Every walk is a battle...

Share your favorite training tips, ideas and methods with other Positively members!

Moderators: emmabeth, BoardHost

Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 3:23 pm

Every walk is a battle...

Post by at_my_wits_end » Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:02 am


My apologies if this is covered elsewhere. We have tried so many trainers, collars, and techniques that at this point we are feeling quite defeated and do not know what to do next. As was mentioned in one of the articles on this site, his behavior has led us to walk him less, as it usually ends up with both me and my husband quite frustrated by the end.

Brief background:
We adopted our weimeraner mix about 9 months ago, and he is now about 16 months old. Although he started out as the sweetest dog we had ever met, he has become increasingly difficult as he has entered his "teenage-hood". About 80% of the time he is wonderful, calm, and fun. The other 20% overshadows the good times to the point where we aren't sure if we can put up with this for the next 10+ years. For now, I am just going to ask about the walking...

Our pup insists on leading the walk. Pulling moderately in a less-distracting environment (like our empty street at midday) to full out drag-me-down if we're hiking in the woods. He doesn't bolt ahead and strain hard on the end of his leash right away, but rather inches forward until the leash is quite taut. We have tried using the following collars: flat, martingale, gentle leader - all to no avail. In fact, although he has been properly fitted with the gentle leader, he pulls SO hard, that the loop around his muzzle scrunches up under his eye, and we are concerned this will lead to damage. The pulling turns to thrashing when we encounter another dog (even from a distance of 15 feet), with whining, and heavy vocalizing (but not barking). We have been advised to use a pinch/prong collar, but we do not wish to go this route, and, quite frankly, I don't think he would respond to the discomfort given his ignorance of the gentle leader pulling against his face. He is very collar-smart, and is nearly impossible when we switch him back to a flat collar. Just as an example, we took him on a 10 mile hike last weekend and forgot the gentle leader. On a flat collar the entire time, it took until mile 7.5 that he finally started to allow some slack on the leash - and this was with the aid of using the trees lining the path as barriers to prevent him from getting ahead of us.

We have gone through several trainers at this point, all who have been quite willing to charge hundreds in fees, and then blame us when their techniques do not work. So far we have tried the following:

1. Gentle leader with allowing our dog to "self-correct". Our dog seems oblivious to the discomfort of the gentle leader.

2. Turn quickly around when our dog tries to get in front. All this succeeds in doing is making me dizzy, and he starts pulling ahead again as soon as we are on a straight path.

3. Treating to keep him at our side. As soon as he receives the treat, he pulls ahead again. If we hold on to the treat for more than a minute, he pulls ahead regardless.

4. When we see another dog (squirrel, cyclist, or runner) on a walk before he does, we try to distract him with a treat and performing some obedience behavior to keep him focused on us. We have gone from "sit" to "sit up" as it seems to require more of his mental energy. However, on our walk yesterday, his favorite treats were no match for the dogs passing within a few feet, and even with the gentle leader on he nearly took me down, and popped my neck with the force of his thrashing and jerking. Later on in that same walk, we had dogs on several sides, and there was no easy way to remove him quickly off course. So, I used a technique our current trainer offered to keep him from thrashing around other dogs - to hold his leash snugly below his chin so he could not thrash. This got me nipped - though I think more from our pup's discontent at being restrained around the other dogs. He has never tried to aggressively bite a human (knock on wood).

5. One trainer advised us to "Stick our chests out, be confident in our pose, and don't let him get ahead of us. He is acting this way to try and protect us and we need to show him that it's the other way around". This is almost comical to watch as our pup tries to get ahead of us on either side or through our legs. If I slack up the leash, he simply forges ahead.

6. We have tried the stop light method. It took 45 minutes to walk one mile last night. He never did "get it" that we stop as soon as he pulls ahead.

7. Simply allow him to walk ahead of us, as long as he stays on a loose lead. As soon as gets to the end of his leash, he stays there and keeps the tension on the lead.

