Loose Leash Training a Basenji

  • Please HELP! I haven't seen this issue yet and I really need some guidance. We got Duke at about 12 weeks old. As a young pup, he was walked on a leash with a regular collar on his neck and was managable. We went for short walks every day THEN. But since he's gotten older, thus much stronger, it just wasn't enjoyable, and frankly embarrasing to walk with an unruly little dog tugging, choking, and driving me crazy yelling at him with complete disregard. I haven't taken Duke for a walk all summer. (we have a big yard and a son that runs him around pretty good, so he is extremely exercised a few times a day), but I feel bad because I want to go for walks with Duke.

    Now he's 8 months old and we're in beginner obedience training at Pet Smart. I was advised to buy a head collar and did. He really hates it, and I feel so bad . . . it feels too tight to me, but the instructor and the instructional DVD indicate it needs to be that way. He doesn't tug, choke & pull with it and I hope he will someday get used to it. But my questions are:

    Do others have this problem with their B's?

    Can I be advised as to what I can do to help him feel more comfortable walking with the head collar?

    Can a Basenji ever walk "loose leash" on a regular collar? If so, What training techniques do you use to get him to do that?

  • I usually walk my dogs all together and they can be quite a handfull, but if I take one at a time they behave.
    What I learn is to give them a treat or just a voice reward when they come to you or are not pulling.
    But if he still pulls just stop and wait untill he stops pulling and come and sit near you, then you can walk again as long as the dog doesn't pull or you stop again.
    You have to act like that as soon as you pass your front door,the dog will soon learn that his pulling won't take him anywhere.
    Need a lot of patience for that but it sure works!

  • I have had the same problem with my mixed basenji. I have often thought if she were purebred, HOW would I handle her? I tried a harness, she pulled, I tried a choke collar, she pulled, then I tried the "gentle lead" that goes over the dog's nose. I have finally found something Hollie doesn't pull! Yeah, but she does not like the lead over her nose and tries to remove it, however I use this lead whenever we go to the park to walk, because otherwise it is not a pleasant experience. I did try repeatedly to train her to walk on a normal leash, but she is TOO STUBBORN. Whewwww, I hope she continues to improve. Good luck with your b. If you find something else that works really well, please let us know.

  • If I put Jazzy's collar up high on her neck, just behind the ears and hold it up a bit – not choking, but gently -- she will walk nicely. Otherwise she walks ahead and pulls hard if I let her.
    When the leash begins to go taut, I pop it back and say, "Back!".
    She does okay....

  • This is a really hard skill, but the suggestion Seko made works – requires consistancy and patience. The haltis (is that what you mean by head collar?) are a much quicker fix, but doesn't sound like its working for you yet.

    What I've started doing lately (because after 10 yrs I just could take the pulling anymore either) is to do kinda what Jazzy's mom suggests: pull the collar up under his ears (and I don't use a choke collar for this) and keep the leash short enough that it goes tight instantly if he pulls. Not that our dogs mind a tight leash much, do they? so that doesn't often work very well for me.
    Finally, what I am doing today is keeping the leash short enough that they can't get ahead, and holding my arm at my side or behind me, so that the dog physically can't get ahead of me. Then I walk. More like MARCH actually, I start moving until I decide to stop, and not sooner. I'm fair, I decide to stop at mail boxes and interesting things. But this way I'm finding that even all three together to finally settle in and walk nicely because clearly I'm in charge and they don't have to take that Top Dog spot out front. This has developed new muscles in my shoulders that I didn't know I had (and they hurt some times - boo hoo!)

    Now, for me, walking on a loose lead in obedience class is a different exercise. I personally don't expect an obedience class quality performance when out for a walk. In Obed class I expect the dog to stay right at my side even if the leash is dragging on the floor, and I get that by establishing a strong history of reward for the dog being there - in other words lots and lots of cookies and praise while in the position, nothing when not (step on the leash, or leash goes tight).

    To answer the original quesition, I would recommend lots of rewards for being in the halti so that it becomes a positive thing. And for training look for a martingale type collar rather than either a choke chain or flat buckle? A wide collar will distribute the load on his neck and reduce the choking, but the semi-correction of a martingale should help with training. JMO, hope this helps.

  • I really like the Gentle Leader head collars, but recently I have been using the "Sensible Harness" with clients. It is a body harness, but the leash attaches at the sternum instead of the back, so the dog can't get any leverage to pull. The dogs seems to like it more than a head halter type collar, and it still keeps them from pulling.

