Teach a cue. Introduce your puppy to a sound cue that means, “food is coming.” Some people like to click and treat, some people use a word like “yes,” and some people cluck their tongue. Whichever you use, the method is the same: In a quiet, distraction-free area, with the puppy on a leash and collar, make the sound. The second your puppy turns toward you and/or looks at you, reward him with a treat. After a few repetitions, you’ll notice your puppy not only looking at you, but also coming over to you for the treat.
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This type of training is more effective because it builds a bond of trust and cooperation between animals and humans, the animals (and the humans) actually look forward to training! No one looks forward to punishment, or even the probability of punishment! We all want to be told when we do something right, not belittled, hit or corrected when we do something wrong!
Since that article ran in June, three dogs who have graduated from my Growly Dog class have been attacked by off-leash dogs. My clients work hard to calm their dog’s anxiety when they see other dogs (which often stems from being attacked the very first time by a rude, off-leash dog!). We help these over-anxious dogs learn to trust their handler, and we rebuild their faith that they can walk safely in their own neighborhood. We make significant progress in keeping these dogs calm and focused on their owners instead of hyper-vigilantly scanning for dangers . . . such as an off-leash dog. In some of these cases, the unleashed dog owner was held responsible and now must pay fines in addition to medical bills; one of my clients ended up having an $8,000 hand surgery after breaking up a dog fight. I have enough stories like that to fill up a very long, pathetic book.
I mean, have you ever seen anyone successfully loose leash walk their dog using a retractable leash? I observed a man yesterday at our local pet food center trying to control his medium sized dog while another customer was walking their very petite pups. Guess what he was using? A retractable leash, that malfunctioned, the dog was able to get far enough away from the owner that he lost control and the dog went right after those little puppies. Luckily, the dog just wanted to say hello, and those two little pooches knew exactly how to take care of themselves! This scenario could have turned out pretty bad.