A reader has problems with a young dog who dances about, just out of reach, when it's time to put the lead back on after exercise
Q: My one-year-old standard poodle-springer is a happy, energetic, intelligent pet at home. He has a few issues with chewing, but we put that down to boredom and it is slowly getting better. However, I have now encountered a more serious issue. I take him every day to the fields and give him plenty of exercise by chucking a tennis ball, which he drops at my feet. However, when I call him to go home and get the lead out, he keeps dancing about just out of reach and is difficult to get back on the lead now. What should I do to stop him avoiding the lead at home time – advice needed on how to put my dog back on his lead please!
Teach the dog that wearing a lead is pleasurable
A: Dogs learn by repetition and whether they have gained pleasure or not from a behaviour. Your dog gets an abundance of pleasure chasing a ball and when that ends it is not pleasurable as he is restrained and has to go home. The sight of the lead is now a cue that his pleasure is about to cease. You are powerless to control a dog off-lead if he is not fully obedient on it first, and I suspect that is the case here. His freedom must be curtailed until you have that control.
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Teaching a dog that wearing a lead is pleasurable is one of the easiest things to achieve. High-value treats are the first requirement — in the confines of the house or garden, teach him that every time the lead is put on he gets a treat. If he is reluctant to let you put the lead on at first, use the following method: call him to you, give a treat then let him go off again. Repeat until he comes for the treat keenly. Now have a slip lead slid over your hand and up the arm on the side that has the treat — as he takes it drop the lead around his neck. Reward again and take the lead off. If this is repeated often for a few weeks, he will soon be conditioned to see the lead as a cue that will earn him a treat.