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I currently have 4 beagles. Bernard, a 1 year old beagle is my foster dog, rescued 2 weeks ago from a small crate in a back yard behind someone's garage. This dog has lived its entire life in that crate with 2 other beagles (not the ones above) and no other form of human or animal interaction. Bernard has finally somewhat accepted human handling and gets along well with our other beagles, but when a leash is put on, he freezes up, neither responding to treats nor toys. He does not struggle, but will not move at all! He sees our other dogs happily going for walks and wants to go, but will not move when the leash is on. We work everyday to get Bernard to accept the leash with no luck to this point. Can you help?
Hi there Jane,
Thank you for your email regarding your new foster dog, Bernard and his current fear of the leash. It sounds as though he hasn't been treated well so far in his lifetime, so I am sure that he is all a bit confused as to what is normal and what is not. I am sure that after a few months in your home, getting used to your ways and your dogs that he will settle right in and be so much more happy. As for leash training, you will need to start from scratch with him since, it is very common for dogs (particularly dogs) who are completely unfamiliar to a collar and leash to freeze up initially. Once he realizes that he is not being totally restricted and gets used to the feel of the collar and leash around his neck, you will be able to happily take him walking with the other dogs.
In order to help Bernard get used to the leash, here is a guide for you:
I would begin by exposing Bernard to the leash in a non-threatening (for it) situation. Leave the leash out in Bernard's play area so that it gets used to the sight and smell of the leash, only do this when you are present. Depending on how badly Bernard is reacting you may have to leave the leash on the outskirts of its area for a start and build up over a couple of weeks to the point that you can approach Bernard with the leash in your hand. Be very gradual in how you do this. Do not attempt to put the leash on Bernard unless he is 100% relaxed about the deal.
You will have to be on the lookout for when Bernard is showing non-fearful behavior towards the leash. Reward Bernard with praise and perhaps food rewards.
Try teaching Bernard a few commands without the leash, particularly sit and stay, which you should be able to do just as effectively without a leash. Once Bernard has a grasp of these commands and can stay for 4 or 5 minutes then introduce the leash to it. Praise Bernard for performing the commands while you have the leash in your hands. Again, do not attempt to put it on Bernard unless it is 100% relaxed about it. The idea behind this exercise is that Bernard will form a positive association with the leash due to being rewarded for fulfilling the commands while the leash is in its presence.
Next the dog needs to get used to the leash itself without you holding the other end. Treats are ideal for this training. The dog won't always need treats to walk on a leash. Leash walking has its own rewards, but Bernard doesn't know this yet. The treats will help get things moving in the right direction. Feeding time is a good time to work on this conditioning, when you have the dish in your hand and an eager dog at your feet. Back away from the dog. Use your body language and the dog's name to attract the dog to follow. Move around a bit with Bernard, making it a fun game, before putting down the dish and thus delivering a great reward.
At other times when Bernard is likely to be interested in games and treats, use a bit of food from the dog's next meal to condition the dog to look at you and move with you. Keep moving away from the dog, encouraging the dog to follow you. Young dogs naturally do this anyway, so the training is easy and fun.
At all times, be prepared to reward Bernard with little treats, games and other things the dog likes, for moving with you, coming to you, and looking at you. Make this a habit, and develop your body language and voice to what works best with THIS dog. Each dog is different. Dogs have different things they like best, and different things they respond to in different ways. You can build Bernard's desires to interact with you by how you use your praise, treats, petting, and the games you and Bernard play together. All of this factors into your leash training as well as all other training, both in dog-hood and later on in your dog's life.
When you go to pick up the other end of the leash avoid approaching Bernard with postures that appear dominant. Avoid direct eye contact, look at its back or tail instead, and don't approach with your full front, turn to the side instead. Pet your dog under the chin rather than on top of the head. Get low when you call him you by bending your knees, rather than leaning over it. All members of the household should use these techniques. As a general rule, keep greetings low key and reward any positive postures that your dog makes. Make sure that you do not punish Bernard for its indiscretions - this will only make the matter worse.
The key to changing your dog's current behavior will be to slowly build up to taking hold of the other end of the lead. Start by letting Bernard run around with the leash on as you have been. Try playing the following games outlined above next, and then a few weeks later once Bernard realizes it is a fun game when the leash is put on and that he gets rewarded when he wears the lead and doesn't complain or get submissive (roll over) try picking up the other end of the leash. Do not punish him if he becomes submissive when this happens. Instead ignore the behavior and play another following game, and try again a few minutes later. If the same thing happens, leave it for that day and try again the next day. Eventually with food rewards and encouragement, you will notice a distinct difference in Bernard's attitude towards the leash. It may also be worth starting afresh with a completely different leash you have been using recently as it may help Bernard associate this new lead with the rewards and excitement of this different training. I definitely recommend you DON'T tug on the lead when he becomes submissive as this could easily make the problem worse as well as making him even more submissive. Just take it slow and ignore any submissive behavior by playing a game and making the whole experience fun.
Once you have got the dog keen on the leash and you have picked up the other end with him being relatively comfortable on the other end, you can begin further training such as the heel command for walking. I am sure that eventually Bernard will become accustomed to the leash around his neck and will be more than happy to go for a walk with you and your two beagles. Best of luck with his training and please let us know how you get on.
Daniel Stevens and the Secrets to Dog Training Team
I've been a professional dog trainer for well over 20 years, and in that time I've helped thousands of dog owners just like you to get the friendly, well behaved, slipper fetching, best pal they always wanted.
But it didn't start out that way. I've always loved dogs, some things never change. But when I first started my professional dog training career I relied on the so-called 'best practices' when it came to dog behavior training. It was only when I heard people tell me over and over again that they just weren't seeing results that I started to question the old accepted wisdom. So I started a journey, a quest to search out the best, most effective, techniques, tips, and tricks that really work.
And that's how I came up with Secrets to Dog Training. Year after year I found new techniques that achieved the results I wanted. Eventually I had a whole book worth of great resources: Secrets to Dog training...
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