Is Your Dog a Yo-Yo on the Long Line?

Using a long line gives your dog a lot more room to move than a standard leash. Even so, it can sometimes feel like it’s still not enough. Even with the added freedom of a long line, dogs can still pull. After the excitement of the initial buffet experience on a long line, most dogs start to settle into the experience. If this doesn’t happen, it can be for a few reasons.

  • They are in scouting mode and want nothing more than to GO!

In this case, they may just need to get some beans out before you can expect them to be able to slow down a bit.

  • They don’t have the skill for that environment yet.

If the dog is over-stimulated by the environment then it will be difficult for them to split attention and offer behaviours. Training, practice and reinforcement will help build more appropriate skills. If you need ideas for building leash skills and coming off pressure, have a look at where I talk about my four favourites.

  • If your dog is in the habit of hitting the end of the line and then coming off the pressure, that’s probably a training hiccup. A behaviour chain has been set up, similar to the ‘jump up and then sit to get a treat’ pattern. This happens when we focus on rewarding the desired behaviour (a good thing), but the timing or context is not quite right. 

What are you rewarding on the long line?

Rewarding our dog for stopping an undesired behaviour and choosing a better one seems like a great idea, but it can quickly turn into an annoying pattern. That’s because while you think the critical part is the leash being loose, the dog’s focus is on the preceding behaviour. Why? Because it is what initiates the sequence. Dogs are amazing at picking up on patterns. It often takes only a few repetitions of a sequence before the dog has made the connection.

Jump + then sit = attention or treat

Pull + then come off pressure = moving forward or treat

Bark + then be quiet = dinner or treat

So how do we fix it?

A shift in focus when using a long line

Ideally, when your dog first does one of these sequences, you only reward them for moving on to the desired behaviour one or two times. It is vital not to continue rewarding the sequence. Instead, you want to focus on rewarding the desired behaviour when it happens independently. It’s not the leash BECOMING loose. It’s the leash BEING loose that matters.

Sure, let ’em know that coming off the pressure is a better choice than staying at the end of the line. Thank them, praise them. But that’s not what you want to be focusing on. Ideally, you need to shift your focus ahead of that. Keep your attention on what’s happening before they hit the end of the leash. Reinforce while there is still slack:

  • mark and toss a treat to them
  • mark and call them back to you to have a treat party together
  • call “This way!” and move off in another direction
  • call “Stop” and toss a treat or reward by carrying on

Mix these up to keep things interesting, so your dog doesn’t start to presume what will happen.

Does your dog live at the end of the long line or always is in scouting mode? Stay tuned to learn how to set up great long line skills!