Dominance Leadershp Respect

On Leadership and Dominance
Years ago I was walking down the hallway at my job. A contractor (or supplier or something) tried to hit on me. I had no interest in him at all, so I just kept walking. As I walked past him, he grabbed my wrist to prevent me from leaving.  I already had no respect for him at all.  When he grabbed me, my respect for him went into the negatives.  I wasn’t any more interested in what he had to say because he attempted to use physical force to make me stay there to listen to him.  I was actually much less interested in someone who didn’t have the intellectual ability to maintain my interest with intelligent conversation.
Look at your organization. Who is the actual leader? Yes, you have an official supervisor/manager/president. But who is the actual go-to person in the organization? At parties, who gets the most attention? Who do people gather around?  Is it the person who throws his/her weight around? The person who is loud and belligerent, who uses anger, curse words, threats, even physical force to get his/her way?  Or is it the calm, intelligent, witty person?
Take a look at this video of a teacher using force in the classroom Did he gain any one’s respect that day?
Someone who uses a lot of curse words has a limited vocabulary.  Someone who resorts to shouting, threats, physical force is out of ideas.
A teacher who uses physical force in the classroom has not be schooled in proper classroom management
If a “trainer” or “behaviorist” instructs you to shake, yell at, poke, hit, yank, jerk your dog, this “trainer” has not spent a lot of time learning operant conditioning.
Imagine if every time you came in late for work, your boss punched you. One of several things might happen depending on what type of person you are. You might quit working there, you might start showing up on time; you might develop an unnatural fear of time clocks, you might punch your boss back. Or you might have a breakdown and attack all of your coworkers. 
Excessive force might work on some dogs. But it also has the capability to permanently damage a dog and it can turn a dog defensive and aggressive.
A lot of trainers talk about dominance, leadership, being the pack leader.  But dominance and leadership are not synonymous with physical coercion and/or threats. Leadership is exactly the opposite of coercion. Real leaders don’t use threats or physical force. Real leaders frighten people into following them. 
You might see a submissive dog roll over on his/her back for a dominant dog. But you won’t see a balanced alpha dog push over a dog. The submissive dog chose to rollover out of reverence and respect for the alpha dog.
So the next time, you feel like yelling at your dog because she/he did something that’s perfectly natural for dogs, think about that out of control school teacher, think of that crazy boss who yelled till she/he was red in the face, the one whom no one respected. Think about what it really means to be the leader of your pack.
So what are some alternatives to physical coersion, yelling etc..
 Desired Behavior               Old Method                                                     Non Aversive, positve Method
Sit                                    Push down on butt and/or pull up on leash          lure into sit with treats, no touching or
                                                                                                            wait until dog sits, praise and treat (capturing)
Lay down                          Pull down by the collar                                     lure into down with treats, no touching or
                                                                                                            wait until the dog lays
Stop Barking                     Yell at the dog                                                 Ignore barking; praise and treat quiet
Loose Leash Walking          Yanking, jerking the leash                                 Turn around or, stop walking when dog pulls

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Loose Leash Walking

Note: La Trenda is not a professional trainer.  None of the info below should be used a substitute for the advice of a professional trainer* or behaviorist.*
La Trenda takes no responsibility for any injuries or damage that might be incurred as a result of following the info in this article 
Loose Leash Walking

Author, PhD, and Professional Trainer Patricia McConnell said (paraphrasing): All dogs are different and different training methods work well for some dogs but not others. The only constant is that there is no need for harsh, aversive punishment methods in training – especially by non professionals.
The first section of this article talks about what I do to help my dogs walk loosely on a leash, the next section summarizes some of these things I have read and learned about loose leash walking. The last few sections contain links to references, books, articles, videos
Table of Contents 

