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Sarah Wilson
Award-winning Pet Expert
Teacher, Trainer & Author

Walking On Lead 1: Games to Play

Listen (and watch) to Sarah coach a friend with her puppy then see Sarah working with a German Shepherd Dog puppy - learn a few tricks of the trade and some tips on how to build success with this universally challenging behavior: walking on a loose lead. Also, see how Sarah uses Place for Pip at meal time as well as how Pip "begs" for her supper, after that, we'll check in on the cheese retrieve.

Questions or Comments? Email Sarah at: - also, Check out Sarah's Teacher's Pet Blog & visit her at the free, moderated message boards at

...Vicki and Tally.................Place for Pip..................Catch My Drift



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Female Announcer: Pet Life Radio presents: Teacher's Pet. Where you'll learn how to understand and communicate with your pet and train them to be the best pet they can be. It's time to see the world from your pet's point of view, so give a tail wagging welcome to your host, Sarah Wilson!

Sarah Wilson; welcome to Teacher's Pet, this is Sarah Wilson on Pet Life Radio.

This week we're going to do a little bit of work on how to teach your dog to walk on lead. This is such a big problem for most people and there are lots of ways to do it. We're going to go over a few games you can play to help it make sense to your dog. Then I'm going to show you yet another use for place. And lastly we'll see what's happening with the cheese retrieve.

First we're going to hear from our sponsors and then we're going to be right back. Stay tuned.

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Female Announcer: OK class, grab your tuna flakes, biscuits, and bones, Teacher's Pet will be back in two shakes of the tail, right after recess.




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Female Announcer: OK class, hang up your collars and leashes; Teacher's Pet is back in session. Now park yourselves on the floor.


Female Announcer: I said "park" not "bark"! Ugh. OK, Teacher's Pet with pet expert and author, Sarah Wilson. Pay attention there may be a test later.

Sarah Wilson: Welcome back, this is Sarah Wilson on Teacher's Pet on Pet Life Radio. We've got two videos for you this week about games and ways on how you can work your dog on understand how to walk next to you on lead. Why is this such a hassle? This is such a hassle because it is a completely unnatural behavior for your dog.

During the course of the day your dog will come to you, sit, lie down, stay in one place. All those things are normal, natural behaviors, but walking next to you on a loose lead, that's just not something dogs do. They don't line up in their own line and go down through the woods together.

Given that, we really need to help them understand what it is we want. Most of us go about this process by putting the dog on lead and then pulling on them when they move forward hoping that that's going to explain it. All that generally explains to the dog is that you pull on them when they walk on lead, they don't understand what that means.

I think of it as if you took a nine year old kid who had never played football, never seen football played, knew nothing about it. I think of it as if you took a bunch of nine year old kids and say that they had never seen or heard a football, since we have the super bowl let's talk about football, never seen, never heard of it, never read about it and you're going to coach them, how would you start coaching them? Well, you wouldn't start by simply putting them on the field in pads and starting them out playing a game. That would be insane! You would break it down. you'd start teaching skills: you'd do running plays, you'd do throwing, you'd do catching you'd do all sorts of things to teach them all the little pieces of the game and then as they started to acquire skills you would start putting it together in a game format.

It's exactly the same for your dog.

I want you to start thinking of teaching walking on lead as teaching them little skills that you're going to be able to use to put it together to make beautiful walking on lead. This can be fun, play it like a game. I want you to notice that these clips are about, I dunno, two minutes long. I never work long, I work fun and I work to success and then I stop, you can always go back later. Why should this be a drag, literally or figuratively for either one of you?

The first tape we're going to see is a friend of mine working with her nine month old Irish wolf hound.

Now Vicky is petite and Tally, her wolfhound, is not, so it's really important that Tally learned to walk with her, not to drag her around and she's done a pretty good job of that. Tally really doesn't drag hard but she would still like her to be in more connection.