One of the issues we have read about in regard to using only positive reinforcement is that it creates the type of relationship with your dog where he will only work for treats. We have seen this occur in our pup, as every time we have tried to wean him off of treats (he is very food motivated), he stops performing the solicited behaviors (whether on a fixed or variable schedule).

We are "at our wits end" in trying to fix this problem. Hopefully you can understand why we are reluctant to go to yet another trainer. We would just like to enjoy a loose leash walk with our dog, without having to become boot camp parents in order to do so. We are hardly pushovers when it comes to being leaders with our pup... food and treats are not "free" in our home, he has to sit before he gets to go outside, when he demands play - we ignore such demands and play on our schedule.. etc. etc.

If anyone has suggestions, we are most appreciative. There are some other issues we're trying to deal with as well, but fixing this would go a long way to improving our relationship with our dog.

Thank you,
At my wits end

Posts: 2120
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 6:49 pm
Location: Bad Fallingbostel, Germany

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by Sarah83 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:15 am

I used the go in the opposite direction method with Rupert and like you I found myself getting really dizzy at first so instead of turning I'd just walk backwards (unless I'd just crossed a road or there were people behind me, then I'd turn). How long did you try this method for? It took weeks before I could get just round the block with Rupert in a reasonable amount of time. 9 months seems a relatively short length of time to have tried so many methods. Are you aware that a behaviour often gets worse just before it starts to get better? That's the point many people give up at and decide the method isn't working.

What exercise other than walks does your dog get? Does he get to be off leash at all? What do you do with him at home? What's his usual daily routine? What do you feed? Seems a lot of questions but they are all relevant and the more info you can give about his usual routine the more people here can do to help :D

User avatar
Posts: 2536
Joined: Fri May 23, 2008 3:43 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by Noobs » Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:43 am

Okay, take a breath, take a break. My dog used to CRAWWWWWL until his chest touched the ground, he pulled so hard. Read this post about how to teach loose leash walking and hopefully it will help. Mattie's method does NOT require the use of treats and lots of users on this forum (myself included) swear by it:


For the time being, forget about your 10-mile hikes (as lovely as that sounds!). Eventually you'll be able to take your dog out and do that again, but you have to build up to it.

To start, get a harness. You can have more control with it. Either get a fleece one like this:

http://www.allpetnaturals.com/60-walkee ... lined.html

Or get an easywalk harness, with the D-ring in front of the chest, like this:

http://www.petexpertise.com/dog-collars ... _rewrite=1

I had an easywalk for a long time but it started irritating my dog's skin, so I now have a fleece one. The D-ring is far back on his back so it's easy to pull him back if he lunges.

Start out inside your house, using the methods in the post linked above. You had already started using those methods, but you said it just made you dizzy. Try it again but with this in mind: If you start out in verrrry low distraction areas, you'll be able to achieve this in baby steps. So start in your house. Turn and go the other direction as soon as his nose goes past your knee. Don't wait until he's at the end of the leash. I started out on the street right outside my house. We walked probably ten feet at first, turn, ten feet, turn, ten feet, turn... believe me, it's tedious! But when there are no distractions it will be easier. Don't worry about how far you're going; just worry about how long you're working. Keep practice sessions short, 20 minutes or so. When your session is over, end on a positive note, have a party (I like to do a lot of 'Yay, yay, yayyyyy!') and give your dog a jackpot treat. Otherwise no treats while you're practicing - that way NEITHER of you gets dependent on the food.

Do that for a few days. Every few days increase the distraction and the distance. To give you an idea, it took me two weeks to make it to the end of my street. Another week or so to go around the block. It took 2-3 months to go one mile. But it was really REALLY worth it: my dog walks like a dream, I am so much more relaxed on our walks now, and it's because I had to accept that it could be done but with baby steps. Don't make a first-grader do long-division, in other words.

