Dragline training using negative reinforcement avoidance conditioning

Dragline (aka long lead) training is an important part of my training program.  Each of my dogs goes through dragline training before we advance onto other curricula.  I do not allow a dog to interact freely with my livestock unless he or she has graduated from dragline training.

When discussing training, it is important to have a common understanding of the terminology in use. Negative reinforcement is not punishment, and no punishment is used in this guide. Negative reinforcement occurs during a behavior, whereas punishment occurs after a behavior.  Negative reinforcement is simply something a subject will work to avoid.  For the situation presented in this guide, my warning sound (conditioned reinforcer) is a short hissing sound I make by pushing air between my tongue and the roof of my mouth.  This sound is reminiscent of the air being let out of a tire.

Training Guide

Dog Situation

  • Lad is a farm dog who needs to walk by his owner’s side when encountered by another dog or faced with a wild animal.

Dog Behavior

  • Lad chases wild animals and rushes at other dogs.

Trainer response

  • The trainer advises Lad’s owner to use a dragline, martingale collar, and negative reinforcement avoidance conditioning.
    • On training walks, when Lad runs out a few steps in front of his owner, his owner makes a warning sound.  If Lads returns to his owner’s side, he is praised.  If Lad does not return to his owner’s side, his owner steps on the dragline. 
    • Warning sound + stepping on the dragline = negative reinforcement avoidance conditioning.  The warning sound is a conditioned reinforcer that gives Lad an opportunity to avoid having the dragline stepped on.
    • Praise for return to his owner’s side = positive reinforcement. 


  • After just a few training sessions, the dragline can be moved to a variable schedule of reinforcement, because Lad now stays at his owner’s side or quickly returns there if the warning sound is made.   
  • After a few more training sessions without the dragline, Lad always stays at his owner’s side. 
  • When encountered by another dog or faced with a wild animal, Lad is praised for staying at his owner’s side.
  • Dragline training is placed on a variable schedule of reinforcement until the behavior is permanent.
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