What you'll see in this video is someone who is at the start of learning these games and many of the things you'll see will look familiar. One of the things is that people think they have to look at the dog or stop in order to praise them and a skill i will work on more with Vicky is more getting her to chat happily and praise Tally up while moving and looking forward. But because when praise each other we make eye contact and we look in each others faces and we smile and we often touch each other we do the same thing with the dog at first and that's a new skill and I fully expect to be teaching my clients new skills all the time.

Another one is to "turn and go". Because we are polite by nature and because we love our dogs, most of us start out turning and waiting or turning and saying the dogs name and patting our leg. What happens if you turn and wait is that the dog doesn't really have to pay attention to you because they know you're gonna give them plenty of chance to catch up

alright do you see how that can cause a problem with walking on lead they need to be paying attention to you and if you're the one that gives them lots of room to make up their mind or to catch up; then there's no reason for them to pay attention.

Same thing with the turning, patting your leg, and saying their name, if you do that they really don't have to pay attention to you 'cause they know eventually if you're going to turn you're going to notify them.

What you need to how to turn and go and if you feel any pressure on that lead you're going to do that pulsing move. The pulsing move is not yanking the dog off their feet, it's to prevent dragging. If you hold steady pressure on a dog they will drag against you at first. That's natural. It's oppositional reflex and they will just throw an anchor windward and drag.

I don't want that to happen so I want you to get in the habit of pulsing that lead as you move. The pulsing is not to punish them, it's to prevent bracing. so you pulse and go. When the dog catches up you smile, you praise, "good dog." If you've got treats and you use treats, that's a great time to give a treat

When you deliver treats to dogs for walking next to you be sure you deliver it in the correct position meaning if you give the dog the treat when they're out in front of you or the side or lagging then you're rewarding that position. If we want them to walk with their head at your leg, reward at your leg. The easiest way to do that is to reward at the seam of your jeans or any other pants, but since jeans are my uniform, reward at the seam of your jeans and if the dog isn't there believe me he'll come back to get the cookie and pretty soon if that's where you reward over and over again. He'll hang out next to the food bar he won't wander so far.

Also notice with the left hand turns how awkward it is for us at first to really just move through the dog. Not stamp, not kick, not be mean, but move through because the dog's in your way.

If you are polite and loving, both wonderful qualities, but unfortunately if you step around your dog or hustle to run around your dog instead of making them move then your dog doesn't learn why it is important for him to stay out of your way. If you stay out of your dog’s way, he will never learn to stay out of your way.

So when I turn left, I simply turn left and go, I'll shuffle right through a dog. Notice: not knee the dog out of the way, we're not talking drop kicking, but what I want my dog to learn and the point of all these exercises is that I need the space in front of his face. I need that space. When we're walking that space in front of my knees and in front of his nose belongs to me. I could use it at any time. I might step in front of him and tell him to wait, I might step in front of him and do a left turn, I might step in front of him and do a left circle. That space is mine and once he understands that that space is mine [gasp] a light bulb will go off and he'll realize  "I'll have best walk a little bit back so that she can use that space anytime she needs to."

And once your dog understands that, then walking next to you suddenly makes sense, then he goes "Ok, there's a purpose to this. She's not just walking around yanking me for no reason, there's a purpose to this." Then you're on your way.

So the two points, the games you're going to see today are:

Number one: "The space in front of your nose belongs to me; I may use it at any time, good dog." and two "It is your job to follow and pay attention to me. It is not my job to pay attention and supervise you"

Once you get your dog understanding those two things, you will be amazed, but now let's listen in to my session with Vicky or if you want you can watch it over at Pet Life Radio. Go to Teacher's Pet, go to this episode, and the video clips will be there or you can get to the video clips on my website, my smart puppy dot com. On the front page you will see links to those clips.

Alright, so here we go.

[background noise]

Sarah Wilson: Just up and down on this side, on the [inaudible]

Vicky: There's no problem [inaudible]

Sarah Wilson: No, actually, that's beautiful [laughter]


Sarah Wilson: Nice thing, I drove all the way down here


Sarah Wilson: Oh! Beautiful! [laughter] I praise her 'cause she's-- there we go

Vicky: Good girl.

