him when he grabs the leash to play tug, but because he knows if he heels he will be rewarded with a heart pumping, growly, a rough game of tug.
Dogs with harder temperaments are most easily trained through motivational, engagement methods that use the distractions around them as motivators.  

Keep in mind that the definition of dominance is not bulling, aggressiveness or assertiveness. It is simply controlling the resources. You don’t have to be a bully to train your bully. 

Teaching Leave It

Teaching your dog to “leave it” is a top skill that every dog can learn and should learn. I find that once my students teach their dog this skill they use it all the time.
I actually used “leave it” just the other day myself when I was out with my dog. I had him at a park practicing obedience and a homeless man offered my dog some left over KFC I simply told my dog to “leave it” and was very thankful that we practiced this cue.
We all have scenarios come up where “leave it” would be perfect. Just think of your last walk….
I’m sure that your dog was interested in pulling towards some garbage, maybe goose poop, or even a dead animal.

Another reason I enjoy teaching my dog to “leave it” is we will really get to see how our dogs solve problems. It also builds up their doggy impulse control.

When teaching “Leave it” we use capturing and start by asking our dog to solve a mystery. That mystery is “How do I get the yummy treat?” Your dog may try to answer this question by pawing at your hand, licking your hand, nibbling on your hand or staring at your hand.
Okay are you ready to get started?

Leave it step 1:
You will have a bait hand and a reward hand. Your bait hand will have just one treat and your reward hand should have at least 5 treats. You will never give your dog the bait. You want to present your hand nose level or below nose level.
Present your bait hand to your dog and watch your dog try to problem solve. Wait until your dog looks like he has given up trying to get the treat from you then say “yes” the second he looks away or moves away from the treat. 2-3 seconds after saying “Yes” take a treat from your reward hand and treat your dog.
Tips for this step:
1. Don’t say “leave it” yet, the only word that you should be saying is your marker word.
2.One treat per “Yes”.
3.Repeat this until your dog does 5 correct on each hand.

During this next step your dog may understand the game. If you present the bait in an open hand and your dog doesn’t try to steal it, say “yes” and give your dog a treat. Don’t try and trick your dog into going for it. Your job is to help your dog be successful. A lot of people start to actually try and get their dog to go for it, don’t if your dog doesn’t try to steal from you then mark it “Yes.” and treat that behavior.

Leave it step 2:
Still try not to say “Leave it”, I know its hard, but for now only say “Yes”.
Now when we show our dog our bait hand it will be open.
If your dog goes to snatch or steal the bait just close your hand. If you move your hand around too much it will make it really hard for your dog.
When your dog stops trying to steal the treat when your hand is open say “Yes” and give your dog a treat.
Once your dog does 5 of these correctly on each hand check back in with us and you will be ready for the next step.

We finally get to say “leave it”. During this step it is important that you say “leave it” only one time. The cue “Leave it” is the equivalent of asking a child “What’s 9 x’s 9?”. If a student is counting dots to get to the correct answer it won’t help the child get to the answer by repeating “9 x’s 9” over and over right? Keep this in mind while training. Your hint for your dog is closing your hand and letting them try different behaviors until they get to the correct answer.

Leave It Step 3:
Okay, so as you present your bait in a open hand say “Leave it” if your dog leaves it say “Yes” and reward with a treat. If your dog trys to steal the treat shut your hand and wait for your dog to give up stealing the treat. Practice this until your dog can do 5 correct leave its in a row where he doesn’t try to steal the treat. If your dog seems to have a hard time go back a step or try rewarding with a even yummier treat.

Excellent job! Your dog is now starting to understand the “leave it” cue. Will this really work if you drop a piece of chocolate or if a squirrel runs by? No, not yet your dog isn’t ready for that. You can easily get your dog to that level by using our 3 D’s of Doggy Impulse Control.

I like to start with Duration with “leave it’s” so having your dog leave it in the open hand longer and longer. Say “yes” each time your dog can leave it a little longer then he did before.

For Distance you could practice having the bait closer to your dog or closer to the floor. Try doing 5 leave it’s with the back of your hand on the floor. This will be harder for your dog, so be ready to close your hand quickly if needed. The closer to your dog the treat is the harder the exercise and the closer to the floor the treat is the harder the exercises is.

For Distraction you could practice with outside in the yard or while there are other people around. The more that is going on around your dog the harder the exercises are!
We know that your dog will be a master at leave it in no time and you’ll have a great time showing this off to your friends too!

How often should you practice?
Practice doing three sets of 15 sets a day, but if you can sneak in extra sessions you are sure to see even faster improvement.

