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.


Anonymous said...

We've used the pincher chains and they do work. I think it's more of a "This doesn't look like it lays flat until I pull it..." that prevents most people from using them. And unlike choke chains, the pincher pulls, pinches, then immediately lets go, but the choke chain does not.


Mrs. Simonsays said...

I have always used the head halters, and I have never had trouble with it allowing me to control my danes. I prefer the gentle leader brand to the halti. I like the way it fits better and it doesn't seem to bother the danes as much. My son did have trouble with one, while rollerblading so we switched her to the prong collar. It worked like a charm. I'd say go for it, for sure.

Mrs. Simonsays said...

By the way, I'd throw away the choke chain, the danes are just to big and strong for them to be effective. IMO

heartfulhome said...

We used the electric shock collar and our Dane is a very obedient girl. She is 6 years old. Be sure to get to training with it in order to do it properly.

Mindy Lu said...

BARK! Mommy used the gentle leader on me, which showed me how not to pull. Then we switched to the martindale. My dumb brother was a bit harder, so mommy tried the allusion collar, but it didnt stay high up on his neck. He has a long neck. After they switched back to the Gentle leader, he does a lot better. BARK! Sasha the Princess

Anonymous said...

Hello, just came across your blog.
I have had danes for several years and I use a nylon collar with a chain attached. Basically it brings the nylon tighter around the danes neck but releases quickly. I have 2 mastiffs as well as a dane and these collars work well for me. Here's a trick that works for me, only thing is it takes time. When you're walking your dog leave the leash loose then when he starts to pull stop all together. Remain still until he loosens up on the leash then move forward again, stopping every time he begins pulling. It will take time and you need to be consistent, but he will eventually catch on. He wants to go and the only way that will happen is if he doesn't pull. Tap him on his side to get his attention or make a certain noise if you can't get him to stop. He will then relate the sound and touch to a behavioral change. Don't push, touch! Hope this helps and here is the link to some of those collars ( can also buy them at petco or petsmart.

KC said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for the advice about stopping when Princeton pulls. This does NOT work with Princeton. The problem is that he already has a tendency to get stubborn and stop. I have to pull him forward at least once on almost every walk. This technique really added to the problem.

Stopping when Princeton pulled was the first leash-training technique that I tried, back when he was 2 months old. He was already stubborn before he ever wore a leash. For example, not wanting to go out at potty time, then not wanting to leave the porch, etc. When I used the "stubborn" technique of stopping on walks, he started doing it even more!

When I stopped being stubborn, Princeton moved along better on walks.

I recently wrote another blog post about leash-training techniques that are working:

Anonymous said...

I have one who tends to stop like that, too--usually because he wants to smell the things on the side of the road. I've used two types of collars on is the "quick release" collar. When he got pre-occupied I would pull up on the leash in the collar and say "heel" again so he would come with me. The other collar I use is a Cetacea soft Martingale collar, which has a nylon D-loop that pulls when he gets in front of or behind me. If he goes at the wrong pace, I say "heel" again to tell him to correct himself, and he comes back to the right place.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you with regards to the comment about stopping I have a great dane who walks great until there is another dog, I then started using a gentle leader but she has now desensitized to it and will still pull on it anyway. I will try the stop method and see how she goes thanks.