By the way, my dog was about your same dog's age when we started this training as well. It can be done. Just be patient. Sorry you had to hear harsh things from those trainers. Sometimes trainers are good with dogs but not with people. Even if they did need for you to be more consistent or more patient I'm sure they could have found a kinder way to tell you. If we want to use positive reinforcement for our dogs it's only fair that we use it on the owners, too, right?
at_my_wits_end wrote:One of the issues we have read about in regard to using only positive reinforcement is that it creates the type of relationship with your dog where he will only work for treats. We have seen this occur in our pup, as every time we have tried to wean him off of treats (he is very food motivated), he stops performing the solicited behaviors (whether on a fixed or variable schedule).
This is a misconception. If you are using treats as a bribe, yes that might happen. If used correctly, food is a great training tool, but you have to know when to phase out treats. Read Victoria's blog for more info: http://positively.com/2010/03/22/fact-v ... on-part-i/

That's just for your information. For loose lead walking training, don't use treats until the end of your training session. I only use treats while walking as a distraction for my reactive dog. Per Mattie's instructions on the loose lead walking post I linked above, I didn't use treats while teaching LLW. Good luck. Please do keep coming back with any questions or if anything else pops up. I'm sure others will be here soon to give you more tips.

One last note, you will probably be concerned that you're not giving your dog enough exercise if you're only walking the same 20 feet of pavement. Keep in mind that having your dog concentrate on you for 20 minutes and having to use his brain will tire him out more than an hour of dragging you down the street. Since you have to keep the sessions short, have three sessions a day.

Now for the questions:

What's your dog's daily routine otherwise? Any off-lead running? How much (if any) clicker training?
What does he eat, how often, how much?
As much detail as you can possibly stand to give, please. The more details you give, the more the folks here can pinpoint if there's anything else you need to pay attention to in order to help with the walking issues.

User avatar
Posts: 5872
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:21 am

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by Mattie » Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:42 am

Image I am redundant, that is a very good post Noobs.

At my wits end, instead of thinking of the walks being a certain distance, think of it as time, 20 minutes to start with even if you only get 10ft down the road can tire your dog out when he is training, better if you can do this 2 or 3 times a day. You will start to get further as he improves.

The main reason I don't give treats when teaching loose lead walking is when we stop to give the dog a treat, concentration by both owner and dog has gone which makes it harder when you restart, you have to go back to the beginning. If you continue and just use your voice to encourange and praise, you are keeping your dogs concentration and attention so not going back to the beginning.

User avatar
Posts: 2536
Joined: Fri May 23, 2008 3:43 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by Noobs » Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:08 pm

I learn from the best, Mattie!
:D :D :D

Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 3:23 pm

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by at_my_wits_end » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:06 pm

Thank you all for your comments. :D To answer your questions:

1. We have tried each method for varying lengths of time - mostly because the trainer would show us how "well" our pup behaved when they did it for a few minutes, and so gave us the impression we should see results soon, if not immediately - ala Cesar Milan. I think it set us up with some pretty unreasonable expectations, and has contributed to our frustration of why can't *we* do it too. While we certainly spent more than a few days on each, honestly, I can't say we spent weeks or months on the same technique. Thank you all for giving me a more realistic picture of how long this should take.. while I am not happy to hear it, it makes sense.

2. He eats Innova large bites 2 x per day. We had gone through several dietary changes due to some skin problems he was having. We went to see a nutrition specialist who put him on some super-expensive veterinary blend. In the end, it doesn't appear his diet was the issue after all. (Grrr... in hindsight, we could have tried other less costly methods to determine this, but *trusted* the professional). Also, all of his treats are either all natural (we can pronounce/recognize all the ingredients) or dog-safe fresh fruit and veggies. No wheat, corn, or soy in anything he eats.

3. He does get other exercise... either in the form of intense, uphill fetch (2x per day until his tongue hangs sideways and he starts "losing" his ball, usually 15-20 minutes each), or a walk at 3.5 or 4 mph on the treadmill - when we can get him to stay on. If the weather is nice, we tack on a 1-2 mile hike in the woods.