When should I practice?
You can practice leave its while you are snaking though out the day. Sometimes I like to “Accidently” drop a treat while walking around the house, then tell my dog to leave it. That will teach your dog to check in before rushes for dropped food, which could be medicine or chocolate

Where should I practice?
For the first day or two you may only want to try in the house or yard but as your dog starts to get it really well you need to go places to practice. Have the kids practice this one every time they want to give your dog a treat! Practice while out on walks too.

If your dog gets suck or seems to have trouble with the cue “leave it” at any point in time go back to step one, and give your dog a reminder. They have brain farts just like we do. If they aren’t performing it correctly you may have to practice more in a less distracting area, go back and give them a reminder or use even yummier treats.
I’m sure you will be super impressed with your dog’s progress after only a few sessions!

Bennett Canine Training

Teaching Leave It in a Teen Class

Kennel Training

Kennel training is a must for puppies and highly recommended for most newly adopted adult dogs. Kennel training speeds up house training, prevents chewing, prevents counter surfing and prevents your puppy from practicing bad habits. Kennel training should be fun and stress free for your puppy. Follow these steps to teach your puppy to love going into his kennel and to be able to send your puppy to his kennel on a verbal cue from anywhere in the house.

Step 1: Creating a strong desire to enter the kennel

Place a yummy treat in the back of your puppy’s kennel and shut the kennel door with your puppy on the outside of the kennel, so that he can’t access the treat.  Watch your puppy as he tries to figure out how to get inside the kennel to access his treat. When he seems like he’s trying to get inside open the kennel door and allow your puppy to retrieve the treat. Don’t shut the door behind your puppy instead allow your puppy to exit the kennel whenever he chooses. Repeat this step until you can do five repetitions in a row where your puppy is pawing at the kennel door or nudging the kennel door in attempt to enter the kennel.

Step 2: Adding a verbal cue “Kennel”
This step is going to be very similar to the previous step of kennel training. You’re going to place a treat in the back of the kennel and shut the kennel door let your puppy show interest in the treat for about 30 seconds, then say “Kennel” opening the door right after you’ve said it. Repeat this step at least 20 times before moving onto the next step.

Before you move onto the next step:
You want to make sure that your puppy does not to hesitate before entering the kennel. Any reluctance and you shouldn’t move forward. You may also see that your puppy no longer rushes out of the kennel. If your puppy chooses to stay in the kennel give your puppy a few treats for choosing to stay in the kennel instead of rushing out. You want to see that your puppy is slightly worked up about not being allowed access into the kennel. That will help with our next step.

Step 2: Sending your puppy to the kennel from a distance

Put your puppy on a leash then show your puppy that you’ve placed a treat in the back of the kennel with the door open. Keep your puppy from entering by having your puppy on a leash 1-2 feet away from the kennel door. Then say “Kennel” and then immediately release your puppy to go in his kennel and retrieve the treat.

Repeat this step until you can get at least 5 repetitions where your puppy doesn’t hesitate at all going into the kennel. Make sure you’re not shutting the kennel door it’s important to let your puppy out immediately after.

Excellent job! By now your puppy has started to understand what “kennel” means and is excited to go to the kennel. Let’s start to add some distance.

Step 3: Adding distance

This step is going to be a lot like step 2 except now we are going to gradually add distance away from the kennel when we ask our puppy to go to their kennel. Put your puppy on a leash then show your puppy that you’ve placed a treat in the back of the kennel with the door open. Keep your puppy from entering by having your puppy on a leash 2-3 feet away from the kennel door. Then say “Kennel” and then immediately release your puppy to go in his kennel and retrieve the treat. For every five that your puppy does correctly move 2 feet farther away from the puppy’s kennel until you can be in the next room.

Who knew kennel training could be so much fun? I love to play kennel games like this with my dogs when it’s too cold to go outside. You can practice send your dog all the way across the house into the kennel or even try sending your dog from one kennel to the other. Dogs that are kennel trained love their kennels and find their kennels safe and comforting!

kennel training

Teaching a dog to choose to stay in their kennel!

Kennel Training Basics

kennel trained pitbull

Kennel Training is relaxing and should never be stressfull

Kennel training is something I recommend to all my clients with young puppies and most newly adopted dogs.  Kennel training fast tracks the house training process and provides your puppy a safe retreat.  Who doesn’t need their own space every once in a while?

 Benefits of Kennel training: 

  • House training

  • Prevents counter surfing

  • Prevents chewing

  • May prevent developing separation anxiety

  • Grooming, dogs that get groomed will almost always have to go into a kennel at some point in time. A dog that gets stressed out in the kennel will be even more stressed when he goes to the groomer.

  • Showing, dogs that are shown need to be kennel trained.

  • Emergency situations, if your dog has to go to the vet due to illness or injury there’s a good chance that he’ll have to be kenneled. If your dog isn’t comfortable in a kennel this will only add to the level of stress.  They’re also situations such as family emergencies. Your dog may have to go to a kennel to get boarded, another example is when national disasters strike like Hurricane Katrina or Harvey. Dogs that are displaced often end up temporarily being kenneled. These situations are already stressful for your dog, so even if you don’t plan to use a kennel for day-to-day life it’s a good idea to crate train your dog.

