Dog Training: Dogs Go Wild When the Leashes Come Out

Dog training for 3 “untamed and untrained” young Labrador retrievers seemed impossible for this single female living with two males and one female dog. The two males were “shirt size XXL” as they both topped 98 pounds. Not an ounce of fat on them. The female was 75 pounds.

She had not taken any of her dogs to a dog training class. She couldn’t control her dogs in the house and walking was impossible. That’s why she called.

As big and wild as they are, she loved her dogs to a fault. But she knew they controlled her and the house. It was their domain.

Her living room was sparse. Any consideration of new furniture hinged on the outcome of our dog training lessons. She only had one small (but comfortable) chair for her and a very large L-shaped couch that they all occupied.


On my visit, I stood


She confessed that she hadn’t walked her dogs in almost a year. She was desperate to walk them and knew they needed daily exercise in the worst way to manage all the energy.

But her real problem begins even before she puts the leashes on her dogs.

The second she headed to the hat rack by the front door and touched a leash, her dogs jumped wildly and leaped over the couch and chair continuously in anticipation of the walk and who got to go first. Did I mention the uncontrollable barking? Chaos reigned. It was dangerous.


Dogs Wild on Leash

Lots and lots of sits and set-ups

I began immediately teaching her a process to desensitize the dogs to just her getting the leashes. I pulled in a straight-back chair from the kitchen table and sat down next to her to explain. Here’s what I had her do:

First: Go to the hat rack, touch a leash, return to the chair and sit. Ignore the chaos and wait until they settle down. Do it again. Repeat this until they no longer get up. After 15-20 repetitions, they finally got it and stopped getting up.

Next: Go to the hat rack, touch a leash and take it off the hat rack and place it back on the hat rack. This ignited their frenzy once more. Return to the chair and wait until they settle down again. After 15 repetitions, they got it and no longer got up.

And then: What’s next? You’re right. Go to the hat rack, pick up a leash, turn away from the hat rack and face the dogs. Return the leash to the hat rack and return to the chair until they settle down. After 15-20 repetitions, they got it.

This exercise began to give her hope that she could control her dogs rather than her dogs controlling her. She knew this was just the beginning but she smiled at the thought of having an easy, workable plan and already achieving that small bit of progress.

Her homework


Leash exercises: Do leash desensitization exercises with the dogs until they become relaxed with trips to the hat rack, getting a leash and putting it on one dog then removing the leash and returning it to the hat rack. Rotate the dogs with each trip to the hat rack.

Obedience training: Alternate the dogs in short, 2 minute obedience training lessons 3 times daily. Work on “sit-leash on-leash off” with each dog individually leaving the other two in the back yard.

Her goal: Good sits individually for the leash and calm when it’s removed and taken back to the hat rack.

When the chaos is replaced with calm, begin working on sits for everything they want: food, treats, toys, love and affection and going outside to back yard.

Control the back door: Train a peaceful, one dog at a time “sit, exit and re-enter instead” of the stampede style exit closely resembling the “Running of the Bulls!”

I demonstrated how she could do this with ease. I gotta tell you, she was liking this! Control, peace and calm seemed to be restored to her home in just the first lesson.

She smiled and was happy.

And we hadn’t even started walking her dogs. Patience!

New gear and controlled walks were next

My next lesson was introducing her to the Gentle Leader. Then we introduced her dogs to the Gentle Leader. And as I expected, she liked it, they didn’t!

But with encouragement and practice…..and food treats, they eventually said, “Okay!”

She was nothing short of amazed at the control she had over her two males. She was “liking this!”

She smiled and was happy.

The old style gear went away and the new gear proudly took its place on the hat rack.

She was determined and by the end of the third lesson we had walked all three dogs for 20 minutes each. She was proud of her accomplishment and rightly so, she had earned it!

As I turned to leave, I got a paper plate of chocolate chip cookies as a thank you. She just said, “Wow! I see new furniture in my future!”

I had given her a simple, easy and workable plan – and she liked simple. It wasn’t complicated at all. The only ingredient she added was the dogged determination needed to re-take control of her home and her dogs in a very non-physical, non-confrontational manner.

Doing the repetitive work herself on sits, hat rack desensitization and back door control to the yard earned her a new found respect from her dogs inside the house.

Once we added the missing walks outside the house, it became a win-win for all. No more dog behavior problems.

So, what did you think? I truly hope you found answers and hope for helping your dog.


“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”


Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.

Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have easy, step-by-step process to helping your dog. Your dog must and wants to understand what you expect of him. But you have to empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you must empower him to be successful at living in a human home. Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.

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