Sarah Wilson: Oh, good girl, you're pulling ahead. Beautiful.


Sarah Wilson: Ok. Good. Nice turn. So what we're going to try doing is, I'd like you to shorten up on the lead just a little bit. Good. See she's already like going "Hey, this is different." And When you turn, I want you to turn and-and give a little pulse but don't pause. You're pausing a little bit to see [inaudible]

Sarah Wilson: Good, we're gonna do more lefts.

Vicky: Good girl.

Sarah Wilson: Nice, there you go. Any tightness, yeah tugging back will just annoy both of you. I want you to turn and tug and go. There you go.


Sarah Wilson: Yeah, there you go. Your bus is leaving.


Sarah Wilson: Good and then when she's with you praise her "good girl", praise her up.


Sarah Wilson: Ok, not so much like somebody from the boys' choir.



Sarah Wilson: girls' choir. Maybe something that sounds more like you like: "good girl".


Sarah Wilson: Fine Job, my dear! Fine job!


Sarah Wilson: Ok, and the leash is gotten long again. Good. There you go. She looked to you. I'd really praise that. Good. Good. Now I'd work on cutting in front--nice! right, now cut in front of her like you did. Cut-that's alright that's fine, just laugh at her "get out of my way, honey." There you go there you go. Good turn. She goes "this is the most annoying" there she goes, "oh wait! it might have something to do with following her."


Sarah Wilson: Good, you're finally getting her attention. Good, praise her up. Best dog in the world. Not bad for a seven month old puppy.


Sarah Wilson: Oh she's older than that now isn't she? Nine months old?

Vicky: Nine months.

Sarah Wilson: Now instead of pulling her I want you to just give a little pulse on the leash so you don't actually feel weight. We want her to do the work not you to build up or [inaudible]

Vicky: Pulsing? [inaudible]

Sarah Wilson: Pulsing. Anytime you feel weight on the lead you're just going to pulse a little bit so you're not pulling here, there you go. See isn't that easier on your arm? Yeah, of course you make the face that's even better. Nice! Look at that!

Vicky: what a good girl.

Sarah Wilson: There you go!


Sarah Wilson: There you go! There's nice praise. Beautiful. Nice! We'll take that for the moment. Nice job. OK. We're going to stop this.

Vicky: thank you

Sarah Wilson: You're welcome, my pleasure


That was a blast. She's so much fun to work with and there's nothing better than training dogs. Alright, before we talk about this some more we need to take a break. Listen to our sponsors then we'll be right back. stay tuned.

[bell rings]

Female announcer: OK class, grab your tuna flakes, biscuits, and bones. Teacher's Pet will be back in two shakes of the tail, right after recess.

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Female Announcer: OK class, hang up your collars and leashes; Teacher's Pet is back in session. Now park yourselves on the floor.


Female Announcer: I said "park" not "bark"! Ugh.

Ok. Teacher's Pet with pet expert and author Sarah Wilson.

Pay attention there may be a quiz later.


Sarah Wilson:  So you get the point there that we're using little bits. You can always come back and do more. What you don't want, in my opinion, is to de-motivate either the person or the dog to try. My job, as a coach, is to encourage and inspire, not to intimidate or denigrate. So I want my clients, both human and canine to come out of a session thinking "Great! wow! I could really do that. That was really successful, and I'm inspired to try more because this is do-able" I don't want them coming out "Boy I'm such a klutz, I was doing it wrong and there was this and there was that."

This is a complex skill, you have to manage emotions, which hardest of all. You have to learn new ways of thinking, you have to learn new movements, you are moving with a partner that has no idea what you're doing and can behave in ways that you cannot anticipate which makes this game harder than golf or tennis and those are hard enough, thank you very much. And you have to work with voice tone and foot work and what's going on with the leash and how to use this piece of equipment. It isn't easy, but if you break it down into bite size portions, you can get a handle on this and you can make progress and as you make progress together, you will have so much fun.

