Taking The Lead
Q. My dog Fergus is obsessed with his lead. He either tugs it noisily or chews it silently. Last week, he chewed straight through it without me realizing what he was doing. My mind was on the course and when I reached down to take his lead off for his run, Fergus had half of it in his mouth and I had the other half in my hand!
A. You are very lucky that Fergus did not realize that he was unattached. He could have wandered off and got up to all kinds of mischief.
Dogs love their leads. Pick up a dog’s lead and it’s the signal for a walk in the woods or a ride in the car to agility training…
Many agility handlers make their dog’s lead seem more desirable and powerful by treating it as if it were a toy. They play tug with their lead to wind and warm up their dog. They send their dog to a lead at the end of a run. Or they tie it in a knot and throw it for their dog to fetch. Don’t treat Fergus’s lead as if it was a toy; then he won’t try to play with it.
A new toy. If you don’t allow Fergus to play with his lead, you must buy him a new toy. Something similar but different- perhaps a knotted rope. Choose something inexpensive and easily replaceable. Dangle it in front of him and give him a game of tug. Encourage him to transfer his passion to chew on to his toy and discourage him from chewing his lead.
Be vigilant! When you’re standing in the line, keep your eye on Fergus. If he is resisting the temptation to chew his lead, praise him and give him a titbit. If it looks as if he is thinking about mouthing his lead, let him know he has made the wrong choice. When you need to concentrate on the course, put Fergus in a down stay. Do your thinking. Return to Fergus and release him onto a toy and have a game. You could make this part of your warm-up routine.
Yanking, pulling, and tugging. If you try and get Fergus to let go of his lead by yanking, pulling or tugging, he will yank, pull, and tug right back at you. It’s so exciting and he will think you are having a game. Teach Fergus to “Leave” or “Drop”, so that he will let go of his lead on command. If you exert all your strength to rip it out, you may end up damaging his teeth.
Of course, you could just let Fergus chew away. Chewing his leash isn’t such a bad habit if watched carefully, and some handlers encourage this! But it could cost you a fortune in replacements!
Used with permission.
Adapted from Questions and Answers on Dog Agility Training, by Mary Ann Nester, T.F.H. Publications
Visit Mary Ann at http://www.aslanagility.com/
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