chickEveryone realizes the fragility of a chick. They are cute, soft and cuddly. However they must be treated with gentle hands.

If you have never held one in your hand, then go visit a farmer friend or your local feed store, so as to really feel how fragile they are. Hence, this game is called “Think Chick,” so as to remind you to have “soft hands.”

In the equestrian world, “Soft Hands” are what we call pulling on the reins in a soft manner—just enough to communicate to the horse. It allows the horse to bend properly and be balanced.

Imagining you have a chick in your hands as you pull on the reins reminds one to use just enough pressure to communicate to the horse and not pull hard and crank on the bit in their mouth.

horseThe horse learns to give to the pressure and bend. Imagine when driving a horse, only having the reins to communicate with the horse, while you are in the carriage or cart — as seen in the picture as I drive my Pierre.

Soft Hands In Dog Training

The “Think Chic” game will help you as you train your dog how to move towards the direction that you pull the leash.

This has to be learned by the dog. Why? Because in loose leash walking, we want avoid an opposition reflex from the dog.

Opposition reflex means if they are pulled in one direction, they will pull in the other.

This is one reason why we see dogs pulling on leash. It’s instinctive to a dog, even if it means being choked by a choke or prong collar. The more you pull, the more he pulls.

So we need to train the dog to “give” to the pressure from the leash.

“Soft Hands” can help you do that.

How to Think Chick & Use Soft Hands to Avoid Pulling On Leash

chick2 When you pull on the leash think / pretend you have a chick in your hand.

That will keep you from pulling too hard and keep your “Soft Hands.”

  1. Gather the leash starting with only approximately 1-2 ft between the dog and your hand. Pull gently (Think Chic) to either the left or right side to start, and mark and reward when he gives to the pressure and turns, even if it’s just a little bit at first. If the dog doesn’t give, ease off the pressure and then reapply the gentle pull. Each time the dog gives in, mark and reward.
  2. Work both sides. So if you started step #1 on the right, now work on the left and vice versa. Continue to mark and reward.
  3. Gradually increase the length of the leash between you and the dog. Then start adding movement. Walk a few steps and ask for a “give” in either direction. Work both sides before moving onto step 4. Increase your steps gradually and ask for a “give.”
  4. When reliable on giving to the side pressure, start working on forward pressure. Again start with the leash being shorter — approximately 1-2 ft. — and work gradually toward a longer leash.
  5. Lastly, teach him to give to backward pressure / pull.
    Note: when pulling the leash back, the dog may turn around to face you. That’s fine. He may need to do so to reorient himself at first. “Giving’ when you pull back can be by means of stopping or turning.
  6. Work on different angles. For example, work on figure eights.

Of course, throughout this process, you mark and reward when the dog “gives’ to the pressure / pull, during the training.

A Few Final Pointers

When using a harness, start with the front clip first. Then, when reliable, use the back clip.

Do not jerk, yank, or pull with strong or constant pressure. Remember “Think Chick.”

Some dog trainers teach mechanical games to their students for loose leash walking, but don’t teach how to use the leash.

My Kellogg when he was a chic

My Kellogg when he was a chic

This game can be taught to help them learn how to handle the leash, even with puppies. Just as we start imprinting a newborn foal, and teach them to “give,” so as to be led where they will need to go, we can teach a puppy.

This is a step by step, take it slow, process. But with patience, it will pay off.