This next clip is me working with a nine month old, intact German Sheppard puppy named Bacchus and he is a delightful pup, great dog, but he is easily distractible in new places. What else is new? He is a nine month old, intact German Sheppard puppy so he gets looking around and looking at people and thinking different things. He just needs to focus a little bit so I took him out of the car new place and we started to play "catch my drift" and "catch my drift" is a great game to play with your dog anywhere it's a wonderful thing to do the minute you take dog out of car. It's a way of saying "Are you with me? Where's your brain? Are we connected?" and if the answer is "no" then you know that you need to do more and manage more in order to get what you want out of your dog.

So "catch my drift" is a game of basically follow the leader, but instead of turning away from the dog and going, generally I back up.

Now the reason I back up when the dog goes north, I go south, I back up south.

The reason I back away as opposed to turning away is I want to see when his head starts to turn back in my direction, because that's my cue to praise him enthusiastically. he goes north, I back up, I say nothing 'cause again I'm not giving him an early warning system, right? Not patting my leg, not saying his name, I'm not waiting for him. I go, his job is to follow me, so I go and I pulse if I get any weight on that lead, I pulse. The moment he starts to turn that head toward me "good boy, alright good boy! What a smart dog, you are great"

This is all part of the big green light, right? Small red light, pulsing on the lead and I'm moving and the minute he looks at me, big green light: "good boy" and the minute he catches up with me, I feed. If he goes past me again, I back up the other way. once he stops shooting past me quite so fast then I'll start doodling around, weaving, I might do some left circles, I might back up and call him I might throw my weight around just by cutting in front of him and having him wait. Anything I can think of to both control his movement and gain his attention.

I don’t generally use the command "watch me". I know it's popular and if you use it it's not a crisis, but here's my logic and you can think about it: if I tell my dog to watch me then it's my job to manage him all the time. So we're walking along he sees something distracting: "watch me!" I would rather it be his job to watch me so when he sees something distracting, what's he do? Look at me automatically.

I always prefer a situational cue because I won't always see what he sees. How many of you have had a dog who's reasonably calm walking along and then you stop to chat with a friend or a neighbor and all of the sudden you almost get yanked off your feet 'cause your dog lunges at something: a squirrel, another dog, a cat, a leaf, whatever?

That won't happen or won't happen as often if you teach your dog "you see something distracting, your job is to look at me. I'm not going to notify you. I'm not going to micromanage you. I'm not going to beg you to pay attention to me. I expect you to look at me" and we create that by doing call backs like we did last week with Milo and who else, Petra? I think Milo and Petra on the video clips.

So those games start to create that habit so that's my reasoning. Why don't we go, you can listen in to my session with Bacchus or you can go watch it at the same places and we'll come back. Enjoy.

[background sounds]


Alright, so this Bacchus, he's a nine month old German Sheppard and I want to start working on him being attentive outside and that's a little hard him as you can see interested in all kinds of things so I’m just going to start playing "catch my drift" and all that is, is he goes that way I go this way. Good boy! And the minute he looks at me, I praise. Good Boy! He goes that way, I go this way. Good boy!

Very good, excellent! Praise him. Anytime he looks at me, anytime he comes back in my direction he's not paying attention, I'm gonna back up, good boy! Keep going until I get his attention.


Good boy! Good! Good job!

I can also start adding in left turns. Good! Start cutting off the space in front of his nose and teaching him "I need this." "Catch my drift" is about him following my movement, good boy! Good! No matter what I do, no matter what direction I go in, if I stop I want him to stop good job! If I back up, I want him to follow, good boy! Good, good job!

If I doodle around, I want him to doodle around with me. Good boy! Very nice , and we just play that game. You can play it in your living room, you can play it on your drive way, you can do whatever you want with it, but this teaches him in a fun way that it's his job to follow me and my job to lead. You did very well, good boy.

Bacchus, sit. Nice. Take that. Good boy, good boy, yeah. Good, that's it.

ok, did you have a good time? Hope you did.

