Greyhounds, especially those rescued as retired racers, have a very specific set of needs when it comes to training. Because Greyhounds are bred to run long, fast and hard, leash training one can be much more difficult than training a new puppy or an adult dog of a different breed. Also, Greyhounds you need a different set of equipment Greyhound bodies are shaped differently. If you want to teach your Greyhound to walk politely on a long leash, you will need to start with the basics.
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Greyhounds have narrow, small heads, which means a normal collar can easily slip off. Instead, purchase a Martingale collar—these collars are designed to constrict enough to stay on the Greyhound, but are not choke collars and are not harmful or painful for the dog. You’ll also need one short leash (four feet or so) and one long leash (ten feet), along with plenty of dog treats.
In positive reinforcement training, leashes are used to keep the dog close and safe. Training a dog to walk on a leash does not require leash “corrections” or other forceful methods, contrary to what some dog trainers may advise. With only treats, patients and a positive attitude, you can have your Greyhound walking obediently after a few training sessions. Consistency is key, so make time every day to work with your pup.
Hook the short leash to your Greyhound and conduct a very short walk around the inside of your house. It is easier for your dog to focus in a familiar place. Reward your Greyhound with small treats each time he looks up at you while you’re walking around. If he ignores you or pulls the leash tight, stand still until he returns, reward him for acknowledging you and try again. The point of this exercise is teaching the Greyhound to be conscious of your position in relation to him—watch an obedience competition sometime and note how the dogs never look away from their owners during the “heel” phase.
The trick to consistent behavior in dogs is introducing one variable at a time. Once your dog walks reliably around the house on a short leash, you can up the ante by taking him outside. This will bring an entirely new set of challenges in the form of interesting smells, game to chase and other dogs to meet. Stick with the same plan as before: Use the short leash, reward your dog for his attention and stop walking if he loses focus or pulls. When your Greyhound is consistent on a short leash in the yard, you can expand to a walk around the block. Only after your Greyhound shows good behavior on a short leash, can you give a longer leash a shot, using the same reward mechanics.
Giving your dog a strong “leave it” command is one of the best methods for improving his on-leash behavior. “Leave it” means to ignore whatever distraction has presented itself, whether it’s a new dog, food on the ground or bunny racing off into the woods. To teach “leave it,” place a morsel of food on the ground and cover it with your hand. Your dog will naturally try to eat it, but eventually will lose focus and look to you for guidance. As soon as his attention breaks, say “leave it” and reward him with a treat from the other hand. Repeat this process until your dog reliably looks away when you say “leave it,” then try with the food uncovered. Never give the dog the “leave it” food; cover the food quickly if the dog tries to snag it. Dogs with a strong performance of “leave it” are harder to distract outside and are better walkers in general. “Leave it” is also a very critical command for keeping your dog safe—you want to be able to stop him from eating something dangerous or disgusting. It’s much nicer for your dog to not eat a dead bird than it is for you to try and get one out of his mouth.
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