The benefits of using a long line
As a Dorset dog trainer, I have an array of equipment at my disposal that I use in my everyday work. A key component of this tool bag is the long line. Whilst a simple piece of equipment it always amazes me how many people use it incorrectly both to the detriment of the training and also the welfare of the dog. Over the time I have used this piece of equipment I have modified how I use it based on what works and what doesn’t.
What is a Long Line
It is nothing complicated, it is what it is a piece of longline. You can buy them already made or you can make them yourself. I tend to look out for very cheap dog leads and take off the metal clips which attach to the collar. As a dog trainer I come across a variety of sizes of dog and therefore need several long lines varying in strength. I also have several long lines which vary in length and their use will depend on what I’m doing with that dog. They are usually between 6-15 meters. Personally, most of my lines are a white cord which I get from a sailing shop. I like this cord because it’s easy to attach the clip and tends not to fray when dragged along the ground. To attach the clip, I will bind the cord onto it and use heat shrink to protect the binding. It is important that a loop is not put in the line as a handle as it could get caught. Also a dog should never be unsupervised with a long line on
What is the long line used for?
There is a wealth of information on the Internet regarding the use of the longline. Some of it should be disregarded whilst other information is relevant. What I’m going to discuss here is based on my teaching techniques and years of experience improving how I use the longline based on what works and what I’m trying to achieve. The fundamental reason I use a longline both in my dog training and puppy classes is to keep me in touch with the dog without it being on a lead. A key point here which many clients, using a longline, get wrong is that the longline is not a lead. A large part of my training involves teaching the client how to use the longline correctly. It is about them imagining that the longline does not really exist and therefore it is up to them to work their dog to remain in a safe zone around them. If they have to use the longline to reinforce or control the dog then technically the dog ignored them and perhaps ran off. Of course, the longline stops this and stops the dog self-rewarding this behaviour.
The longline allows me to achieve the following:
it allows me to give the dog some freedom off lead and it is unable to ignore any command I give so self-rewarding that behaviour.
It gives the client a sense of confidence that they can have the dog off the lead and have a safety net in case the dog tries to escape or ignore the recall command.
The longline allows me to train a recall command in an ever-increasing distraction environment without the dog self-rewarding by ignoring the command.
How to use the long line
I have two ways of using the longline. One is where the end is held, the client controls the dog and plays out the line and retrieves it depending where the dog is in relation to the client. A critical point here is that the line must never go tight with the dog pulling it. For more experienced clients and dogs all of the line is dropped on the floor and it is a client’s role to stay within touching distance of the line. Again, the role of the client is to work the dog so keeping it in the safe zone using name calls and recalls using the whistle. If client is being proactive and anticipates the dog is going to leave the safe zone or the client has seen something which may become a distraction they may need to recall the dog back and place on the lead.
The longline is only a safety net between the client and the dog. Its sole purpose is to stop the dog self-rewarding by ignoring commands or trying to escape. If the client employs the training techniques which I teach at Muttley Solutions then they should be to keep the dog focused and not have to use a longline to intervene.
An example of using a longline would be as follows: I have the longline on the floor and always keep it within reach of my foot. Therefore, I have to observe and anticipate what the dog is doing and also watch my position to the longline. Events can happen very quickly so I like to have a good 2 meters of line behind me at any time. If I call the dog’s name blow a whistle command I will expect the dog to respond immediately. If it doesn’t then I will give a gentle tug on the longline whilst giving the command again. This is usually enough to get the dog to obey the command, it most likely didn’t hear you. However, if the dog still ignores me then I gently reel the longline in and reward the dog when it gets to me. It may seem strange that we are rewarding the dog for ignoring us however, we are rewarding the fact the dog is back with us and so reinforcing we represent nice things.
As the owner becomes more experienced using the longline more confident controlling their dog in a variety of distraction environments then I will cut the longline in half. This can be a stressful time for the client, but I only do it when I feel they are confident and can manage their dog. Of course, this raises their game but they quickly find they can still control their dog. The purpose of cutting the longline in half each time it so that the dog doesn’t suddenly find it has no line on at all and it helps with the client’s confidence. The end goal is that there will be no longline in place and the client can control their dog through being proactive and having a solid recall command in a variety of distraction environments.
In conclusion the longline allows me to push the boundaries of the dog and puppy training I deliver in a live environment. It also stops the dog learning or reinforcing that it can ignore any command the owner gives without there being a consequence of being brought back to the owner.