This is another example of breaking things down into bite sized pieces so that your dog and you can be successful. Do not try to get onto the field and play the game too soon. Remember to do your drills. Remember to practice your exercises so that both you and your dog understand the plays and can do them competently separately, then when you put them together in the game, real life, your dog will go "Ah, I know what this is" and you'll go "Ooh, I know exactly how to ask my dog this" and then you're going to have a much better chance for success.

Next, I want to show you a fun little thing of place. Pip is, as we know, very intense about food so I have her go to place when I'm making food for all the dogs so that she is out of the way and not sharking around the bowl being a doink. She loves this.


The thing I really want you to notice is where her attention is. She believes that looking at me causes all good things to happen. She also believes that when faced with a distraction, what's her job? To look at me. So when i put that food bowl down she stares holes in me until I release her [laughs] She's such a rip!

Enjoy this segment watch her attention. I'm not cueing her off camera or doing anything I can feed the other dogs, walk around, face away from her, whatever her attention doesn't change she believes she is forcing me to release her by staring at me. That's exactly what I taught her, that's useful, and you too can get this.

So enjoy this [chuckles] this clip cracks me up

Alright that was my little fire brand. What fun she is. For our purposes after she finishes eating she is allowed to leave without release. That’s the deal at our house and it works very well for us

Now we're going to listen in to the next cheese retrieve session. I would like to tell you that I have practiced many times between the last session and now. I would also like to tell you that I won the lottery. Both would be untrue. However this is the next step and I actually decided to use wrapped string cheese in the plastic and she didn't have any problem with that because for her I am making her a deal: "you toss me this plastic covered string cheese and in this case I give you chicken breast". Woo hoo hoo. She was practically shucking it at me.

Now for her that does pose a small problem that I need to deal with. Teaching Pip things is never the issue she is very, very quick. Getting her to think things through calmly that is harder so I need to slow down and do a lot of mileage at this level until she can think a bit. She's beginning to fling it at me even more, she is beginning to chomp up and down from excitement and possibly stress, unsurety, whatever. Who knows the combination that is in her little brain? What I do know is that if she chomps on a piece of string cheese, she's going to eat the cheese and that’s going ruin the trick so I need to work on her calmly.

So I will probably do the next few sessions with a frozen piece of string cheese  and simply have her take it and give it back and  take it and give it back and not throw it and be as casual as this time.
This'll happen to you when you're training. You will have a plan, you will implement the plan, and you won't get exactly what you wanted. That is pretty normal and what you do is you think about it, you ponder, and then you adapt toward your goal.

My goal is always a calm thoughtful responsive happy dog. I'm getting responsive happy dog. We're missing the calm, we're always gonna miss the calm a little bit with this girl and I'm always gonna be working toward it. That's ok with me, we're doing great but that is what I’m working on so listen in on this. I think you'll hear a little bit of the problem as we go along and then come right back

Alright, we're gonna work on the cheese retrieve. I have breast of chicken which means P-I-P is very interested and Ben is very interested. I also have a wrapped thing of string cheese and I'm going to see how she does today. Give. Good girl, good girl. Nice, you gotta give it to my hand. Good job. Give. Good job and for that you get a hunk of chicken.

Give. Good. Now she is very willing to exchange the wrapped—the-- good. Give. The wrapped-- flinging it at me is not actually adequate! Give. You stuffed it under the couch, figure it out. Good girl. Good, very good [laughs]

Give. Good girl. Good! Very nice. So I praise her for every effort but she only gets chicken for delivering it to him. Good. I get that one I dropped that one. Not your fault. Good girl. Give. Good girl! Very good! Now she's beginning to chew it so I’m gonna do some short ones. Give. Good. Good girl. Don’t want her to chew it. Good girl. Give. Good! Very good. So next time I think what I’m gonna do is freeze one of theses. Give. Good job.

Go out and practice things with your dog. Have fun; break it down into bite sized pieces. If you're still having trouble, break it down even more. Create success with your dog. You will be motivated to train more and you will have more success.

Remember, any dog can be a teacher's pet. This is Sarah Wilson signing off for Pet Life Radio dot com. Have a great week.

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