Dear Old Trainer: We just adopted Eli, a 2-year old Doberman. He is trained and knows "sit" and "stay." His only fault is he pulls so hard on the leash when we walk it is hard to control him. Why does he do it and how do we stop him?
-- Demmie, Monterrey
A: Eli thinks it is natural to pull hard, Demmie. He enjoys it. In his mind he is "young and strong and running against the wind" as Bob Seger put it.
Breaking the habit is easy if you dedicate yourself to the task. Any time you work with a young, energetic dog like Eli you will find training becomes easier if you throw a ball for 20 minutes before you begin the session.
The command that controls excess pulling is "easy." Teaching this command is the only time you ever use a short leash while walking your dog. Turn all walks into training sessions until he learns how to do it right.
As soon as Eli starts to pull, say "easy," hit your thigh with a rolled up newspaper -- making as much noise as you can -- and give a tug on the leash. When he looks back, repeat the command, and tug the leash again. If he stops pulling, even for a few seconds, praise him and pet him.
The first action breaks his concentration on his own desires, the petting tells him he is doing what the leader wants him to do.
Since Eli knows "sit," incorporate that in the training. If he ignores "easy," make him sit, and tell him, "Look at me." Lecture him and tell him what "easy" means. Do it every 10 steps if that is what it takes.
If Eli does not respond to "easy" after 10 minutes, tap him on the nose with the paper as you give the command. Pet him and love on him every time he eases up.
Be relentless. If you are, Eli will relax and quit pulling in a few days. When he does, go back to the retractable leash, let it out all the way, and work on the command every time you walk.
Dear Old Trainer: I saw a notice on a local TV station that we should clean dog dishes every week. Is that important? If so, what is the best way to clean them?
-- James, Tulsa, Oklahoma
A: All food and water dishes should be cleaned weekly, James. Here is a quick and easy way to do it:
1. Fill the bowl with soap and water and let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Empty, then put a teaspoon of bleach in the bottom and fill with water.
3. Use a rag to wash the interior and exterior surfaces.
4. Empty, then rinse well with cool water.
5. Let the dish air dry before using.
This works on all surfaces except aluminum (never use bleach on an aluminum dish). Do it weekly and keep your pet healthy.
Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org