Much has been said about never tying your dog out to his dog house, or simply tying him in the back yard. It is rarely a good idea. The dog can be attacked by other dogs, or animals. He can get tangled in such a way that he can’t reach his water, or shelter. He can be approached by strangers, and if he bites them, you are on the hook. So, as a matter of daily living, a dog should not be tied.
Being ABLE to be tied, though, is a life skill, a temperament test, and just all around good for your dog. I find that many dogs that are badly leash trained can be “fixed” by simply tying them to a tree, under supervision, and letting them work it out. A couple of caveats, though.
Obviously, don’t use a slip collar (also known as a choke chain) or a prong collar on the dog being tied. A good, stout leather collar is preferred. Never use an adjustable “clip” collar, and make sure that the collar fits properly so that the dog cannot slip it over his/her head. Many people do not fasten the collar tight enough. It should NEVER be able to slip over his head, even in a panic mode. If it’s on so loose that he can pull free, you can lose your dog in an emergency. Two fingers loose is the best measure. I make sure that I can get two fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck, but not anymore.
Chain or Cable? I like them both. Some people really dislike a chain, but I haven’t heard a great reason for it. Worry about it tangling, or somehow injuring the dog seems to be the greatest concern, but a cable can wrap just as tight, if not tighter. Worry that the dog will break his teeth chewing on the chain is misplaced, as well. Dogs will bite and chew on a cable much longer than on a chain. The chain simply doesn’t offer good purchase, or good “mouth feel” to the dog. Always chose a large chain, or large cable. The smaller cables can really scar a dog if it wraps tightly, but remember, we are not leaving the dog unattended.
When tying your dog for the first time, short is better. I have tie out chains scattered about our property for just this activity. They are bolted to full sized cedar fence posts, and vary in length from about two feet to about 4 feet. Even a very busy dog can figure out how to unwrap himself if he only has a couple of feet of chain or cable to deal with.
Bring your dog to the secure tie out, snap on the tie, walk him/her out to the full distance of your chain/cable, and simply walk away. I usually say “you’re tied” to the dog, but at first, they won’t understand. If you don’t walk them out to the end, they may bolt, and hit the end very quickly, causing a panic. A client of mine, who fancies sight hounds, will not tie her dog because she is worried that the dog will break its neck if it sees a rabbit. For this purpose exactly, use a very short chain or cable. Do not allow the dog running room. Walk away, and watch from an area that allows you to see your dog, but your dog can’t see you. Watching from a window is great. What does he do? Rage and pull on the leash? Stand with it as taut as it will go? Circle madly? Stand absolutely still, as if frozen in time? Or simply accept that his world is a bit smaller right now, and move calmly about his area? The best result of this exercise is the latter.
If the dog understands the leash and collar completely, he will not “freak out” when tied. If he doesn’t, well, this is how you train it. Wait until some progress is made, whether he stops pulling, or moves into the post and learns to relieve the pressure on his neck from the collar, or in the case of freezing, starts to move about. This can take an hour, or ten minutes, depending on the age and temperament of your dog. Obviously, a younger dog learns this much faster than an older or spoiled dog. After you have your dog accepting the fact that he is tied in one location, make sure you vary your tie out area. You will find that this life lesson helps you in a multitude of ways. He will stop pulling back on a collar when you are trying to move him forward. He will stop resisting if you need to take his collar to help him get into a vehicle, or up on an obstacle. He will be much easier to teach to heel, if using a choke or prong collar technique, because he’s already trained to “give” to the collar. It is an important life lesson, so don’t miss out!
“Poking Around”, a lost but necessary part of dog training
Photographer Tanya Raab captured the innocence and wonder of her German Shepherd “Pagos” as he gazes at the most amazing stick in his world!
In today’s heavily scheduled and task orientated world, we humans don’t take the time to “poke around”, let alone allow our dogs to do so. What I’m talking about is just being in our environment… looking, smelling, investigating, inspecting. Exploring is a very necessary skill. Dogs are born with curiosity. They start to investigate their surroundings as soon as they are able. The acquisition of information is paramount to the development of their social skills, environmental soundness, and ability to focus when novel distraction is present.
So BEFORE you start your super star pup on bitework, or nosework, or any other “work” we want to do, make sure he is allowed to “poke around” in new places. Let him explore and sniff, touch or lick what he finds in new places. Don’t make him heel, or sit, or do any passive behaviors. Let him LEAD YOU where he wants to go, and watch without interfering as he learns. You will be able to learn about him as you are doing this. How long is his focus? Does he use one sense more than others? What does he do when he is startled? How long does it take him to recover?
All these things will be valuable when you DO ask him to learn something you want him to learn. While you are at it, take some time for yourself... how does the wind change his focus? What do you smell? Did you even know that little toad was there? Focusing on what he is focusing on will make you more aware as well.
When I am working with an adult dog in any form of training, the WORST student is passive, sullen, unwilling to offer behaviors. I believe that dogs become that way because of early stifling of “poking around”. The dog has been conditioned that seeking out information is punished. Of course, we need to interfere when the dog sticks his nose in our crotch, or knocks a child down while smelling his breath, but a dog that is consistently punished for “not behaving” in novel situations without allowing some seeking/gathering behavior will become introverted, and will shut its self off from the outside world.
A good example of this happened recently when a person brought me a young German Shepherd, five months old or so, for an evaluation for an upcoming class. As we sat in my kennel office (clearly a “dog place” full of doggie smells) I asked them to remove his leash to let him "be free". The interior door leading from my office to the bathroom and grooming room is just about always open, as that is where the air conditioning unit is located. The dog went through the open door and the owners immediately became agitated, scolded their dog and insisted he come back to them, and then commanded him to do something boring like sit or lie down. When I ask the owners “Why do you do that?”, they become confused and acted as if the dog did something wrong. It’s that idea that when a dog is exploring, he is not “listening”. What is wrong with him not “listening” at that moment? I would be tickled if my upcoming personal prospect pup was bold enough to do that in such an intriguing place. I’m not as happy if my pup lays quietly at my feet, not willing or able to go poking around. At this age, the outgoing, inquisitive, bold pup is what is proper.
So, next time you have a little time to “work” with your pup, go somewhere and “poke” around. Spend more time with him doing this when he is young. There will be plenty of time to train, to teach, to control him. But, if he’s allowed to learn to WANT TO LEARN, and know that we encourage it, our job will be so much easier!