When training a dog a lunge lead can be utilised for two main reasons
The first being to afford your dog a limited amount of freedom away from your side but at the same time keeping it safe and secure so that the dog is not able to take off and away from your control.
An untrained dog will learn lots of bad habits very early on if it is allowed too much freedom too soon.
If your dog is not capable or willing to come back to you when off lead there is a real danger that you will undo any previous training and undermine your authority.
As with children, your dog is 100% dependent on you to know and to do the right thing.
It is your legal responsibility to have proper control of your dog in public places at all times.
Secondly, the correct use of a lunge lead will build a strong bond between you and your dog very quickly when used correctly. This can be seen as the first step in a dog earning freedom off the lead later, once you have built that mutual trust.
How to use the lunge lead correctly
Take your dog to an area of open land such as a park.
Make sure the lunge is securely connected to the dog’s collar.
Use a command such as “Okay” to release the dog from your side.
Walk away from your dog without using any commands or signals.
Repeatedly change direction.
This will make the dog realise it must now watch you in order to stay within it’s boundary of the length of the lunge lead.
You may talk to your dog and praise it if it comes within reach of you but do not give the dog any commands.
Each time your dog reaches it’s boundary, use a verbal aversive such as a growl or grunt. It is important to continue to walk in the same direction. This will allow the dog to know that attempting to pull beyond an acceptable limit is not tolerated by the handler. If the handler has been taught the correct method of using a check chain this will have the greatest effect in dispelling this behaviour.
Continued and frequent use of the lead in this manner will assist in fostering the desired behaviour i.e. your dog will become more aware of it’s distance from you and thus increase the bond between dog and handler.
Time should be taken in order to build this bond. It is important that the dog not be trusted to roam off the lunge lead until the owner is positive that the dog will not take advantage and run away and out of control of the handler.
With consistent use of the lunge lead the dog will prefer to stay close to the owner. This mimics “pack mentality” where wild dogs move together as a pack as opposed to splitting up and dispersing in different directions.
A dog can be taught reliable recalls by utilising the lunge lead, too
Allow your dog to wander almost to the end on the lead and then say the dog’s name and use the command “Come” in an assertive manner. A hand signal should also be used.
The owner should then use a happy and positive voice in order to attract the dog to recall. Whistling and other noise may also assist as can clapping the hands or clicking fingers.
When the dog reaches the owner lots of praise should be given as a reward. This will entice the dog to recall each and every time.
Praise the dog for approximately 5 to 10 seconds and then use a release command such as “Ok”. After a few repetitions the dog will understand this is it’s cue to be able to wander within the boundary of the leash.
If the dog fails to respond appropriately after 2 seconds of the “Come” command, it is vital that the owner pulls the dog towards them, using the lunge lead. This should be done rapidly but safely. This will reinforce to the dog that the exercise is not optional. Praise should still be given in order that the exercise always remains positive. Release the dog with the “Ok” command.
Repeating this exercise over a period of time will allow the dog to understand that upon hearing the “Come” command it is to immediately return to the owner. It will also associate this outcome with praise and a positive experience.
Do not be overly repetitive with recalls as some dogs will become bored of the exercise.
The dog should be allowed to enjoy the freedom to wander, smell and socialise whilst on the lunge lead but at your discretion. In the early days avoid other commands such as “Sit” when the dog returns to you.