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Q. When I try to lead my dog by her collar, she pulls back and sits down. How can I get her to follow me?
A. It can be terrifying for a dog to have someone grab her collar and start pulling her along. She may not understand what’s being asked of her, and her response is to pull in the opposite direction or go into a sit. Dogs who haven’t been taught to be led in this manner may also bite, especially if people don’t notice the warning signs, like the whites of their eyes showing or a tucked tail, which shows that they are anxious.
There are some simple strategies for getting a dog comfortable with being led by the collar. While hand targeting is a much easier way to move a dog without having to physically hold her, I want the dogs I work with to be prepared for the collar pull in the event that it happens with another family member, at a doggy day care or veterinary office, or in any other situation.
It is essential that you teach your puppy to be comfortable with assorted types of touching and moving. During my last puppy class, one pet owner confessed that he was relieved we were practicing this with his new Heeler puppy. He had tried to lead a previous dog by the collar and ended up with a serious bite on his arm. Most dogs won’t actually bite when they’re led by the collar but will just be nervous or uncomfortable and may pull away from you or hesitantly follow. But with just a few training steps, you can teach your dog to relax when led by her collar.
Start by teaching your dog that it's OK for you to reach for her collar. A dog who is unaccustomed to having people reach for her collar may duck away when this happens. Start by reaching out toward your dog but not touching her neck as you mark her staying relaxed with a “good.” Treat immediately out of your other hand. If your dog is relaxed, you can touch the collar and reward her for staying calm.
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