    I use a Gentle Leader with my puller. He doesn't like it much, but I don't like having my arm yanked off…so he wears it when he is feeling feisty. It took a while for him to get used to it. If it makes you feel better....he is almost 8, and finally doesn't pull every time I take him for a walk 😉

    With the wakling aides, you still have to train polite walking, they won't do it for you...if you just use the aide alone, the dog knows when it comes off they can pull again. I agree with the others who posted about stopping each time the dogs pulls, wait for them to tune back in, then proceed forward again. It takes a lot of time and patience, but pulling is a habit with many dogs, and it takes time to change a habit.

  • I have been working a lot recently on loose lead walking. I am using clicker training. I started with just clicking for the dog being on a loose lead while I was standing still. Then I we tried a short distance, lots of rewards for a loose lead. If they pulled I went back to just standing still waiting for the loose lead. We have been building to greater distance and more distractions and they are improving. Using something like the Gentle Leader or Sensible Harness that others have mentioned when you are not going to be able to train during a walk is good so they don't continue to practice the bad behavior.

  • Looks like I'll have to practice with patience in order to accomplish an enjoyable walk with Duke. The Pet Smart class pretty much instructed the same technique for loose leash walking, but Duke is the only Basenji. We were practicing in the store aisles, and everyone else seemed to have their dog's attention, but Duke was the only dog who's feet were slip-sliding in place as I tried to do what we were told . . . stop to wait for him to come back to me. Nooooo, he was getting no where fast as he pulled so hard (my forearm muscles are so sore . . . ow-ow!) I told my son to run and get the head collar, which is a Gentle Leader. Once I frantically forced it over his nose and snapped it, the difference was instant. However he did get to playing with another puppy . . . but when the play got rough I had to pull him away and poor Dukes tongue got squashed between his teeth. It was a poor pathetic site. (I'm just not used to it and I don't know if it hurts or is cruel.)

    Thank you for your support and understanding. I'm glad to know this is typical of Basenji and I'm not alone. (btw, walking Duke was how the term "Crazy Duke" came about in our family - no one wanted to take that "crazy" dog for a walk any more.) Lots of extra special treats will have to be the norm in our walking practice. I want it to be enjoyable, because walking is so good everyone.

    martingale type collar rather than either a choke chain or flat buckle? A wide collar will distribute the load on his neck and reduce the choking, but the semi-correction of a martingale should help with training.

    I will look into the martingale collar - thanks for the tip.

    I start moving until I decide to stop, and not sooner. I'm fair, I decide to stop at mail boxes and interesting things. But this way I'm finding that even all three together to finally settle in and walk nicely because clearly I'm in charge and they don't have to take that Top Dog spot out front.

    I have to work on being the Top Dog during the walks. So I'll keep this practice in mind too.

    recently I have been using the "Sensible Harness"

    I'll look into the Sensible Harness too. If I don't feel comfortable with the head collar in a decent period of time. I'll try anything.

    Sounds like Jazzy is a behaved walker. I'll keep the term "back!" in mind too.

    Encouraging advice! It seems as I read your responses that you agree with the techniques and it is possible to teach the Basenji to walk politely. If interested, I'll post our progress periodically over next few weeks.

  • Sahara is a great walker, but it took time to teach her that I am in charge. I got the Leader Harness that hooks on the back and it works wonders. My puppy class teacher recommended this type, and never use those leases that expand out as the dog moves. Also check out the Dog Whisperer DVDs that teach the technique of walking your dog, or watch him on the Animal Planet on cable, it is great, and it works. That guy is soooooooo good, he knows what he is talking about. Good Luck, just be patient, after all if you own a B, you have to have patience, haha!!:D

  • 😞 I wrote a reply, tried to drag a link and lost the page and entire post so if it shows up twice, mea culpa.

    One of my pet peeves, even before I injured my rotator cuff about 17 yrs ago, was dogs pulling. Keep in mind I don't just have little basenji, but a life of Rotties and Chows. So be it my own or rescues, even pretty much feral rescues, loose leash walking is something I put work into. I have never had a dog who didn't get it fast (once they were basically leash trained)… the longest taking about 2 wks. Sayblee occasionally needs refreshers because the dear daughter doesn't make her behave and she forgets she can't pull on me.