4. Typical daily routine: Up, potty, breakfast. Then, I work for a few hours (from home) while he naps. Then around lunch time, we'll go play round one of fetch. When I eat lunch, I give him a kong filled with frozen canned food and kibble in his crate (he devours it in about 20 minutes). He stays in his crate for about 30 min to hour while I take my break. After lunch, he naps, and I get back to work. Around mid afternoon, we play fetch again. Then, I go back to work. He eats around 5, and then when my DH gets home, the three of us may go for a walk (weather and energy dependent). He gets a potty break every few hours or as needed. At home, when I'm working, he generally sleeps in a bed next to my desk, or self-entertains with a ball or chew toy nearby.

If it's raining, we play fetch inside - though clearly not as physically draining. If he can't get outside at save for potty breaks (our yard becomes a mud pit in the rain), we play "find it" in the house where he is put in a "sit stay" in the pantry while I hide plates with a piece of kibble or two around the house for him to find. We usually play around 6-7 rounds with 7 plates each round.

He gets to run off lead in our yard only. We used to take him to play with other dogs at the dog park - but no longer. Long story for another day. He has not been permitted off leash interactions with other animals of any kind for the past few months. When we do let him "meet" another dog on a walk, it usually takes about 10 minutes and multiple restarts to get him to be calm enough to approach the other dog. After they have "met", he's usually fine to walk along side them.

5. Minimal clicker training. We have tried but my timing isn't very good. Not nearly as coordinated as I thought I was :)

One of the issues with trying to train around our neighborhood is that we have several neighbors who let their dogs run loose. One has charged us nearly all the way home, and they have charged my husband when he's out walking the pup, but stopped at the edge of their own yard. We can't see over the hill to their house, and so, even walking in front of our own house, I am constantly concerned that their dogs will pop over the hill and come at us. When we addressed the issue, their solution was for us to call them to bring the dogs in when we want to take our dog for a walk... Grrr....This is why I prefer to train at a local park.

The other issue that makes walking so difficult is our dog's thrashing when he sees a squirrel or another dog come near. THIS has made walking him particularly stressful, physically draining, and dangerous. He has pulled me down and strained my shoulder with his behavior. He also rubs his face and neck raw with his straining and thrashing, depending on the collar we have on him at the time.

I really appreciate the advice and will get one of the harnesses suggested. Do my answers above change any of the advice given?

Thanks again,
At my wits end

User avatar
Posts: 514
Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:21 pm
Location: Danville, VA / Foxboro, MA

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by forkin14 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:27 pm

Sorry I don't have much more to add than this, as I am having trouble with walking my dog as well :lol:

Since our dog has high energy and just wants to go go go, we usually play a little bit of fetch indoors or do some clicker training to get her a bit tired and get her mind focusing on working. When she is less riled up, she is easier to train on the walks since she is less energized to pull and run around.

User avatar
Posts: 2536
Joined: Fri May 23, 2008 3:43 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by Noobs » Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:09 pm

at_my_wits_end wrote: 1. We have tried each method for varying lengths of time - mostly because the trainer would show us how "well" our pup behaved when they did it for a few minutes, and so gave us the impression we should see results soon, if not immediately - ala Cesar Milan. I think it set us up with some pretty unreasonable expectations, and has contributed to our frustration of why can't *we* do it too. While we certainly spent more than a few days on each, honestly, I can't say we spent weeks or months on the same technique. Thank you all for giving me a more realistic picture of how long this should take.. while I am not happy to hear it, it makes sense.
Never underestimate how much more well-behaved a dog is when being handled by a stranger. :lol:

Those trainers SHOULD have told you what kind of expectations to have. I would seriously question their worth if they give people the impression that "See, I'm doing it right now, so can you" without telling them about low distractions, slowly increasing them, etc. etc. I'm NOT a trainer and studying from the people on this forum and other positive training sites has taught me that.

