Long-line walking teaches your dog to respect your leash. You’ll be walking your dog in a large square, stopping at the corners, nothing more. For this exercise, you’ll need your dog, wearing his training collar, and a 15-foot leash. He should be pottied before you start. On this train, your dog is the caboose, and you’re the engine.
A Place to Practice
Open space. That’s what you need to find to practice long-line walking. You need to be able to move in a big square — at least 25 feet on a side. Finding level, unobstructed space to practice can be a challenge, but use your imagination. Church parking lots during the week, school lots or playgrounds on weekends, or office park and shopping center parking lots during off hours might work as well as more obvious choices like parks, where the distraction level may be too much for the early stages of training. Scout locations before you bring your dog for a training session, and make a mental or physical map of your training square.
Walking in Straight Lines
Walking in a straight line isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re trying to focus on several things at once. The easiest way to do it for this exercise is to walk your square once or twice without your dog. Start at your first corner and pick a focal point, like a telephone pole or an unusual tree — anything you’ll recognize when you see it again — straight ahead, past where your next corner will be. Using your focal point as a reference, walk 25 paces (or more, if you have room for a larger square) toward it. Mark the corner if you want with a stake, flag, or even one of those little corncob holders. Turn 90 degrees, pick a new focal point, and count off an equal number of paces as you did for the first side of your square. Repeat two more times, turning in the same direction each time, until you get back to where you started.
Walking the Square
Put the handle loop of the leash over your right thumb, and hold the leash in both hands, anchored right at your waist. Start at your first corner. Wait for your dog to pay any attention to you at all. As soon as he does, praise him, command, “Let’s go,” and take off to your next corner. Several things are possible. Either your dog will come right with you (more likely if you’ve played the follow me game a lot), or he’ll go the other way, or he’ll shoot ahead of you, or he’ll fall to the ground like a rock, or he’ll jump up on you, or he’ll run around trying to wrap you up in the leash.
Most people who do tracking with their dogs use the focal-point method to lay straight tracks, making note of the points on their physical maps. If you don’t have a great memory, making a physical map of your training area with focal points may be helpful.
Watch the leash so you don’t trip, but other than that, plow ahead to your next corner and ignore everything that he does, except for enthusiastically and sincerely praising him for showing up at your left side. At each corner, pause for at least 30 seconds to give him a chance to stop paying attention to you. When he loses attention, say, “Let’s go,” and go to the next corner. By the second time around the square, he’ll probably be paying closer attention, so end your session with a play break.