Conversational Leash Work and the Future of Dogmanship

Blog Category: Blog

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a couple professional trainers at my center to offer them some education and insight on some of the training programs I offer, and some of the concepts that I have been developing.

Let me just start by saying how overwhelmed I am with the success of my training philosophy. When I founded K9 Connection nearly 5 years ago, I had in mind a simple, common sense approach to training. At that time I never would have thought that the simplicity of my approach would have created such a buzz.

Now at 28 years old I am humbled that professionals from around the country are seeking me out to help them improve their techniques, and the services that they offer to their clients. In my mind, what I am offering is still just a common sense way to improve our communication and relationships with our dogs.

That being said, last week myself and my staff were honored to have Jeff Gellman of Solid K9 Training in Rhode Island, and Sean O’Shea of The Good Dog Training and Rehabilitation in LA come to visit for a very fun and informative couple of days.

Sean and Jeff at my training center while we give all our dogs a bathroom break.

One of the topics that I was able to teach was a concept of leash work that goes beyond the typical leash correction. I call this “Conversational Leash Work” because it involves not only us as the humans using the leash to guide the dog and tell them things, but it provides a framework for using the leash to feel the dog and “listen” to them in a sense, and then respond. In fact, when done properly, there is very little “correcting” in the traditional yank and crank sense. The idea is to use very subtle pressure on the leash to give the dog information, and a very active release of that pressure to respond to him and tell him that he is making a good choice. Personally I love this type of leash work because when practicing it I feel connected to the dog in a way that is particularly unique. In all my years of dog training, I have not experienced a technique that works as fast and as universally to establish trust and respect with a dog.

The following video is a very rare glimpse into the private demonstration that I provided for Jeff and Sean. The dog Jack, is a foster who I just met, and who had no previous training. You can hear Jeff and Sean’s commentary in the background. Some of the information may be too advanced for some folks, but it is too good to edit out. I should also note that this is the first time Jack has ever worn a prong collar, and this video demonstrates how prong collars can be used in very gentle ways.

Incidentally, Jack was brought to me because he was showing aggression to other dogs. In fact, he couldn’t even be within sight of them while out on walks without starting to lunge and bark. Here is a picture taken the day after we shot the video. Within one day of my leash work program, Jack showed tremendous improvement.

Jack in the foreground with his foster mom, Sean O'Shea and Josh Moran helping out with some dogs from our pack.

About 15 minutes after this photo was taken, we were able to socialize Jack, off leash, with a group of 6 stable dogs from our pack. The rapport, trust, and respect that was created through the leash work is what facilitated the whole chain of events.  

The idea of conversational leash work involves a lot of give and take. The goal is develop a sensitivity with the dog whereby the more he knows you are sensitive and aware of him, the more sensitive and aware of you he becomes in return.
This is a cooperative approach to dog training that aims at establishing a high level of mutual trust and respect very early on. The end result is a dog who works with you because he enjoys the process, and any external rewards and consequences serve simply to amplify that foundational relationship.

The quote in the beginning of the video is taken from Chad Mackin’s article: Relationship: The Hidden Motivator, you can view that article Here

I truly feel that work like this is the future of pet dog training, and Dogmanship.