I would really consider trying clicker training again. Go here www.clickertraining.com and register for free to access the articles. When your dog is mentally stimulated and not just chasing a ball all day, he will settle down more and be more "trainable". Clicker sessions can be 3-5 minutes at a time and can be done 2-3 times a day. That's literally 12-15 minutes per day. Clicker training will teach your dog that it's rewarding to pay attention to you, and thus can transfer over to other areas such as walks.

I am not an expert on diet but it's possible you might be told to try a different food with less grains. Don't quote me on it, but it's possible.

I'm sure others will be here to help with the additional information you've given.

Posts: 8894
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:24 pm
Location: West Midlands

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by emmabeth » Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:21 pm

LOL I clicked on this earlier and got distracted by a dog that needed an emergency bath..... and now I come back, job done!

All I can really add is to emphasise ..... pick a time duration not a distance/destination thing. Start out small with 10 minutes if its bad, heck 1 minute if its realy bad. Theres nothing to say you cant do ten of those in a day if you are around all day!

It stops you getting frustrated and 10 minutes solid mental work is infinitely preferable to 10 miles solid pulling!

Using food is no bad thing if your dog works for it... use it. Phasing it out needs to be done wisely and slowly so you effectively go from 'bribery' to 'paychecks in the mail'. Most of us humans learned this way after all, when we were little and just learning it might be 'sweetie if you are good for 2 minutes' then older, 'pocket money if your room is clean for a week'...then older still... 'pay at the end of the month'.

If you tried getting a toddler to behave nicely for a month it wouldnt matter how awesome the paycheck was, the toddler could not achieve it!

I like clicker training because although the dog is working to earn the reward the click puts some distance between behaviour and reward... so have a look in the Articles section and read through the clicker thread there. Doing this with your dog in and around your home will also help regardless really of WHAT it is you teach with it.

Also have a look through the success stories area - this might give you a more realistic idea of time frames and progress. It is not going to be a case of 'problem solved in a week', thats not what we do here, but if you stick with the methods you will get there in the end and the results will be long lasting and your dog will be much happier for it.
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

Posts: 4885
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:48 pm

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by jacksdad » Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:34 pm

Noobs wrote: I'm NOT a trainer .....
But you did stay in a Holiday in last night...

Sorry couldn't resist. I know this is serious, but sometimes a little humor can help. A lot of us can identify with your frustration because we are going through or have gone through similar issues. Noobs gives some very good advice and places to start.

my 2 cents...adjusted for inflation of course, so it may not be worth a whole lot :wink:

You mention playing fetch. If your worried about the loose leash training not giving enough exercise, try starting off with 10 minutes or so of fetch. then do some loose leash training for say 5 minutes, then do some more fetch, then do some loose leash, then some more fetch etc. Over time, decrease the time playing fetch, increase the time/distance of the loose leash walking. The mental work out from the training combined with the fetch games maybe be enough to equal what you currently think of as an average normal walk.

If your dog was charged by other (adult ?) dogs, this could be why he has issues with other dogs. For now, forget about letting him "meet" other dogs. At least for a while. When you see a dog you can't safely/calmly pass, do a U turn, go the other way. or get off the path for a few yards to the right or left. Find your dogs "calm" distance from other dogs and try and keep that distance at all times. Also when possible, keep your body between your dog and the other dog. Chances are pretty high his behavior isn't about being a mean dog or a protective dog, rather it is being a fearful dog. This to can be fixed. But for now, management is your best option and that means minimizing contact with other dogs in situations that cause him to not be calm.

If there is a park that is less distracting for your dog then your neighborhood, by all means use that. normally it's the other way around for most people, their house/back yard/neighborhood is less distracting then a park.

I hope you don't give up on your dog. Leash pulling can be fixed. All you have to "lose" is a little time, and all you have to gain is nice lots of nice walks in the near future. I have only had my dog a little over 5 months, it took me about 2 months to get my dog to stop pulling/dragging me. He still pulls ahead, but rarely pulls/drags me on the leash anymore. His leash walking won't win any metals yet, but it is improved and continues to improve.

