Brandon McMillan's Canine Minded | How to Gain Control of your Out of Control Dog
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How to Gain Control of your Out of Control Dog

How to Gain Control of your Out of Control Dog

I can’t say it enough. Control is the absolute first step in the training process. Without control we can’t train. When a teacher has a classroom full of students she gains control of them by having them sit in their assigned seats. Now she has them under control she can effectively and efficiently teach them. I see so many people trying to train their dog without gaining any form of control first which make the process way more difficult and 10 times as long. A leash on a dog is control. 2 leashes on a dog is double the control and that’s what I’ll be going over today.

The technique I’ll be breaking down has become one of my staple techniques in dog training. I call it the “Double Leash Lock-Off.” You see me use it time and again on Lucky Dog when I’m training out of control dogs. The reason I swear by this technique is because it works SO well. Not every technique is going to work on every dog. You’re going to have a moderate success rate with most methods because not every dog is the same. Dogs are like a thumbprint. No two are alike and no two issues are the exact same so techniques are completely subjective to the pupil and what they respond to. However, this technique has been been proven time and again to be successful on probably 95% of the dogs I use it on. The best part about it is the simplicity of it. It’s not a very advanced technique but the results are very high level. Let’s break this down…

The tools you’ll need are 2 leashes (6 ft), a harness and a bag of treats. You’re going to simply harness your dog up and attach 1 leash to the harness. From there you’re going to loop the handle end of that leash around the leg of a couch or heavy table. The second leash will attach to their collar. Both leashes serve a purpose. The back leash is called the “Anchor Leash” while the front one is known as the “Guide Leash.”  Now we’re geared up and locked off let’s get started…

You’ll notice when you pull the front leash it will automatically straighten your dog’s body with you so they can’t move left, right, forward or backwards. Hold a treat up in the air a couple feet away from their snout. This will set them off and most likely cause them to start lunging for it. They’ll probably put up a fight for the first few moments which is not only expected but completely normal. All you’re going to do is wait them out for the struggling to stop. The more they struggle all I want you to do is simply pull that leash towards you. This will straighten and control them even more. Wait them out. If you want to give a “Calm Down” command here it’s completely up to you but not totally necessary. Most dogs calm down after just a few seconds, some might take a little longer. When they calm down and are completely still I want you to silently count to “3” in your head. At “3” IF they’re still calm I want you to praise and reward them with the treat. DO NOT reward them if you’re about to praise them and they suddenly get out of control again. This might take a few times to get down and time correctly but it’s pretty simple when you get it. Again we’re going to repeat the process, holding the treat up, pulling the front leash if they begin to fight and lunge for it and wait for them to calm down for 3 full seconds. When they do simply reward them again. Your goal is to slowly add a little more time. Don’t go too fast when adding time. I’d recommend sessions where you do it 10 times at 3 seconds then give it a rest. Your next session you’ll do it again 10 times but make it 4 seconds. Next session add another second, and so on, and so forth. After a week or so you should be able to eliminate the leashes and simply rely on technique alone. This process is a perfect prerequisite for training other commands because now they’re controlled when learning. I wish I could sit here and explain more but that’s honestly how simple and effective this technique is. Just repeat it over and over and add time throughout the week. Boom and done!

As always the details are what’s important in the training. Let’s talk about why this is so simple. As I mentioned before an out of control dog is very difficult to train. All you did here was gain control by adding leashes to the equation. Dogs learn just like humans in many ways. They are trial and error animals that respond to conditioning and muscle memory. They learn very quickly that when they put up a fight it deny’s them getting the reward. The way they got the reward was calming down and the leashes assisted in that process. Without the leashes they’d most likely take weeks if not months to learn to calm down to get rewarded. The leashes speed the process up and make the training much more efficient. What generally happens when training a dog without a leash is they learn to outmaneuver their owner, handler or trainer and eventually that leads to a bad habit because as I just mentioned dogs are animals of conditioning and muscle memory. If you allow them to be out of control constantly they’ll condition themselves that way and they’ll grow up to be an out of control dog. They’re only responding to what you let them respond to. Leashes are key when training anything…especially when teaching control. Also I want to point out the importance of waiting a few seconds before rewarding them. If they’re putting up a fight and then calm down just for 1 second then you reward them, they’re under the impression they’re getting a treat for struggling. You have to let them calm down for a few full seconds to allow the brain to compute why they’re getting rewarded. The longer they’re calm, the more they’ll understand why they’re being rewarded. This is why I’m so adamant about waiting a FULL 3 seconds for them to be completely calm. When their body shifts the gears into park, their brain does too. From there you’re allowing the brain to absorb the information in a much more efficient manner. So just like a teacher you’ve basically put the child in their seat and at their desk in the classroom. Trust me this really is simple, you just have to do the work.

