Let Them Pull!

Forget loose leash walking.... I've decided to teach my dog to pull, pull, pull!  Okay, so I'm not going to let her pull all the time... and I do continue to expect a loose leash in many situations... but I am also working to perfect her pulling technique!  Lately, I've been more and more drawn to activities that allow my dogs to do things that they really love to do.  Nose work is one new pursuit that is bringing us all a lot of joy.  I think that activity is what prompted me to allow my Australian Cattle Dog, Myrtle Mae, to pursue another of her passions... pulling!

To create clear contrast in expectations as well as for both of our comfort and safety, I purchased a pulling harness, a bungee attachment, and a skijoring hip belt.  Ironically, the first time I got us all geared up and started jogging, for the first time in her life, Myrtle made no attempt to pull out ahead despite my brisk pace!  No problem... I just held her close, threw a treat as far as I could, then said "pull!" and released her.   Viola!  My dog pulled!  I had to repeat this several times before she got the idea... who knew it would take so much effort to teach a committed puller to do it when you WANT her to?!?! 

Now I can take Myrtle for longer runs because she is helping to move me along, and she gets tired faster... because she is pulling some of my not insignificant weight!  And the joy in her body when she is pulling (note: I can't see her face because she is ahead of me!) is wonderful to see.  I also hope that this outlet for her desire to pull (as well as the increase in exercise it involves) will make it easier for her to walk nicely on leash in other situations.  She really does try, but she is a young and energetic dog with more zest for life than can easily be expressed within the radius of a 6 foot leash!  Oh, and another nice bonus:  with slight verbal encouragement, Myrtle will continue running by even when dogs are at a fence barking at her.  Although she has improved greatly in the year we have been together, Myrtle is reactive to other dogs and worries quite a bit about nasty sounding dogs that she can't see.  With a fun and doggy-type job to focus on, Myrtle finds it easier to ignore things that upset her.  It is easier for her to stay on a nose work search or keep pulling me when other dogs are around than it is for her to focus on even fun "training games" such as targeting my hand or even "find it" with food on the ground.

So, why not forget the loose leash walking/heeling for a while and really focus on teaching your dog to pull!  Make sure you and your dog start working at a level that is safe for both of your fitness levels, that you use the right equipment, and that you practice in safe locations (your dog IS running barefoot!)... and then start having fun!