Opposition Reflex in Dogs

Opposition Reflex

Posted on Posted in Training

Opposition Reflex is a term used to describe why a puppy first resists the tension of the leash by stopping or pulling away.  When tension is applied, a dog’s predatory instinct of fight, freeze or flight kicks in.  Many people don’t realize dogs have this reflex or they believe a dog stops or pulls out of spite or challenge.

The main pull prevention exercise, for puppies or dogs who do not already have a strong habit, is the red light/green light game. The rule of this game is that, while on a walk with the dog, you may only move forward if the leash is loose and jangly. As soon as the dog tightens the leash, you freeze dead in your tracks. The loose leash is the green light—handler moves forward; the tight leash is the red light—handler stops. Moving in the direction the dog wants to go is a potent reinforcer, which you must never give for pulling on leash.

The first time you play this game, the dog will likely do a bit of lunging and straining when you put the brakes on. Simply wait until eventually, by chance, he slackens the leash. Then start moving. As soon as you do so, he will re- energize and, no doubt, hit the end of the leash, causing you to stop again. And so on. The dog requires some repetition to see the trend: tightening the leash grinds the walk to a halt every single time, slackening the leash makes movement happen. The dog does not learn to walk on a loose leash in one shot. What you get, rather, is a gradual decrease in attempts at pulling. So, keep it up. Timing helps enormously here. The more you can simulate a cause and effect relationship between behavior and consequence, the faster he’ll learn.

In addition to working on training, switching up your equipment will also vastly help in producing a calm loose leash walk. Consider purchasing a no-pull harness such as the Sense’ation Harness available for purchase online.