How To Talk To The Animals
We have been called animal whisperers, Dr. Doolittle, Beastmaster, magicians and more. The truth is, and please don't tell anyone, we animal trainers don't ACTUALLY have super powers. Although we can't read minds, we can read body language, and just as importantly, can communicate in return by using the secret language of the leash.
Think about learning a new language. The words themselves don't mean anything without context. Have you ever seen a person trying to talk to someone that doesn't speak the same language, and who obviously isn't understanding what they are saying so they just say the same thing louder? You roll your eyes watching the interaction because you know without adding context or changing anything, that it's never going to work. When you yell at your pup, or ask it multiple times with no other modification, it can look pretty similar. As soon as you put a leash on a dog, it allows you the ability to bridge your words to your intention by physically showing them what you want. For example, when you say "come" and are able to pull them into you on a leash, it is a clear demonstration of what that word means.
Speaking With The Leash
Leashes aren't just for walks anymore! Utilizing a leash in the house works great at keeping that line of communication open. When you say "Off!" and are able to calmly walk up to your dog and pull them down off the counter, visitor, chair, bed, etc. it shows them what you want. By adding consistency, they learn that every time you say "Off!" they have to come down. You are not asking them to, but telling them to and holding them accountable for their actions by having the consequence of being pulled down with the leash every time. Bribing (or pleading) with a treat however will always put your dog in a position of power. It gives them the opportunity to accept your offer or determine it's value is not worth what you are asking of them. For example a biscuit for going into their crate probably doesn't outweigh the fact they know you are leaving soon, and the longer they stall, the more you are going to interact with them in that moment. When you put a leash on a dog instead, and tell them to go in the crate (instead of asking) you have the ability to eliminate all other options. By not allowing them to go anywhere else you are maintaining control, and will only have to say it once, for them to understand there is no other choice. Then once they are in the crate, you can reward their action with a special treat.
Why Not Just Use Their Collar or Physically Manipulate Them?
Great question! No matter what your dog is feeling, when you touch them with your hands it will escalate that emotion. If they are happy, it will make them ecstatic. If they are scared, it will reinforce that there is something to be scared of. If they are acting aggressively, it can push them over the edge. Therefore, using physical touch to de-escalate a situation is almost always impossible. When you use a leash, you maintain control and are able to redirect their attention without amplifying what they are feeling.
But I Can't Just Leave a Leash On My Dog All The Time!
I agree! When you have the time to put focus and energy on the dog, this is the time to practice your language skills. If your dog is a chewer, you can use a small tab (they are anywhere from 3-8 inches) that you can attach to their collar so they can't reach it. If you know company will be coming over within the hour, put it on them then. Try to anticipate when the problematic behavior occurs most and focus on those times. When life gets in the way, and you don't have time, that becomes a great opportunity to work on other things like healthy separation and crate training (Click HERE for our Ultimate Guide to Crate Training)! Once you have established consistency and are able to link your words to an action that is clear and that they can easily understand, you won't need to use the leash nearly as much and may only need to bring it out as a reminder every once in a while.
Sometimes saying nothing is the best option. This is the hardest part of learning to speak leash! If your dog is not attached to his leash in the moment you need to use one of the words you have been teaching him, it is always better to not say anything until you are connected! For example, a dog has put his feet up on the counter (off leash). Find your leash, and discretely clip it on his collar without pulling on it, only then tell him "Off!" THEN pull him down. This connects them hearing the word "off" with the action of getting pulled down. If you act first, and say "off" after you have already pulled him down, the word looses it's meaning. If you just have the word and no action to back it up (within a few seconds), the word looses it's meaning. This is the HARDEST part of communicating. We are so used to acting reactively and trying to shut down inappropriate behavior quickly it is difficult to stop yourself, but in the end it will be worth it! With consistency they will become conditioned to react appropriately with the commands you are giving them because you have taken the time to teach them the meaning of the word.
So What You're Telling Me Is...
Imagine a world where you only have to tell your dog something once and they do it without hesitation, every time. This is possible when you use the leash to communicate.
When you put yourself in a position of begging a dog to do something it compromises your position as one in charge and can lead to other anxiety related issues. When you nag at a dog (asking/yelling/tugging incessantly on a leash with no change in outcome of behavior) they learn quickly to tune you out because you're not really going to follow through with any consequence. Only when you can truly control the conversation by harnessing (see what I did there?) the power of the leash can you talk to the animals AND have them listen in return.
For more stories, tips and tricks on training or if you have any questions please visit our website at www.dogtrainingredefined.com or email Andrea at Andrea@theanimaldept.com