My Personal Experience

All my kids

Before walking any of my children, I make sure they are calm before we leave the house.  If they leave the house in a frenzy, then they are more likely to be too excited to walk nicely.
So I never say “want to go for a walk! want to go for a walk!” like some parents do.  Most of the time I never talk at all.  If I do talk, it’s in very quiet, soft tones.  As I’m getting leashes, harnesses, protective equipment, coats, etc.. ready, I move very slowly and fluidly so as not to get the dogs excited. 
They have to sit nicely by the door as I put on their harnesses, collars, leashes etc..  If they don’t sit still, then I stand there perfectly still holding the leash, harness, etc.. until they settle down.  If it takes more that a couple of minutes for them to settle down, then I start using doggie calming signals.  I mainly yawn, but I also do slow blinks with soft eyes. I might turn my head to the side.
Because we have been doing this for a while, they know that they have to sit before they go out.  So I usually wait until they sit. But if it takes more than a couple of minutes, then I might use a hand signal (to avoid talking) to signify that I want them to sit. On the rare occasion that they still don’t sit, I’ll speak the command softly and quietly. If they should choose not to sit, then they just don’t go for a walk.
After sitting, getting their harnesses and leashes on, etc.. they must remain calm and still as I open the door. If they try to run out the door, I body block them and remind them to “wait” until I open the door.  I try hard to never ever snatch the leash to get them back inside if they to bolt out the door. 
Once we are out the door, I use different methods for each dog with an exception for meeting other dogs, other people, other animals etc..
I want my dogs to not get into the habit of feeling any tension on the leash at all. So when we encounter things that might make them pull – dogs, humans, squirrels, etc.. I gently encourage them across the street, off the trails etc.. I put them in a sit and I praise them highly, talking lots of baby talk and shoving treat after treat into their mouth until the exciting thing is gone. I got this idea from a friend who is also mentioned below in the equipment section of this article.  I try my best to see the exciting thing before they see it. If they see the exciting thing before I do, and if they get so riled up that they pay no attention to me, then I just stand very still until they calm down. Once they are calm again, I gently say, “let’s go” then we start back walking. I don’t yell or jerk the leash.  This is only going to encourage more excitement. Additionally, I try not to drag them away unless there is some type of safety issue.

My Individual Kids


is the best at listening to my requests and learning new tricks. I’m usually able to stop Matt from pulling before he starts. I ask him to walk by my side.  If he starts speeding up ahead of me, I use a gentle, high pitched, happy, lilting, sing-song voice and I say “Matt-Matt, you went to fast; try again. As I do that, I give the leash a lot of slack, and as I pivot to the right, I take a half step back with my left foot and I encourage him to pivot with me until we are all the around and traveling in the same direction again. As he lines up on my left side, I praise him highly and we continue our walk. 
Occasionally when he is walking well, I tell him “Okay! Free!, you may potty” and I encourage him to sniff and potty by a tree, pole or other interesting place. When he is done, I praise him and encourage him to line up by my side again. 
Occasionally, to keep him focused we will stop and do some tricks like sit, sit pretty, lay down just for fun then continue on our walk.


refuses to do the “crazy man” or to turn around with me. Of course I could try to force her to turn around with me, but that defeats my goal of never letting my dog feel a tight leash. So when she starts pulling, I stop still like a tree.  There is purpose and action in my stops. Not only do I stand still, I let my eyes go soft and I almost meditate while I’m standing there – trying to send calm signals to Lupe.  As soon as I feel some slack in the leash, then we keep going.
Also, I let Lupe walk at whatever pace she prefers which is normally quite brisk.  I allow her to stop and smell and/or potty whenever she wants – as long as it isn’t in someones front yard.


came to me walking pretty good on a leash. He has joint issues and since he normally doesn’t pull much, I just let him go at what pace works for him, letting him potty and sniff whenever he needs to


is my youngest and most head strong dog.  She is easily distracted and I’m still looking for a positive non-aversive method that works best for her.  In the mean time, I take her on very short walks using a combination of stopping and turning around. Lots of praise when she isn’t pulling.  I’ve found when she gets very distracted by a smell or by a bird or something, I can use a deep low voice to get her attention then a baby talk voice to call her over to me for a treat.  I call it the Man/Baby and I will be posting more about that later. 

My Review of the Literature  (with personal commentary added in – noted in blue)

Why Do Dogs Pull?