Posts: 3874
Joined: Wed Dec 03, 2008 8:31 am
Location: A little gambling town in the high desert

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by Fundog » Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:37 pm

I have just a few small points of consideration to add:

You mention some reactivity (thrashing and losing control) around other dogs. Please tell us more about this, as it is very important, and there are things we can tell you to refine your "watch me" and make it more effective, etc.

Now regarding the way he reacts to squirrels and things: Weimeraners are hunting class dogs, and if they were born with any kind of hunting drive at all, it is just about impossible to suppress that, and teach them to be kind to "God's little creatures." He needs SOME WAY to release that drive. Fetch is good, but it may not be quite satisfying enough. If you really are truly opposed to hunting, then you can either purchase or make yourself, something called a "flirt pole." It is really just a dog-size version of the bird on a stick cat toy. Get a really floppy stuffed animal, even take all the stuffing out, and tie it to a broom stick or small tree limb. Then play with him the way you would lure a cat with a string, encouraging him to stalk and pounce.

Another thing hunting breeds require (by the way, Weims are traditionally bred to hunt upland game, such as birds and rabbits) is sniff time. One of the motivators he has for getting ahead and pulling you is his sense of smell. He has hit on a scent trail, and wants to follow it. Nothing else exists in his mind but that delicious scent, and he can follow it very quickly, if he didn't have a 150 lb. weight behind him, lol!

So there are a couple of things you can do to help him satisfy that urge: 1) make the first part of your walk "his" time-- let him lead, trying to keep up the best you can, let him go sniff things, stop when he wants to check things out. Then the rest of the walk is "yours" and you go where you want to go, at your pace.

Also, if you do a google search for "teaching your dog to track," you will find a plethora of how-to articles for this very fun new hobby to start up with your dog. Tracking takes a lot of energy out of a dog, and is extremely satisfying for them. But it is also very fun for us humans to watch the dog do what it was born to do. And walking at heel on a loose lead has no place in tracking whatsoever-- rather, the dog is supposed to walk ahead of you, on a 20 foot lead! So no more frustration there, with trying to get him to do something he doesn't want to do.

One more great game to play is "find it." You scatter some of his kibble or treats, or favorite toy, or whatever around the house and yard and tell him to "find it." At first, you may have to lead him around, the way you would with a one year old toddler at her first Easter Egg Hunt. But eventually you will be able to put him in a sit/stay in a separate room where he can't peek, and he will get right to work when you give the command. It is absolutely fascinating to watch!

And last, but certainly not least, if there are any public wilderness areas in your region, and *if* you are certain he will come back to you and not get lost, do take him out to "the hills" for some off-lead "hunting." Even if he doesn't actually succeed in catching anything, just the mere activity of scenting, searching, finding, and chasing rabbits and birds is extremely satisfying and will make him VERY tired. It is also a beautiful thing to watch, as dogs have a very distinct language that tells you when they've found something, what it is, and where. Weims are "pointing class" bird dogs, btw. Granted, if this dog doesn't have a lick of sense, and you don't trust him to come back to you, then you must develop a very strong recall before you can take him off-lead in the wilderness.

Oh, just one more thing: I've found that if I'm not in the mood to really "work" on our walks, or if I'm in a hurry, then I just take my two around the "same old boring subdivison," and it saves me a lot of frustration, as they do settle in for the walk without pulling. But if I take them anywhere different, then I've got to compete with all the different smells-- and I've got TWO energetic "bird dogs," not just one!
If an opportunity comes to you in life, say yes first, even if you don't know how to do it.

Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 3:23 pm

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by at_my_wits_end » Sun Mar 28, 2010 1:41 pm


You had asked:
"You mention some reactivity (thrashing and losing control) around other dogs. Please tell us more about this, as it is very important, and there are things we can tell you to refine your "watch me" and make it more effective, etc."
We're not sure why or how this behavior escalated to this point... but here's the short version:

When we first adopted him, we took our pup to trainer-supervised "puppy playtime" - both to socialize and assess his behavior around other dogs (he's our only one). He played beautifully. We then started taking him to a local dog park, where he played well at first, but then his play started getting rougher and rougher to the point where we felt uncomfortable and removed him before something happened. At the same time, he was periodically attending "doggie day care". We asked the staff on numerous occasions if he played too rough (since it was a much smaller area, with supervision), and they always said that no, he played all day, but played fine.

