The Best Dog Training Technique I’ve Ever Seen

So I’ve talked about my puppies before.  I saved them from Death Row at the pound and took them home and I love them.  But for the first two years of their lives (and intermittently longer), they were bad boys.  They were wild, they were loud, they bounced around the house, they were bad on a leash.  Part of the problem was that right after I got them, I had a very sick family member and was spending all my time between work and the hospital.   I did a weekly training class with them, but I didn’t have the time to reinforce the concepts during the week, so they ended up failing.  Once life calmed down, I tried to work with them myself but couldn’t get them to remember commands and I would get frustrated.   I talked to several trainers, but they would hear that my dogs were Rhodesian Ridgeback/Vizla mixes and run scared.  Then they got so overexcited that they broke my mother’s arm.  Something had to be done. My grandmother mentioned a trainer she had heard about who did in-kennel training – he’d take my puppies for two weeks, train them, and then teach me how to keep them trained.  Since my mother had a couple of weeks that she was going to need extra help, and I was at my wit’s end, we decided to go to an orientation and check it out.  The trainer, Adam, was amazing – he talked about how his method wasn’t about verbal commands, but instead teaching the dogs to constantly pay attention to you, the owner, so that they were almost reading your mind.  We sent our puppies off and three weeks later (they’re dumb puppies, not all the problems were my fault) we went to the kennel to learn how to keep training them at home.
Adam taught us a lot of things, some of which we didn’t keep up with, some of which we did, but the most useful thing, hands down, was for walking the dogs.  It’s super simple – when you’re walking with the dog on a leash, change direction.  Every time the dog starts to get ahead, stop, turn around, move to the side, make a loop, whatever.  The idea is that you become unpredictable to the dog so they will start watching you and paying attention to you, and no longer have the time to pull.  It works.
As a pet sitter, I was walking dogs a lot.  I started using this technique to train the dogs not to pull, but the best tribute to this technique was a pit bull named S.  Anyone who has a pit bull knows that they are amazing, sweet dogs, but that with the bad reputation they have, it’s very important that they be well trained.  S is a great boy, but he was a terror on the leash.  He’d pull, he was dog aggressive (only on a leash), he got over excited at every distraction – it was almost dangerous to walk him.  One day it occurred to me that I could try the technique (I can’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me sooner).  So I put S on the leash, went outside, and every time he tried to pull, I’d go in a different direction.  After about 10 minutes of practice, we started walking.  Three houses down, we saw a squirrel.  S started to pull, I went to the left, S followed.  A block later, we saw a dog behind a fence.  S gave a half-growl, but then was distracted when I started doing a loop.  By the end of the walk, he wasn’t pulling anymore no matter what he saw.  Now we’ve done this once or twice a week for a month, and people stop us on our walks to ask how I got him to be so well-behaved.  We passed a dog on the same sidewalk last week – we didn’t have to go to the other side of the street!  Every time we stop (before crossing the road or whatever) he sits, which I didn’t even teach him.  The change has been amazing, and every dog I’ve tried it on has picked up the basics within half an hour.
As for my puppies, they are now 5 years old.  They’ve gone from being two terrors to being two wild, but controllable boys (with bad habits, but only ones that aren’t dangerous and don’t bother us too much).  Dakota is still pretty crazy, but he’s very good on a leash and lets people safely go in and out doors, and he hasn’t broken anyone’s arm lately (although he does punch, but only in love).  Tex is so well behaved that I’m training him to be my mother’s service dog – it turns out he is naturally amazing at counterbalancing her and helping her walk.  Now I just want to teach him to bark if she falls, but shockingly enough, she refuses to drop to the ground every time he barks!  (Selfish, right!?)
If you have a dog who’s hard to walk, try this.  The results are amazing, and it’s so easy.  I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of this technique before ( I imagine it’s one of those things where I was very very late to the party).

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