 When kennel may not be helpful: 

If your dog already has true separation anxiety then kenneling your dog may not be a ideal solution.  Your dog may still benefit to kennel training, but that wont solve anxiety in fact it may make it worse.

 What size kennel should I get my dog? 

Grab a tape measure and measure your dog while standing, taking a measurement from the nose to the base of the tail for its length. For its height, have your dog sit and then measure it, as some dogs are taller while sitting. Add between 4 inches to both measurements for the ideal crate height and length.

What type of kennel should I get my dog? 

Wire kennels 
  • Good for dogs that get hot easily, due to either living in a hot climate or having a heavy coat

  • With some models, you can buy a divider to section off the crate, so your dog’s area in the crate starts out small and gets bigger as he grows

  • Many wire crates fold flat for carrying or storage

  • Removable floor tray is easy to clean

 Plastic Airline kennels 
  • Good for dogs who like cozy spaces and tend to sleep in corners or under tables

  • Can be used for airline travel – if your dog is acclimated to this type of crate, flying with him will be easier

  • More difficult for escape artists to get out of; if your dog is good at breaking out of crates, you may need to get him a plastic crate that’s one size too big for him to prevent him from escaping

  • Available in different colors

  • Top half of crate comes off and can be stacked inside bottom half for storage

 Check out our other blog for How to Introduce Your to a Kennel

Stay in a Open Kennel

Teach Your Dog to Stay in a Open Kennel

Now that you’ve got your puppy entering his kennel like a rockstar you’re next goal is going to be teaching your puppy to want to stay in their kennel. Dogs that want to stay in their kennel will be quiet when in a kennel, they will be less likely to try escaping through the day and you can have the kennel door open while they remain kenneled.

Before you practice this one your puppy should already know that the word “kennel” means go inside your kennel. If your puppy doesn’t click here to see how to teach that.
For teaching your dog to stay in a kennel with an open door you’re going to need a lot of yummy treats. If your dog is really food motivated, I recommend just using his dinner, because like I said we’re going to use a lot of treats. If your puppy isn’t easily motivated by food may need to use something yummier like diced hot dogs or moist training treats just make sure you have them cut up into small pieces.

Tell your puppy “kennel” and when your puppy enters the kennel jackpot three treats towards the middle or back of the kennel. Be sure to toss the three treats one at a time, but one right after the other.

For the first 10 seconds your puppy is in the kennel you’re going to toss one treat for every second that your puppy chooses to stay in the kennel. Even if the only reason they are staying in the kennel is because they are looking for treats. Make sure that you toss the treats to the middle or back of the kennel. Don’t forget to only toss one treat at a time.

During this step your puppy wants to get out of the kennel before the 10 seconds is up that is totally fine. Let your puppy choose to exit the kennel if he wishes, don’t try to body block your puppy or to use the door to prevent him from exiting the kennel. Your puppy is going to learn from leaving the kennel. What your puppy will figure out that it’s less rewarding on the outside of the kennel and he will likely choose to go back into the kennel.

If your puppy decides to stay inside the kennel after the first 10 seconds, then for the next 10 seconds you’re going to give your puppy a treat for every three seconds they stay in the kennel. You’re still only tossing one treat at a time and you’re still trying to toss the tree into the back of the kennel or the middle of the kennel.

If your puppy chose to exit the kennel during this exercise don’t worry! It’s no loss to you. Your not missing out on any super yummy treats. When the puppy exits the kennel simply pause and take a step away from your puppy. Don’t pay the puppy any attention. Your puppy will eventually go back inside the kennel to see if he missed any treats. When he does say your marker word, “Yes” go back to step one where you jackpot your puppy with three treats.

Excellent job! By now your puppy is choosing to stay in the crate on his own for 20 seconds. You’ve gotten at least 5 repetitions successfully where your puppy hasn’t tried to exit the kennel after 20 seconds.
Now you can continue to gradually add duration in between treats.

Before you know it you’ll be having to talk your puppy out of leaving the kennel. The goal is to have your puppy have the mindset of “Why would I ever leave here? This is a very rewarding place to be. If I stay in here on my own choice I get treats, but if I exit the kennel I get nothing.”

As your puppy gets better at this exercise and you can add other challenges like taking a step or two away from the kennel returning and treating your puppy. Once your puppy is successful at that for multiple repetitions then you can try to take even more steps away from your puppy returning and giving your puppy a treat for choosing to stay in the kennel. Remember don’t correct your puppy if he exits the crate. It’s his choice, but he’ll learn soon enough that leaving the kennel means he’s missing out on exciting rewards.