1. Because it works.  They pull, they get to go forward.
2. Because it’s uncomfortable.  It’s a catch 22 because when they pull, they choke themselves. Then they pull harder trying to get away from the choking feeling, pulling harder causing more choking and so on and so forth.
So what are some non-aversive ways to help your dog walk better.
1.  Don’t reward a dog for pulling.  Will they pull, turn around or just stop.  Pet parents have to be very consistent with this.  We can’t stop or turn some of the time.  If this means spending 2 hours to go one mile, then so be it. I took Puddin to the Riverwalk once. It was so interesting to her that we only went 1/4 mile in 1 hour.  We tried too much, too fast.
2.  Being dragged around by the neck can be uncomfortable.  Turid Rugaas, a renowned animal behaviorist and author says that harnesses are much more comfortable.   Many (if not all trainers) don’t believe in ever using a harness for a walk. I have personally walked hundreds of dogs in my life time (shelter volunteer) and I can say from experience that some dogs actually walk better in a harness.  Of course all dogs are different.  I say try a harness. If the dog gets worse then don’t continue using it. If the dog is the same or better, then give a harness a chance.


Dogs love smelling new things, and walking in a new environment can be very exciting and distracting for them.  Many times they are too excited to pay attention to your requests to walk nicely.  For this reason, you need to teach loose leash walking in the least distracting environment possible. And as they learn how you would like them to walk, you can start slowly increasing distractions.
If there is room in the house, teach them how to walk nicely on leash in the house.  When their loose leash walking or healing is rock solid in the house, then try the back yard.  When they are good in the back yard, then try the driveway.  When they are walking well in the driveway, then try the sidewalk in front of your house.  If you know your dog is a big puller then taking her/him to a popular walking trail that has dog smells, deer, rabbits, etc.. is going to setting up your dog for failure.
So what do you do if you have a high energy dog who needs a 5 mile walk?  While the dog is learning to walk, try to make sure she/she gets exercise in other ways.  Fetching in the back yard. Dog park romps if you have a dog park kind of dog. Sometimes mental stimulation can be just as exhausting as physical stimulation.  Teach your dog some new tricks, have your dogs sit still in the drive way and watch the world go by. Give your dog some food puzzles, etc.. An excellent article on mental stimuation:
Since Puddin is still learning how to walk properly, I take her on short leash walks but I take her to training classes for mental stimulation, I play fetch for physical stimulation and I also let her roam around on a 20 foot leash as long as she doesn’t pull and she doesn’t bother anyone (we usually go out to parks when no one else is around)

Dog Walking Devices

A friend once said to me that the leash and collar/harness etc.. should just be a safety item. He wants his dog to learn to walk beside him without using any type of corrective item.  I completely agree.  But there might be times when some type of contraption might be needed.  For instance, a pet parent who might be petite with a large pulling dog who is so strong that he/she can’t be walked at all without some type of contraption.  It that case, some type of contraption might be better than not walking the dog at all.
I feel that whatever type instrument used should work but not cause any pain or harm to your dog. 
For instance, some people might advocate putting a the leash up high behind the ears of a dog.  Many times this will get a dog to comply and this might be a great thing do use in a emergency situation (like if your 80 pound lab is about to pull you into traffic).  But I wouldn’t suggest this method all the time. It works because the leash/collar is on the most sensitive part of the neck and it causes pain.
Prong collars and choke chains might work if used properly and used under the guidance of a professional, but if your dog continues to pull in one, then stop using them immediately. They can cause injury if used improperly.
More on dog walking devices here:  Once again, the blue parts are my commentary. The rest is information that I got from various literature. This article was written for an animal shelter environment but most of the info can be extrapolated to pet and parent environment.

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* when picking a trainer or behaviorist, be sure to use one who uses positive, non aversive methods only. If a trainer tells you to yell at your dog, shake our dog, “alpha roll” your dog, poke, push, hit, yank, jerk the leash, etc.. please find another trainer. There are better ways to train, and there are better ways to treat your family member. Training does not mean punishment. Training can be fun for the pet and the parent.
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