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How to teach your dog to come to get "caught" or leashed

Do you know the feeling when your dog comes to call but chooses to stay a few meters away from you? It can be very frustrating, especially in situations where the dog needs to be leashed for safety. But of course, this can be trained! The goal of this exercise is based on the dog giving you their collar or harness with their own movement. The cue for the behaviour will be your open hand, and then you can safely go for loose walks in the woods without fear of not being able to catch your dog.

In this exercise, we want the dog to associate "being grabbed by the collar/harness" with something positive. This exercise is very useful in many different situations, from your dog coming all the way in when you call or not backing away as soon as we reach down towards the dog. Practice in a calm and simple environment at first, and then take this exercise to more difficult environments.

In the following steps we describe how to do this with a collar, but it can be done in the exact same way with a harness.

Step 1

Have your dog in front of you with a collar or harness on. Reach down towards the collar, touch it, and then reward the dog with a treat. Repeat this step many times

Step 2

Now gradually grab more and more of the collar until your dog is secure with your whole hand around the collar. Repeat this step many times and reward generously. Remember that we are building an association between "grabbing the collar" = reward.

Step 3

Now reach down towards the collar, but stay a few inches away from the collar and reward your dog as soon as it moves its neck towards your hand. Reward generously with treats. Then gradually increase the distance so that your dog eventually comes into your hand with its collar.

Signal

The signal for this behaviour will be your open hand extended down towards the dog. Start challenging the dog and giving your signal in more distracting environments, and also as part of recall training. That is, call your dog, as soon as it is heading towards you, reach down and catch the dog by its collar. Always reward generously when your dog arrives and is caught by the collar or harness!

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