Leash pressure is not a new concept – it is a system of conditioning a dog to give-in to leash pressure rather than opposing it. This system allows the dog to learn to accept the leash as negative reinforcement and to teach him that he has the ability to control whether the pressure is “on” or “off.”
Typically Leash Pressure works like this.
- The handler puts a slight pressure on the leash in a certain direction and waits. (The dog shows a bit of initial resistance.) Pressure is “On.”
- The dog eventually gives in to the pressure and moves into the leash, in so doing makes the pressure to go away. Pressure is “Off.”
- The handler praises the dog and marks the behaviour (“Yes”) and gives a reward of a treat or toy.
In this system, the leash pressureis a way of speaking or silently “calling” the dog into a direction and the dog listening, “obeying” the silent “call.”
Leash pressure is commonly used when walking with a puppy or older dog on leash. The handler says “Come with me” steps off and applies leash pressure and the dog follows which results in the dog experiencing a release of pressure and freedom. The handler changes direction and leash pressure again guides the dog into the new direction. Upward leash pressure is used to halt and sit next to the handler.
Teaching leash pressure to a puppy is done without speaking to the dog. Quietly apply light leash pressure as you start moving in a direction. The dog will become aware of the pressure being applied and begin to follow and releases the pressure. As soon as he passes you, turn and again gently apply pressure to signal that he is to follow in the new direction. This exercise needs to be repeated, in silence, for a while over a few days until your dog has learnt to move smoothly with the leash wherever it leads.
All dogs need to learn to cope with a small amount of stress. Puppies that have been subjected to small doses of stress – held aloft for a while, put on a cold towel, and placed in a crate etc. have been found to do better as adults (it is called early neurological stimulation).
Leash Pressure is simply a tool used to help shape obedience. The dog learns to respond to the handler and it becomes a team effort or partnership with its human. Unfortunately, in real life, when going on a walk it’s often the dog that applies the leash pressure to its owner who then follows and rewards the dog for pulling and they then complain that the dog is pulling.
How to use the leash
The leash should lie across your hand in such a way that by closing your thumb on the line you are able to instantly have control to stop your dog. You will also easily be able to move your hand up or down the line. A leash should never be wrapped around a wrist or hand. It can be dangerous and lead to injury.
When pressure is applied to the leash it is important to pull straight at the head height of the dog. For smaller dogs the leash must be lowered to the dog’s head height. A common mistake is for the handler to pull upwards which causes the dog to resist or struggle or to sit. Pulling upwards can cause the dog to want to sit and a downward pull to lie down.
Because dogs have extensively been lure reward trained they are very good at following our hands. That is why I prefer to use a longer line in training so that my hands are not as noticeable and the dog is not concentrating on my hand movements.
Uses of leash pressure
Dog trainers commonly use leash pressure in teaching a dog to swim by guiding the dog into the shallow end of a pool or to walk down a ramp into a swimming pool.
Dogs training for competition can be taught and be manipulated into the heel position and to maintain its position close to his handler during an exercise.
Pet dogs or those not training for competition can be taught loose leash walking next to or a little in front of the handler.
I use leash pressure to show owners how to get their dogs to let go of a toy.
Long line pressure is used in the proofing phase of the recall exercise. The dog must react instantly when called.
Leash pressure can also be used to block or prevent a dog from making a mistake like walking through a door ahead of its owner when on leash.