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Training Ellis: Leash Walking

As I'm writing this post, Ellis has been a part of my life for exactly five days, and I'll admit, he's changed the way I think about a lot of things. When I met him at the Middleburg Heights Animals Shelter, I was there to work with a volunteer on an issue with a different dog. I heard another dog barking, and asked if could see him. Buster was his name (now named Ellis), and I knew I needed to get him out of the shelter and into a home. But he was a total jackass. Almost knocked me down at the shelter, leash pulling, barking and generally just an idiot. But not bad. He was doing things his way, and considering that he's a roughly one-year old, high energy dog, it's amazing he wasn't doing things aggressively after being cooped up in a shelter for so long. He's also not dumb. I saw that at the shelter, but I was still blown away by his intelligence once I got him home.

He's part of the family now. And while he's always going to be my boy, and I will always love him, he has a different home where he belongs. We just need to find it. Until then, he will be loved and cared for just the same as all my other children/furkids/featherkids.

His energy level is through the roof, but I already knew that. One of the difficulties that presented itself at the shelter was how to get rid of his energy. Volunteer staffing is hard to find, even in the best of times. On top of that, he was so energetic, it seemed to needed to be walked before his walk to get out his energy, just so he could be safely walked without dragging someone!

As I said, Ellis is intelligent, and kindhearted. I'm not going to say that he's willing to learn, because that's dismissive of his own intelligence. He's one step ahead of that: he's willing to communicate. And one of the first things we needed to communicate about was how to get rid of his energy.

In the video below, you'll see exactly how I work with any dog on a leash, be it fear reactivity, a pulling dog, or a scared dog. Ellis had the benefit of having some of his energy removed by a thorough game of fetch before we even attempted to walk him, so he was in a good place to try to focus on communicating, rather than be ratcheted up from energy. So we started in a good place. Take a look and see how he did.

So again, this video was taken the day after we got him. Since that time, his leash skills have really polished up well! Every morning, I have been taking him and my Papillion, Orion, for a mile long run in the Metroparks, and he is truly enjoyable to walk. He still has a few questions, such as, "Can we play with that person over there?", but he accepts my gentle negative very easily after only 5 days with him.

Working with Ellis has little to do with training, but more to do with Piloting. Learning to Pilot your dog, and communicate rather than dominate or placate, is the key to the healthy relationship you are both looking for.

Tell me your thoughts about how Ellis did in the comments! And stay tuned for more videos. Check out our other videos to see how Ellis did learning with my boundaries (not to eat my ducks!), as well as how he did learning how to properly greet guests without jumping.


Yeah, we foster failed Ellis about 3 weeks after this was posted. I knew he needed a forever-home; I just didn't realize as quickly as he did that he was already where he belonged: with me forever. Welcome home, Ellis.

Kerry Stack Darwin Dogs Dog Training, Differently

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Kerry Stack
Kerry Stack
Feb 23, 2021

Thank you for doing the work you do! Any little bit helps these dogs get the homes they deserve, and the volunteers are the integral part of this. You have my full support. Have you considered coming to one of our pack walks? Feel free to bring any dog friendly dog you are able to bring from the shelter. I’d be happy to show you with each “dog of the week” how to implement these methods with various dogs. 


This was very helpful. I walk dogs and take them on field trips at the APL. I wish we had this training because often we will be their only walking training that can help them be more adoptable. It’s no fun walking a pulling dog! I hope I can try out your ideas but we aren’t always in a position to get the same dog out depending on who needs to get out but that’s what I like about field trips, I can spend more time with them and they definitely are excited to get out so high energy!

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