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May 2001


by (Livin' La Vida) Mocha

Welcome back to our leash training session. Did you get kitty acclimated to her harness? Is she getting fat from all the treats? Well, let's walk off those pounds!

4. Acclimate kitty to having a leash attached to the harness (indoors). When kitty is comfortable wearing her harness, it's also time to add the leash. Again, introduce the leash by showing it to her and clicking her for sniffing it. CLICK! and treat while you touch her with it, and when you snap it on her harness. This part should go more quickly than the first time - by now she has a good understanding of the training game. Don't try to guide her with the leash. Let her walk while you hold the end of it, and follow her around. Occasionally put a tiny bit of pressure on it and CLICK! and treat her for tolerating the pressure. If she reacts badly to it you have used too much pressure. Give her a chance to relax and walk around calmly again, and then try a featherlight pressure for a fraction of a second. CLICK! and reward and release the pressure before she has a chance to get riled up. Gradually increase the length of time, then the pressure, until gentile tension on the leash doesn't cause her any stress.

5. Teach kitty to walk with you while on harness and leash (indoors). Now we can put it all together, indoors. With kitty dressed in her harness and leash, practice your "Let's walk!". The leash is not there to move her, it's only to prevent her from leaving. If she does try to leave, don't pull her back to you. Just wait until she stops pulling and is ready to get back in the training game. Again, keep the sessions short and be generous with your CLICKS! and treats, until the two of you are walking all over the house together.

6. Teach kitty to walk with you while on harness and leash (outdoors). Outdoors is a whole new ballgame. Kitty's favorite treats may pale in comparison to the sights, sounds, and smells of the real world. Don't expect her picture-perfect leash walking to transfer immediately outdoors. Go outside with her on the leash and just let her look and sniff around. Follow her and let her explore to her heart's content. Plan on staying outside for awhile, until she gets over the initial sensory overload. When she starts to relax, maybe even seems a little bored, or wants to lie down in a sunspot, just hang out with her for a little longer. Then, take her back indoors. Next session she should settle a little more quickly. When she does, show her the treats. If she steps towards you CLICK! and treat. Then just like you did when you first started working with her indoors, CLICK! and reward her for just a few steps at a time until she is walking with you easily. Depending on kitty, this might happen in one session, or it may take several.

7. Teach kitty to walk with you in heel position while on harness and leash, indoors and out. You may be content with the leash walking behavior you have already achieved and may not have an interest in a more formal heel for kitty. If so, that's fine. But if you are ready for another challenge, please read on. Teaching kitty to heel is really fairly simple once she's walking on a leash. You are merely going to "shape" her to heel position. And you can even teach her to sit when you halt if you want. Shaping is the process of clicking and rewarding successive approximations of the desired goal behavior until you have the behavior you want. In this case let's say kitty walks on a leash with you and ranges anywhere from right next to you to four feet away at the end of the leash. The average is about two feet away. Start by clicking and rewarding her anytime she is within two feet of you, only on the side you want her to heel to. Over several sessions you should begin to see her staying closer to you and spending most of her time on the correct side. Now raise the criteria. Only CLICK! and treat if she is within 18 inches, decrease the criteria to one foot. Add the verbal "HEEL!" cue and you're ready to roll.

And what about teaching her to sit? You don't need me anymore! See if you can get her to do it on your own. Good luck!