Try this on your dog. It should only take a week or so for them to get this down. Remember consistency is the key to training. Don’t do it once and assume they’re experts at it. Dog training is martial arts for dogs. Much like if you went to 1 class and learned a kick for an hour you’re not by any means a black belt. Show up to that class night after night and eventually you’ll be a force to be reckoned with. The same rules apply in dog training. There is no substitute for conditioning. It’s the number 1 way to get your dog very well trained. It’s also the number 1 reason people quit when training their dog because they realize it takes work. Keep this in mind…if you give up you’ve officially lost to a dog! Try it out and let me know how it goes. Ruff.

  • Brandon


  • Laurie
    Posted at 20:19h, 05 February Reply

    Thanks Brandon! I’m going to try this on my 4 year old GSD. She has the sweetest disposition and she’s super smart. Her only issue and it’s been addressed by a few different trainers is that when she is on a leash or sees another dog she lunges. She is absolutely harmless and loves everyone, but people and other dogs think she’s being aggressive. She’s not. She, in my opinion is boisterous, excited and maybe a bit mouthy. Some of the methods from trainers have been choke collars, which I couldn’t master, a barricade method, which is unrealistic and yelling, which I’m not really crazy about. I do use a Easy Walk harness and I have a bit more control. What I would really like is for her to be calm. Thanks for the tip and I will let you know how it works out.

  • Kat
    Posted at 20:18h, 07 February Reply

    You are the best! Thank you for taking time to explain in detail the how”s and why’s of dog training! Wish I lived in LA to be on your show (which is #1 in my book)! Ruff back lol 🙂

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  • Carol Bleskey
    Posted at 16:58h, 15 February Reply

    Brandon, talking about medication….
    I have a rat terrier dachshund mix that was transported in a crate from California to Utah .
    We picked her up from a shelter.
    She is a total wreck after about 4 hours in a car even when we stop every hour.
    Medication or another alternative ?
    Help us please. We want to travel all over with her.
    Thank you,

  • Jerry Sodemann
    Posted at 22:03h, 15 February Reply

    Brandon, we just got a little Yellow Lab puppy, she’s 7 weeks old. Sweetest, smartest little ball of fur you’d every find. We’ve run into a little problem with house training her. She’s picked up the concept of going outside the very first day. However our problem is in the fact when she has to go potty, she’ll stop playing with a toy and make a mad dash to the door, stop and pee or poop as soon as she gets to the door. No human can get off the couch and to the door that fast.

    Any suggestion on how we can make her wait a second or so before she empties herself? We don’t want to scold her for doing what she thinks is the right thing to do.

  • jill
    Posted at 21:38h, 17 February Reply


    I get control of both of my dogs when training no problem BUT when I put them in a car or take them for a walk they go nuts when they see people or dogs or anything that moves honestly! How can I remedy this? If the windows are down in the car I am afraid they may jump out while barking at people walking by that are at least 15 feet away!

  • Tom Davis
    Posted at 20:01h, 24 February Reply

    I just received a 12 year old Cocker . He is very Calm . He also is very much like the 18 year old cocker mix i had from birth. Brandon I didnt start with the control command I did the sit thing . Well the second day he was picking up the sit command you say do this for a week and if i read thing correctly i can move to the next . the next I will use the two leash method. Is this correct?
    Is their any think i should watch for health wise with a cocker ? i notice he has slective hearing but has great eye sight confoemed by the Vet i had check him out. hr has a slight heart mermer but he is over weight at 37 lbs i would like to see him at 32 number.
    I love your show and my 18 year old watched it every saturday until he passed
    many thanks Tomdavis

  • Debra Anne Carr
    Posted at 21:59h, 08 March Reply

    Thanks so much for your help!! Will try to figure out how to do this with 2 leashes and harness. .<3

  • Patti Constance
    Posted at 22:56h, 12 March Reply

    Hi, I was just wondering if you were married?

