In the first part of this series, I look at how to stop your dog pulling out in front of you.
For some reason, when it comes to handling dogs, our natural human instincts go directly against logic and physics. For example, if our dog runs ahead of us, our immediate reaction is to pull them back. In fact, we should be doing completely the opposite.
Before I outline what we should be doing, it’s important to understand why your dog attempts to run out in front of you. If you’ve been reading any of my previous blogs, you’ll know that the answer to this is that, yes, you’ve guessed it; your dog is trying to be the leader, AKA the TOP DOG. This desire to be out in front goes back thousands of years to when the alpha-dog of the pack always led the hunt. This same desire is remnant in our pure breed dogs of today.
Zoologists who have studied wolves in the wild have observed that the alpha (male or female) always leads the pack on a hunt and, even if there is a challenge to their authority, it is the alpha who prevails. Whenever dogs are with one or more of the ‘pack’, they must first establish which one is the top dog in the hierarchy. To us this might just seem like mumbo jumbo but to them, being the top dog is a matter of life and death. According to pack mentality, the alpha or leader is the decision maker. They eat first, drink first and have their choice of mate. They decide who stays, who goes and what kind of treatment they get. The top dog makes all kinds of decisions on behalf of the pack unlike human beings, who generally have free will and decide what they want to do for themselves.
To explain this, Austrian zoologist and Nobel Prize winner, Konrad Lorenz established the behavioural philosophy of imprinting. In essence, his theory stated that when humans interact with pack animals such as dogs, humans are treated just as if they were one of the pack themselves. This means, when it comes to working out who is going to be the top dog, our dogs will challenge us exactly the way they would any other member the pack. These challenges can come in many forms but a common one comes when we put the lead on and head out on the ‘hunt’ (and, whether walking or showing, these are all metaphorical ‘hunts’ as far as our dogs are concerned). And, just as in eons past, the race is on to prove who is the top dog, thus our dogs’ attempt to take out the front position.
Now, having established a logical reason as to why our dogs try to pull ahead of us, what do we, as handlers, do about it?
Well, first of all, we must establish who is TOP DOG. Then second we have to overcome our impulse to pull the dog back and use our logic instead. As physicist, Isaac Newton stated in his 3rd Law of Physics: For an object to remain the same when a force is applied then opposite and equal force must be applied. So, when our dog pulls forward and we try to pull it back, we’re actually encouraging the dog to apply equal or even more force to remain out front. In other words, we’re signaling to the dog to do the complete opposite to what we want. The solution? Give the right signal to your dog and give up being a puller.
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