Long line training
Puppies, from birth are programmed to always follow their mother. Where she goes her puppies will follow her, their leader. Once the natural mother is out of the picture, you become the puppy’s new pack leader and if you cuddle and hand feed your puppy, he/she will automatically follow you as you move about. It’s as if there is a built-in invisible leash between you and your puppy.
When we start to train dogs we give lots of rewards for being close to us. If you have your puppy sitting in front of you – step backwards and your puppy will instinctively move forward towards you without being called. We move away, call the pup and treat it for coming close to us. This is the start of puppy training and has to be repeated many times over. Soon however, the puppy becomes aware of a bigger world and begins to explore. Now the invisible “leash” is not enough. The easiest way to prevent the puppy from moving away from us is to make use of a long line.
Puppies need to be leash-trained from a very early age, in such a way that the leash is hardly noticeable and has only positive connotations for the puppy. Let your puppy drag around a fairly short leash while playing, in order for him to get used to the unnatural feeling of having something around his neck while playing. The younger a puppy is when he gets used to the feeling of a leash, the more normal the sensation it will be for him.
Area of influence
Dogs know that when they are 5 paces away from the handler, “You can’t catch me!” Nearer than that they can feel the presence of the trainer and will most likely come when called. That is why it is important to know the limitsof your “area of influence” over your dog. I “lunge” train my dogs to run in a circle, on a long line, around me carrying a toy. On days when I have forgotten to bring a line they start running in a circle as if connected to an invisible line.
It is essential in dog training, even in your own fenced yard, to effectively manage your dog’s behaviour. The dog must be calm and relaxed before training starts so we let him walk on a loose, 5m line. By using a long line you can reinforce your recall and get your dog out of trouble and even allow the dog to relieve itself without losing control.
Always be mindful of the fact that it is not the training tool itself – but the energy behind the tool that matters. A puppy can be messed up for life in a single day by the incorrect, harsh use of a leash. Done right, leash training strengthens the connection between you and your dog.
Why is the long line not popular?
People don’t want to use a long line because it is “cumbersome” and sometimes “difficult” to control and get “tangled” around the wrist of fingers and can cause injury in an unguarded moment. This is because they want to hold onto the full rope incorrectly. You do not have to give your dog all 5m, 10m or longer to maintain a constant connection with him. You don’t want to be pulling on the leash when training a young dog but only want to maintain the ability to make contact when needed. Drop the line or hold it like you are holding a baby bird. I prefer to have the long line draped over the index finger of my left hand so that by closing my thumb onto the line I can control the line. The rest of the line is dropped to drag behind on the ground when the dog is moving. If the dog gets entangled in the line, just drop it and walk away – problem solved.
Drop the line, call your dog and treat when he comes. Walk about, call and treat. When he wants to go away you simply step on the line and dead stop him. Call and treat again. You use his close proximity to you as an opportunity to treat. Walk around and let him drag the line. If he wants to chew on the line simply distract by walking away. Never use the line to correct the dog, especially when he is close to you.
Correctionsonly happen when the dog is some distance away. No corrections up close!!! A mistake many handlers make, when using a standard leash, is to yank the dog back when he wants to go away from them. When a dog is corrected close to its handlers they get a negative experience of being next to him. Handlers cannot understand why their dog reacts differently when near to me or another trainer. We hardly ever have to make use of the leash to get the dog to comply. Call and treat. Walk away, call and treat, but if the pup wants to run away he gets corrected away from you and runs to you for comfort. Thus, corrections are self inflicted. He walks away and gets corrected at the end of the line! Don’t yank him back – call him!!!
Outdoor Training Exercises
Before starting an outdoor training session you quietly attach a long line to your dog’s collar, and leave it trailing on the ground.
NB You cannot do long leash training with a retractable leash that winds up because these leashes’ lines don’t run loose. They are always tight and encourage pulling and every pull is rewarded with an increased distance away from you.
Ideally the long line/leash is not so much used to control the dog in any way; it is simply left to drag around as you go about your training. The idea is that the dog is barely aware that it’s there at all. It’s simply a safety net.
A long leash is a backup
Puppies do not realise that they are faster than us, or that we can’t stop them from doing as they please when they are far from us. However, it does not take an older, untrained dog long to learn that the world is full of smells and interesting things to investigate. And if they want to go off, there is very little we can do to stop them. By using long line dog training from the start, we can have a dog that never discovers this secret. One that thinks that being near you is the best place on earth to be.
You call your dog and on the way he gets distracted and wants to go and play with another dog or chase a butterfly. He now learns that if he ignores your call he can have fun with another dog. However, with the long line you can quickly pick it up or put your foot on it and stop it from happening. He learns that he is not going to be rewarded for ignoring your call and next time must avoid distractions.
Long leash training doesn’t last forever
The long line is a tool that is used for a temporary period of time. You need not keep one on once your dog is trained.
Most modern dog trainers use a long line while they train their dog to get used to new and more distracting locations; for example, teaching a “stay” in a new open field rather than in their own backyard.
Once the required exercises have been proofed the long line is not needed any more.
As a dog trainer I make use of the long lines when introducing new dogs to each other such as when a new dog is added to pack or when we want them to learn to play with other dogs.
From long line to no line
When out on a walk I let the dogs run free, with a 12 foot line while I walk in the same general direction. After a short while I stop and sit down without calling them. The dogs come running to find out what is happening. I praise them, offer a treat, remove the long lines and tell them to buzz off. This I repeat a few more times during a walk and I find that they keep watching for when I stop and sit down. Now, I can get my dog/s to come to me without calling by simply going into a submissive position.