How do I get my dog to understand what the “acceptable radius” is? What do I say when I’m walking her on the Command Collar and “dropped line” and she gets too far in front of me? I don’t want to turn and go in a different direction because I’m afraid I’ll have to correct her and end up making her nervous of walking with me.
The simplest answer to your question is that you as your dog’s leader are always the one to determine the acceptable radius whenever your dog is at the stage of free roaming with you like this. The acceptable radius is the distance that you feel comfortable with in terms of what you believe your particular dog can handle at this stage of her training. The radius can increase over time as your dog continues to prove her respect for your authority.
At this stage, you should always say something – using a pleasant yet assertive tone – to your dog to indicate a turn in direction, such as “This way.” (Note: Never use the word “come” as this will confuse your dog with the formal “Come” command.) Give her a few seconds to turn and follow you seeing that this is the casual walk situation where the dog is given limited freedom to roam. (You would expect immediate response, however, for the “Heel” position.) If your dog ever ignores you and doesn’t follow (or even if she seems way too pokey), you must implement a correction (as shown on my Perfect Dog DVDs).
That’s how to handle turns. When you want to continue in the same direction but not have your dog get too far ahead of you, use a command such a “Stick around!” in a firm, assertive tone whenever she seems to be exceeding the acceptable radius (or even when she’s looking to be tempted to do so). Again, if she ignores you, it’s time for a correction, and if she continues to test you, the correction levels must increase until she’s motivated enough to comply.
In time, you and your dog will be so in tune with one another that your dog will automatically turn and follow you whenever you change direction, and then she’ll roam around in front of you (or to the side, or even behind) for however far you walk until you change direction again. You won’t even need to say anything to her, and you won’t feel the need to keep an eagle eye on her to make sure she’s being obedient. You both will achieve a sense of close connection for your casual walks together in that your dog will happily “stick around” at a reasonable distance and you’ll have peace of mind that’s she’s not going to push any boundaries.
– Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”
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