    Basically, all I do is the SECOND there is any pressure on the leash I stop and back up and/or change directions. They learn very quickly that pulling means they do NOT get to go where they wanted. Understand this is NOT every pop/jerk action. Also, btw, someone else wrote about not the same requirement out of class I think... ditto here but I never allow pulling be it on long line or leash.

    The first link has a lot of lessons, loose leash being one. The dog is most her pics are from my Rottie lines. 🙂 In 6 generations, we have had 2 coated pups and while the other was just fairly fuzzy, Sugar Bear is quite impressive! So if you ever wanted to see a long-haired Rottie, there she is. Her half-brother was at Westminster this year, btw. We lucked out that Mary, who has an obedience school in MD, had owned a GSD/Rottie mix who looked JUST LIKE a long haired rottie. She fell in love with SugarBear on site so it was a match made in heave for a pup with a DQ that needed a perfect home.


    The 2nd is author Kathy Diamond Davis who is a friend who is simply able to write things so clearly. I am putting her whole article here because it is a long link and might be easier than having people copy/paste it all if links don't show up. (yeah i am very new here, will see when I hit send if they work). Kathy's dogs are both therapy/service dogs, so for her, like me, not pulling is a biggie 🙂


    Loose-Leash Training

    It took me 10 years and a terribly wild dog to really "get it" about loose-lead walking, so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and avoid a lot of hassles for yourself and the dog. Teaching dogs to walk on a loose leash at all times has almost been a dog-trainer's secret, because it's somewhat difficult to adequately teach in an obedience class situation. But it's really not so hard, and your slip collar should give plenty of control after you've done this program for just one to two weeks. I know you don't believe that–I didn't, either!

    Okay, here's the secret.

    Start for a walk with your dog, but forget about getting anywhere this time, and for the next week or so. Instead, keep your attention on whether or not the leash is tight. Do not wait for the dog to pull on the leash, because then both you and the dog will be confused by when lead tension turns into pulling--the distinction is just too hard to consistently recognize. Instead, make your criteria a loose leash.

    Check the position of your arm that is holding the leash. Good control means your arm is bent, your elbow is in toward your body. A handler with the arm holding the leash stretched out as he or she walks along has far less control. With your arm bent, you also have the ability to briefly stretch out your arm as you make the maneuver I'm about to describe, giving you a moment of slack in the leash.

    Okay, you step out the door and whoops, the leash goes tight. Our natural reactions are to pull or jerk back on the dog, to hold on uncomfortably as we go toward our destination, or even to go faster, letting the dog set the pace. Do not allow yourself to do of these things! Instead, choose one of three things to do. You can stop, abruptly change direction, or back up.

    For puppies and soft dogs, stopping may be enough. For a large dog with an established habit of pulling, changing direction will probably work best. Backing up is a nice touch later on, when you and the dog have a lot of training, just to keep it interesting. All of these maneuvers tell the dog, "Oops, if I pull, I get there slower, not faster!"

    Remember, your arm's normal position when holding the leash is bent. The leash has now gone tight. Quick (you want this to be a surprise to your dog!), straighten your arm to create an instant's slack in the leash, as you turn and take off in another direction, usually either to your right or back in the direction you came. The dog may feel a quick pop on the leash, but at the same time will realize that "Whoops, I missed a turn, I better catch up!"
    Within one to two weeks, your dog will expect the leash to remain loose, because you will have reacted every time it goes tight. You see, we are the ones who teach the dogs to walk on a tight leash and to pull us! Pulling back on the leash creates a natural response in the dog to pull forward. Letting the dog cause us to go faster makes the dog think "Oh, this is the way to get where I want to go! I should pull!" And just letting the leash remain tight as we walk along is constantly telling the dog we want a tight leash, that a tight leash is normal. Jerking back on the leash may work to stop some dogs from pulling, but it is not a clear message to the dog, and will be perceived by some dogs as unfair and upsetting, to the extent that those dogs will become terribly confused.

    See, all you have to do is be unpredictable, so your dog has to keep an eye on you to keep pace! The loose leash also causes your dog to pay more attention to you at all times. It keeps you and the dog from becoming dependent on messages through the leash, which are definitely second-best to messages coming from your body and voice. A loose leash makes all training more effective and more humane. The slip collar will give plenty of control with a dog and handler trained to a loose leash. Some dogs will do fine on a buckle collar, but a slip collar can be a good precaution against a buckle collar sliding over the dog's head in an emergency such as another dog attacking it. When kept loose, a slip collar is not obstructing the dog's breathing or causing other problems.

