Chad Mackin, renowned dog rehabilitation expert, told me once that “The slack leash should be the primary reinforcer”.
I know from my stints of wasted time at the various correctional facilities of my youth, that being restrained is infuriating.
The problem is, the way most people use the leash, it is strictly a device of restraint. It keeps them from getting to things they find interesting. So, the leash is a source of serious frustration and stress.
Here’s the real problem…. We aren’t even consistent with that!!!!!!! Sometimes, we give up because the leash frustrates us as much as it frustrates them. So…. We say “screw it”, and give up on restraining them just let them pull us to whatever it is.
That is HORRIBLE!!!!!
That’s because studies show that intermittent reinforcement INCREASES motivation!!!
Yep. That’s right. It’s like lottery tickets. If you win just often enough…. It keeps you playing.
So the way it plays out is this:
The dog wants to get to something and is restrained. This creates huge frustration….. So he tries really really hard. And sometimes….. Sometimes….
Sometimes, it works if he just pulls HARD ENOUGH.
That makes him more motivated to pull, and when he is not successful, he gets even more frustrated…… and yep…..
pulls harder….. and gets MORE FRUSTRATED!!!
Well, neato, that’s what’s wrong. What the hell do you do about it.
You have to change how you see the leash. It isn’t a handcuff on a rope. It’s the “string between two cans” we use to listen to our dogs.
You, AND your dog have to view the leash as the way you communicate, and navigate.
The biggest reward you can give a dog (or a person for that matter) is freedom, and autonomy.
You have to TEACH them how to make the right choices. And the leash helps you do that. The leash used masterfully, reduces frustration. It’s a beautiful thing to see. Here’s a clip of Chad working with a dog at a socialization seminar. Watch the details. It’s super subtle. But man it’s profound.
I have been studying and practicing this method religiously for a few months now, and the improvement in my dogs, and the dogs I work with has been nothing short of miraculous.