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  • Writer's pictureSara Scott

Leash Training Revolution: The Generous Snack Giver Protocol

You might think that leash walking is a basic skill, and while it is undoubtedly an important one, mastering it is far from simple. When we ask our dogs to walk calmly on a leash, we’re essentially requesting that they perform a specific behavior while simultaneously controlling their emotional responses to various stimuli in the environment. This is no easy feat, as dogs may react to a wide range of triggers, such as other dogs, people, smells, sights, or noises. In this blog post, you'll learn my simple, easy, and effective technique for happy walks together: “The Generous Snack Giver Protocol.” Whether you live in a bustling city or a tranquil suburban neighborhood, these tips will help you enjoy safe and enjoyable walks with your dog.



Walking on a leash without pulling, loose leash walking, and heeling are all terms people use to describe teaching a dog proper leash manners. For the purpose of this blog post, I will define "leash manners" as a set of skills that both dogs and their owners need to learn in order to support cooperative walking together and ensure safety. Before we dive into the training technique, let's first discuss what proper management for leash manners entail.


The first step in teaching your dog proper leash manners is deciding what level of management you will need. This is an individual decision and not a one-size-fits-all answer. In a perfect world, your dog could be running freely and safely off-leash at all times. However, the reality is that you must consider various factors when determining the appropriate level of management for you and your dog.


First, consider the environment in which you'll be walking. Will you be at the beach, heading down a city street, in a suburban neighborhood, a rural town, or an open space? Each setting presents unique challenges and potential distractions that may impact your dog's behavior and the level of control you need to maintain.


Another factor to take into account is the level of social interactions you and your dog are likely to encounter during your walks. Will you have the place to yourself, or will you be running into other dogs and people left and right? The amount of interaction with others can significantly influence your dog's behavior.


Moreover, it's essential to assess the overall atmosphere of your walking environment. Will it be quiet and relatively calm, or will there be sudden environmental changes like traffic stopping and starting, bus brakes squeaking, and lights flashing? These types of stimuli affect dogs differently, possibly making it more challenging.


Another critical factor to consider is your dog's size and your own strength and ability to safely handle them if they jump, lunge, or pull as hard as they can. It's crucial, to be honest with yourself about your physical capabilities and choose a management method that allows you to keep both you and your dog safe.


When deciding on the appropriate level of management for your dog during walks, it's essential to consider their typical behavior in various contexts. When your dog spots another dog, are they generally neutral, excited, defensive, or reactive? Some dogs may be easily startled or distracted by abrupt noises, movements, or visual stimuli, while others may remain unfazed by these types of distractions. Some dogs are social butterflies, eagerly seeking out interaction with other people and dogs, while others may be more reserved or even avoidant, preferring to keep their distance from unfamiliar individuals. Understanding your dog's behavior outside of the context of walking without pulling can help you navigate their behavior during walks and ensure that both you and your dog remain comfortable and safe.


Now that you've considered your dog's unique needs and the environment in which you'll be walking, let's talk about management in the form of equipment. The goal is to safely secure a leash to your dog while giving them the greatest amount of freedom and autonomy that makes sense for their specific situation.


The safest option for the dog's body is a Y-shaped back clip harness. This allows you to securely connect a leash to your dog in a way that, if they pull hard on the leash or hit the end of the leash, it is safest for their physical body. This option works well for dogs who have relatively good social and environmental coping skills. This option also works great if you are walking in an environment where you will be easily able to keep distance and get distance from stimuli that may cause your dog to have a bit more than a neutral response.


The next option would be to consider a front-connecting harness, where the leash clips to the front of the harness, making it easier for you to turn your dog away from a trigger and making it a bit more difficult for your dog to pull. Your dog loses a little control, and you gain it. Motivated and strong dogs can still pull hard if so inclined, so consider this when making a decision about you and your dog's walking gear.


While there are more options than the two harness options mentioned above, this blog will not go into detail about that. It's important to note that we always want to avoid managing our dogs' behavior via the use of pain. Choke and prong collars are always off the menu, as they can cause discomfort and potential injury to your dog. If you find that one of the two harness options is not sufficient to manage your dog, then reach out to a trainer to discuss your options further.


As far as leashes go, giving your dog the maximum amount of leash that is safe for their behavior and environment is the best choice. The standard leash is 6 feet long and is a good choice if you're walking in the city, while a 10-foot long line may be a good option if you are walking in a suburban neighborhood with few distractions.


Now that we've covered equipment, let's move on to the fun part – training your dog! While there are a million different variations of games and exercises that have been created to teach a dog to walk with you on leash, I'm going to pick the simplest option for the greatest success rate and least amount of room for error. It's something I call "The Generous Snack Giver Protocol."


How do you be a generous snack giver? It's quite simple. Take a good-sized bag of high-value treats with you when you head out for a walk. A bag of chicken breast in a pocket works great. Make the food pieces small, like a pencil eraser, so you can be generous with the amount you give while leaving some big pieces in there to surprise your dog. The goal is simple: start by giving your dog a treat as soon as you step out the front door, continuing to feed treats generously for the duration of the entire walk, giving the last treat to them once you get back to your car or front door.


The treats are not intended to reinforce a behavior. This is not a game of actions creating consequences – the dog does not have to be looking at you, walking "nicely," or responding to a cue. They just need to exist as you feed treats every so often, generously and randomly. The goal is to use classical conditioning to build a strong association of food being delivered from their human's hand while on a leash.


Focus on the reward placement – feed the treats at the side of your body, where you might envision your dog's head being in a perfect walking scenario. Be a little extra generous when your dog shows a bit of interest in any stimulus or social interaction. Make your dog think, "Hmmm, okay... they seem to be an even more generous snack giver when the buses make that weird noise, or when we pass by a fun human, or when we spot another dog."


Be consistent, and soon something cool will happen. Your dog will start hanging out in the spot where you typically dole out the treats more frequently. This should result in a dog walking with you, not pulling, and one who is checking in often. Once you get to this point, you've unlocked leash skills level 1. Congratulations!


Additionally, I personally like to take the time to teach my dog several leash skill cues at this point, including a cue that means to walk with me in the direction I choose, a cue that means to perform a formal heel behavior with direct focus (used only for short periods of time to get past a major distraction and as a fun game), and a cue that allows my dog to take the lead and choose the route while I follow and walk with them. If you're interested in learning more about these specific leash skill cues and how to teach them to your dog, keep an eye out for future blog posts that will dive deeper into these topics.


When it comes to training, “The Be a Generous Snack Giver Protocol" is a simple and effective way to build a strong, positive association between your dog and being near you when on walks. By generously offering treats in the desired walking position, you can encourage your dog to walk calmly by your side without pulling, and to check in with you frequently. This sets the stage to easily teach any future leash skills and cues you desire. By investing time and effort into teaching your dog leash skills, you'll be laying the foundation for a lifetime of enjoyable and stress-free walks together.


 

As you embark on your journey to mastering leash manners with The Generous Snack Giver Protocol, you may find that you need a little extra support and guidance along the way. That's where my private training services come in. Whether you're struggling with a particularly strong puller, navigating a busy urban environment, or simply looking to fine-tune your technique, custom coaching can help you take your leash skills to the next level. With my expert guidance, you and your dog will be well on your way to enjoying stress-free, rewarding walks together. Don't wait – click now to learn more about my private training options and take the first step towards leash training success!


1 Comment


Yawahabu Charity
Apr 23

So gorgeous 😍

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