Come to the Rescue of a Rescue

I had a GREAT experience recently!

I met with/helped a woman (I’ll call her Rachel) who’d rescued a 1 yr. old male Newfoundland. The reason she called me, her dog “Spot” wouldn’t stop jumping on her and biting on the leash, so there was NO Loose Leash Walking! The dog “Spot” weighs over 120 lbs. (more than I do). So I was a tad concerned before I got there.

Fortunately Rachel has a fenced yard. When I arrived at the house Spot was outside, looking in — an adorable face! I said we should go out so that I could meet him. Rachel went first and put him on leash (I was watching the interaction). When I first met Spot he very happily jumped up on me 😦 I was mud from head to toe. So the first thing we worked on was developing our Marker (see Positive Reinforcement Training and using a Marker). Once Spot was in tune with (and happy about) the concept of a marker I asked Rachel if she had a VERY sturdy object she could tether Spot to i.e. like a tree, she came back having attached a leash to Spot’s cemented in the ground outside pen — perfect.

To start working on “no jump” I asked Rachel to bring Spot over to the tether and tether him (with a treat of course). As Spot was sitting there bewildered I explained to Rachel that I would approach Spot, but as soon as he would get up or move forward, I would retreat. Until as I approached he held his position — ideally offering a sit, but at the very least, no pressure on the leash. (This is where the marker is so important. It allows you to communicate with the dog “I like that”.)

It took about 3 approaches before Spot didn’t budge, at which point I said an enthusiastic “yes” and gave him a treat. Spot caught on fast and was sitting like it was a life long choice! He is very food motivated!

Next step, Loose Leash Walking (LLW). As soon as Rachel attached the leash for walking and unattached the tether (2 separate leashes) Spot started jumping & tugging on the leash. I said please put him back on the tether (leaving the walking leash attached). The look on Spot’s face when he was reattached to the tether was priceless! He sat bewildered that he was reattached to the pen. When Rachel went back to get him, to try LLW again Spot started to jump, so I told her to back out of his space. Again he was bewildered and sat. I told Rachel to say an enthusiastic “Yes” and toss him a treat. The next time she approached him he held his sit while she untethered him and took hold of the walking leash. It took several tries (each time returning Spot to the tether) before Spot stopped mouthing the leash but within 15 minutes Rachel was walking small circles in the area adjacent to the outdoor pen. Rachel was all smiles — she’d never had such success! The key here is remaining close enough to the tether so that you can immediately reattach the dog if he starts the mouthing or jumping again. You gradually expand your circle and distance from the tether over a series of days, making sure that your dog can be successful — not pushing him too far too fast.

I have to give Rachel a whole lot of credit for her willingness to address Spots issues. She said her fear was that if she gave up on him perhaps a person in Spot’s next home might be mean to him, because of his size and unmannerly behavior. Rachel is truly a responsible dog owner! 🙂

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