I have been working with a nice couple in Kihei and their puppy, Bala, a Coton de Tulear. He is a very sweet little pup and an amazingly quick learner. I am extremely happy with the amount of work his family has put into training him! Good job guys!
I have been working with Bala and his family for about 2 months now. We have covered all the Basic Manners Obedience training and will soon be moving into more specialized training for Service Dogs. In our most recent appointment this week, the owners wanted to focus on the walk. Upon deciding to go over some Loose Leash Walking skills, I discovered that the owners have been unable to attach the leash to his collar and walk him that way, they have always used his harness. The owners said he would NOT walk if the leash was attached to his collar.
Well, as a trainer, I always love a challenge, so I accepted this one. Although Bala did initially have a negative reaction to the leash being attached to his collar, I worked with the dog and the owners on how to overcome this problem. At some point, for whatever reason, Bala had a negative experience with someone attaching a leash to his collar (this most likely happened before the current owners got the dog). To overcome this negative association, we must build a new, positive association with the leash being attached to the collar. So I repeated the exercise of slowly and calmly attaching the leash to his collar and paid with his favorite cheese every time Bala relaxed a little bit. After about 5 times of repeating this exercise, Bala became much more comfortable with the leash attached directly to his collar.
Then the next step...although we worked on building the positive association with attaching the leash, Bala still, of course, was reluctant to follow us out for a walk. This was to be expected. To overcome this problem we simple keep building the positive association with his favorite thing, cheese. After about 30 seconds of some simple coaxing, Bala began to walk on the leash (attached to his collar instead of the harness) very well. His family was very surprised and amazed that he did so.
This serves as a helpful reminder: No matter what issue you may be having with your dog, no matter how difficult it may seem to overcome, there is always a way to get the dog to do what you want. And that way is positive reinforcement! :)