  • Josie v Bashir
    Posted at 16:48h, 11 June Reply

    Leash control for me and snouzer terrier is a challenge. I try different ways to leash him exersise treats gloves laying with him . After those routines for 3-6 weeks he returns to grabbing and tugging easy to teach Cartier is how to continue

  • Sally Daskivich
    Posted at 17:41h, 22 June Reply

    Hi Brandon,
    I love your show Lucky Dog and I love your techniques. I rescued a 5 yr old Golden Doodle. Her owners died within 14 months of each other. The man gave her no structure at all from a ;puppy, so you can imagine at 4 years old now, she is a hand full. When certain people come in that she somewhat knows, she jumps from one couch to the other before I can get a hold of her. I know I should have a leash at the door before they even come in and I will in the future.. She is only 50 pounds, but I am only 5’2″ and she is strong. I have put her in time out from time to time and that works some, but not totally. She is also a barker and that is annoying also. So I am working on changing the past four years of no structure. Any other help you could suggest would be most helpful. Thank you so much for listening and I think you are terrific.

  • Leigh redding
    Posted at 00:36h, 22 July Reply

    Great article. Going to try this. Don’t know if you answer questions here. Would love to know how to apply this when going on a walk, with a highly reactive dog (actually it’s two beautiful shelties, one of a year and a half and one of 7months)?

  • Lindsay Borden
    Posted at 00:19h, 26 September Reply

    First try today. He calmed down right away and looked bored by the process, haha!

  • mae rob
    Posted at 18:45h, 18 October Reply

    have you ever tried training a deaf dog? mine watches us for the come here command, we just bought a vibration collar. thanks.

  • Michelle Sosa
    Posted at 19:08h, 30 October Reply

    I have a 50 lb lab/Pitt mix. A wonderful rescue dog, very intelligent. However I am having trouble with her pulling on the leash. She is sniffing the whole time so is always pulling forward. I have taken her to training but she doesn’t seem to get the technique, and if I am very firm she cowers and looks at me as if to say, what am I doing wrong? She was mistreated in her past I am sure.
    I saw a episode today with Olie the big black lab with white nose. I wondered if you could tell me more about the leash that went over his nose to help control his walking.

  • Elizabeth E. Gluck
    Posted at 07:44h, 06 November Reply

    Brandon my name is Beth we got a dog frim a rescue about two months ago. And though she is very cute to look at its been kind of a night mare. Her name is Dolly. The rescue has her birth date as August on her paper work and they told us she was a year old. We took her to our vet said she was not a year old but guessed about six months. So she is a puppy they say she is German Shepherd mix at last weigh in she was thirty pounds so I am guessing she has something small in her genetics. To get to the point we also have a black lab a male he is 11 years old had him since he was eight weeks old. Anyway he is older anyway Dolly bites his ears, his legs his tail I realize she is trying to play but his days of playing I think are past but he is an excellent dog. Dolly also chews up everything else in the house. I am wondering what is the best trainning method to get her past this. I want Dolly to be happy here with us. We got Dolly shortly after another sweet dog we had from puppyhood died at the age of 9 years from kidney failure due to cancer. We were were worried our beloved Shadow our lab would be lonely and that is our reasoning behind getting another dog so quickly. And Shadow loved our other dog Shasta was her name a Border Collie. And the two of them were inseperable I just hope we did the right thing getting rid of Dolly is not an option because I have grown to like her even though she is chrwing me out of house and home. Please help. Thank you.

  • Jenniffer Jude Slachtovsky
    Posted at 16:42h, 02 December Reply

    Thank you Brandon so very much! this is definitely going to help our dogs, I already knew to keep them in “their” area on a leash until they were calm and then to reward them, but the second leash is a new concept that I will definitely be using to help our pups.

  • Laura Galindo
    Posted at 13:01h, 17 December Reply

    I will try this with my two little chihuahuas, if im able to train them i will definitely be confident to get myself a bigger dog that i need as a service dog.
    Thanks for the advice..

  • Charles McCauley
    Posted at 08:11h, 21 January Reply

    I have a 7 week old dachshund mix. Can I start training her now and if so what should I be training her? Thanks

  • Connie DeLong
    Posted at 23:01h, 12 February Reply

    Do you sell any books or cd’s for training?

  • Glen Carr
    Posted at 23:40h, 06 May Reply

    Great training techniques. Gentle and calm. Love the show too.

  • Ruth A. Ferguson
    Posted at 13:52h, 20 May Reply

    What brand of harness do u use? Have a small dachshund,

  • Deena Frantz
    Posted at 19:45h, 23 May Reply

    Thank u, I’m going to give this a try with my dog. After I have him under control how do I apply this when he’s barking as people walk by my house?

