Sunday, February 1, 2009
Leash-training a Dane -- advice needed
Our dog training class finally got the lesson I’ve been waiting for -- heel. I’ve struggled to prevent our Dane pup Princeton him from pulling on the leash ever since the day he arrived 6 months ago. We walk every day, but it keeps getting harder to correct him because he has grown from 15 pounds to more than 100 pounds during those months.
Today the dog trainer asked me to show how Princeton does his other commands before introducing “heel.” Princeton moved with embarrassing slowness when I asked him to sit. He was much less cooperative than usual on stay, down and come, too.
The trainer looked weary as he took the leash and eyed my giant dog. “OK, let’s start teaching him heel,” he sighed.
He demonstrated how to hold the leash and started walking with a brisk, “Princeton, heel.” To everyone’s surprise, Princeton followed at his side almost perfectly with a loose leash. Princeton looked quite proud of himself as they walked around the parking lot past lots of other dogs who were still struggling with sit and stay.
That’s when I knew that all my efforts with Princeton had paid off. I’ve been feeling extremely frustrated about leash training Princeton for months, but he was actually learning more than I realized. Today I have to give myself some praise, “Good girl!”
OK, now for a reality check. He still pulls on the leash fairly often on our walks with real-world distractions, and sometimes he pulls HARD. So….
I know there are a lot of experienced Dane owners out there who read this blog. Does anyone have any advice about the best training collars to use? Has anyone tried a prong collar (aka pinch collar and does it work? How about Cesar Millan’s Illusion collar? (I just checked Cesar's website and they don’t seem to have Dane sizes, plus it’s only for dogs over 1 year old.)
Right now I’m using a slip chain (aka choke chain) and a Halti head collar -- with one leash in each hand. I do corrections with the slip chain, and use the Halti as a back-up when he pulls hard. This has worked until now (age 9 months), but he’s gotten stronger so I have to yank harder and harder to make an impression on him. I’m not sure if I can keep up with him as he grows and grows.
Of course, one reason I chose to get a Great Dane puppy was so he would motivate me to build muscles. I’ve grown stronger right along with Princeton.
Update in 2016:
The best leash I found (after a lot of searching!) is the Signature K9 Braided Leather Leash. It has lasted for years, was comfortable in my hand from the start, and has an easy-to-use but strong clasp. I use the 6-foot 3/4-inch size.
We use this with a Halti head collar and sometimes a slip chain.
Update in Dec 2016: The same leash and collar are still working for Princeton, but now that he is 8 years old, he is getting stiff and has trouble getting up and laying down. We thought a better bed would help. We just bought him the Big Barker 7" Pillow Top Orthopedic Dog Bed for Large and Extra Large Breed Dogs (Sleek Edition).
I wish I bought it for him when he was younger because the foam has a 10-year guarantee. They even have a bigger "giant size" Big Barker Orthopedic Dog Bed -- with a headrest.