The most “liked” column I have written for Dogster was about why it is critical to observe leash laws. Nearly 20,000 of you clicked that button. The article struck a nerve because owners who flout these laws exist from coast to coast. Some of them angrily responded to my article, insisting they had every right to have an off-leash dog who runs amuck and molests (“he just wants to say hi!”) other dogs and humans. Many more of you wrote to tell me about the severe physical and psychological damage your dog has suffered because of a run-in with an off-leash dog.
In Delaware, dogs are not allowed to run at large unless in situations when the owner is present and has control over the pet. An exception is for farm dogs. Also, during the night dogs must be kept in an enclosure from which they cannot escape, firmly secured with a collar or chain or other device, so they cannot stray from the premises, or are under the reasonable control of the owner or custodian. If an owner does not respect these laws and if the dog bites someone, the owner is subject to civil liability and for fines of up to $1,500.
A professional (find one through The Pet Professional Guild) can help you train your dog to trust his environment and handler when he is on leash. Dogs can feel trapped by that lifeline. It’s vital that we teach them how we want them to behave when they see other dogs. These behaviors first must be taught in a safe, controlled setting such as a dog-training center.
Indiana is one of the states that has a restraint statute, which means that dogs must be restrained at all times. Otherwise, if the dog bites a person when not restrained the owner is subject to civil liability and criminal penalties. (Cite needed; definition of "restraint" needed; discussion of local Indiana ordinances forbidding dog tethering needed.)
The clicker is a very effective training tool, that when conditioned with a reward like food, a treat or a toy signals to your puppy that he has done something right. The clicking sound becomes synonymous with the reward/treat once training has begun. However, your puppy has to be taught that the clicker means something and clicking alone is not reinforcing anything.
Make the puppy come to you. While he’s on his way to you, still wearing the leash and collar, back up a few paces and then reward him when he gets to you. Continue the progression until your puppy, upon hearing the cue noise, comes to you and walks with you a few paces. Remember that puppies have a short attention span, so keep your sessions short, and end them when your puppy is still eager to do more, not when he’s mentally exhausted.
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