  • Deena Frantz
    Posted at 19:46h, 23 May Reply

    Thank u, . After I have him under control how do I apply this when he’s barking as people walk by my house?

  • Deena Frantz
    Posted at 19:47h, 23 May Reply

    After I have him under control how do I apply this when he’s barking as people walk by my house?

  • KyleDaniels
    Posted at 12:51h, 01 July Reply

    I also use 2 leashes on my Yellow John and that was WAY b4 i read this… however, i attach the 1 leash2 the other leash, making the leash longer and the minute he strays to the left or right while walking him, i tug the leash slightly and he walks comes back2 the straight and narrow lifestyle… Lol

  • Penny Applegate
    Posted at 10:09h, 08 September Reply

    Brandon, I read your article in Guideposts. I want to know about training dogs for our wounded Vets. If I bought a dog for you to train as a service “friend” and shipped it to you, would you charge me? A breader of golden labs here has beautiful thoroughbred dogs and I would so much like to give one, or more, to our service men who’ve lost so much in giving to me. I know some rescue dogs are also trainable. Operative word, some. I wouldn’t know how to pick. Or maybe there is a service dog trainer in Wasilla or Anchorage you would recommend..
    How does one learn to service train? I taught a little female Aussie hand signals once…no one was even aware of them as I entertained. they sure thought her well behaved! Smile. But I am sure teaching a service dog would be quite different. Is there a book on technics for trading service dogs? Or should you write specifically for it…. Looking forward to you guidance. And Thankyou so much. Penny

  • bernina lavern richardson
    Posted at 12:28h, 11 November Reply

    my 3 yr old pit is find when on the leash, once you remove it, he takes off all over the place. How i get him remain calm after the leash is removed, please give me some insight on what to do……

  • Serena Rose
    Posted at 17:22h, 27 December Reply

    Thanks Brandon!!!
    Definitely works

  • Rachel Cruger
    Posted at 13:28h, 18 January Reply

    First of all, I love your show when I am able to watch it. Your kindness and love for your animals are outstanding.
    I have a 3 year old Terrier mix named “Snowball”. you guessed It, she is all white,I have had her over a year.. I think she has some Jack Russel in her. She is very lovable however, her problem, or I should say my problem is she only listens when its convenient for her, she is very strong willed. She sits on the back of the chair during the morning hours and looks out the window, which I do not have a problem with, However, as soon as she sees a person or animal passing, she goes balistic and barks continuously until they pass. She then wants to run out in the backyard. I do not allow to go out there at those times due to the fact that it is to early and I don’t want her barking and disturbing the neighbors. Yes, I have moved the chair, she knows how to open the shutters to look out. I cannot seem to make her stop barking or running around like a crazy dog. I am a senior, if that matters. I do love her very much. but there are times I get very frustrated with her. Yes, I did take her to Obiedient Classes at Petsmart. It seemed to help for awhile I did learn some techniques, however the above problem is the worse aside from walking her, which is another disaster. Are there any tips you can give me that I can implement to help with this problem???? Thank you so much for your consideration.

  • Kari Hanna
    Posted at 20:02h, 08 February Reply

    Hello Brandon,

    Thank you for posting all of these great tips. You make everything look and sound easy though! I wish you could help me!

    Do you think that this double leash control technique would serve as a prerequisite to learning loose leash walking?
    And have your heard of the umbilical cord technique, I wonder if that would be helpful too?

    Nala is our Siberian Husky, she is 2.5 years old. She is sweet and is pretty obedient at home. I have tried to teach her to walk on a leash nicely but she will only walk nicely once she’s is very tired from pulling. I have read about leash training and I understand that you are supposed to turn around or stop when they pull, but I just don’t understand how to get the process started when they are pulling right off the bat. I can’t even make it TO the driveway before she is already choking herself out. So, am I supposed to take her back inside the house? I have tried doing it once we have got to the side walk and we literally will not be able to go anywhere because she will not let up. And she will also be crying and having a fit, so that doesn’t seem productive either because she is not paying attention to WHY this is happening. So how do you properly help her understand what it is that you want accomplished and how long do you let that go on for before taking them back inside with NO understanding of what just went on?

    She does know “sit” and “come” but doesn’t always listen when she is excited (outside of the house).

    Please help, if possible!

    Hopeful Husky Mom
    Atlanta, GA

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