    Though a well-trained dog becomes very sophisticated about keeping the leash loose, you will always need to remember to react to a tight leash with your changes of direction, lifelong. Anyone who just walks along with even a well-trained dog keeping the leash tight is telling the dog a tight leash is wanted, and it is important never to give this message. The reason dogs can learn to work on a loose leash in one to two weeks is that it really wasn't a dog problem in the first place. Once we learn how to handle the leash correctly, the dog is happy--and more comfortable!--to cooperate. Puppies can learn this skill right after they learn to walk on a leash. But it takes us humans longer--took me 10 years!

    So now you know the secret! I wish you many miles of happy walks--with occasional right turns, about-turns and other surprises to keep both you and the dog having a great time.

    Date Published: 6/11/2002 12:05:00 PM<<

  • Thank you very much Debra to share all these informations with us!

  • Thanks Debra - those are (2) interesting links! (btw, The long haired Rottie is beautiful! . . . I didn't know there was a long hair.) Alot I don't know about breeds, even the one I have. But I'm getting there, slowly, with my Basenji. I've printed out the loose leash article, well written and easy to understand. Will try the technique in combination with extra special treats and being Top Dog and never forgetting patience. The more I know, hopefully the smoother the training. Before I asked, I thought it would be hopeless with Duke. We're going to practice right after this.

    Have a fantastic Sunday!

  • You are welcome. So much of the basenji re: training I have to admit I just give up. loose leash may be the only thing I can be proud of 🙂 Okay they do tricks.

  • Hey everyone - just keeping you updated on our "walking" practice. I can only walk with Duke when he's got his Gentle Leader head collar on. Otherwise as you know it's impossible, because I don't have intact muscle on my arms anymore! <gg>Duke is responding beautifully since we started practicing last week. We started walking so very slowly, because I wanted my son to observe me using techniques I've learned here. I put extra-extra special treats (corned beef pieces) in my new treat bag that clips onto my pocket. Boy did he ever pay attention to me! We stopped alot for him to come "back" to me (treat) each time. When we proceed, I make him walk on my right side. He often crosses over to walk in front of me (makes it easy to step on his toes), so we stop (treat) and so on. My son takes the reins on our return. He's learning just as nicely as Duke - We're all walking much better. Duke is getting the idea of how to walk with me. YEAH! We're not quite ready for a good long walk yet . . . can't wait.

    However, getting that head collar on Duke is like putting it on a piranha! I know he wants to go for a "walk" but when he sees the head collar, he's under and behind every piece if furniture I own. I coax him to me with a tasty treat. He sheepishly comes to me and burrow's his nose under my knees for the treat and then I have to pull him up and over with what's left of my arm muscles! Whew - - - AND THEN - - - pry the loop over his nose all while trying to close his jaws! It usually doesn't go well, ever. He's not willing . . . no way does he like me to put it on. But he likes the walking (or the treats or both).

    Does anyone have a trick for the head collar application?</gg>

  • I use the Black Dog Head Harness… mainly because it doesn't slip upwards on the nose, and into the eyes. The way it's designed, it stays PUT (and even VERY loose) over the nose. When I introduced it, I used it in conjunction with very high value treats (as you're doing). My dog only got the reward after he was in a sit-wait and the harness was clipped on though. Instead of using the reward treats as bait (to get your dog out from hiding), try to teach the dog to do a sit-wait, maintain the wait, clip the harness on, then release, reward, and go for your walk (the walk is also a reward).

    it's much like teaching your dog to sit still for other things such as nail clipping, ear cleaning, teeth brushing, hooking the leash up to the regular neck collar, etc... I use the sit & wait while I do those, and I do the same when putting on the head harness.

  • @Crazy_Duke:

    Hey everyone - just keeping you updated on our "walking" practice.

    Thanks for sharing, I like to hear how it's going, keep up the good work!

  • We're practicing the "leave it" command in Obedience training. He does very well with it. Seems almost the same as "sit-wait". I'll try it. And thanks - I'll look for the Black Dog Head Harness. I'm happy if Duke's happy . . .

  • I'm not sure if the black dog harness is available in the states yet. My trainer ordered a few because he felt they are one of the best (I got mine from him), but he got them from Australia. You can find them online, but I don't think they've hit retail stores yet.

  • What's the name of this product?

  • I have the Black Dog Training Halter.

    Here's a link:

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