One day, we were playing fetch with him inside our house. We heard a noise outside, and opened the door a few inches to see what it was. He shoved past and into the street where he attacked our neighbor's dog who was on a walk in front of our house. He had NEVER before done anything like this! Thankfully, the other dog was ok, and the neighbor is extremely gracious and understanding.

A week later, doggie day care called us to say he had been in a fight with another dog, but that the other dog had started it, and he was just defending himself. A week after that, they called to say our pup was the aggressor in a fight, and due to the severity of the attack, he was now banned from their facility. (Side note: all three occasions involved the same breed of dog). Not knowing what changed his behavior, we kept him away from other dogs until we could figure it out. Our trainer was convinced that they folks at day care "missed something" between the two dogs. So, he brought over his own dog to observe (different breed). They played ok for about an hour outside. (I should mention he was also heavily exercised before this visit). Then, they were fine inside as well. For some reason we never did understand, the trainer's wife (who came along) started to rile the dogs up inside the house. Next thing we know, their dog "warned" off ours with a growl and our dog attacked him. The trainer said it was their fault, they pushed the dogs too far (really?). So, again, we limited our dog's exposure to other dogs on leash and under control only (and this is also why I am concerned about the strays and loose pets in our area). Even just yesterday, we invited a friend over with her dog to see if they could peacefully coexist in the same space and in a calm environment. We had gone on a long walk with the dogs the day before, so this was not a "new" dog. We muzzled our pup as a precaution. Once the friend and dog (who was very submissive and calm) had entered the house, we held our pup back and took baby steps toward them as he calmed down enough for advancement each time. Once they were close enough and he was calm, we let him go. Then, he got a serious case of zoomies. At the end of his zoomies, he tried to mount her (yes, he's neutered and she is spayed). When she growled at him to warn him off, he tried to attack her. The dogs were pulled apart before anything more could happen. Thinking that maybe this was because of the zoomies, we again waited until he was calm and relaxed before attempting to "end the visit on a positive note" as our trainer had advised should we attempt to have our dog meet another again. Our pup saw the other dog jump up on it's owner, and he immediately jumped up from his calm, down position to mount her again (the dog, not the friend). At this point, we realized that this most likely stems from a dominance issue - although being "wound up" clearly exacerbates the problem. As this has gotten worse, so has his behavior when he sees another dog on a walk, or even from the car. He will whimper, whine, and thrash - the severity of each being dependent on his other distractions and distance to the other animal.

The trainer's advice is to "distract" him with treats when we see other dogs or squirrels on a walk. The reality is that no treat is more exciting than another dog or squirrel. Yes, I realize this is his breeding, but we literally have to scare off the squirrels from our yard because he catches them easily. Same for the unlucky cat who wanders in... and he hasn't learned that such creatures bite and scratch back. He was a bloody mess after each of these encounters.

We're not opposed to hunting, and were working with someone who trains his own field dogs. However, it has been sporadic and only when he is available. Our pup did retrieve like a pro on his first try at it, and it looks promising - but we have no field, nor expertise to do this. I have a book on field training, but really feel this is something I should do with a seasoned pro. We do play mental games with our pup as well, including "find it" and variations on that theme.

Regardless, we feel we need to address these "basic" issues first. This is why I started this thread with the walking issue... we have several problems that need help. To add to this, he is becoming increasingly destructive if left alone in the house. We were able to successfully leave him for a string of 3-4 evenings (not in a row), and then he'll get "into" something. Then, he started destroying when he was in the house and we were just outside (and he could hear us coming in and out). We try to keep him outside when we're in the yard, but sometimes he is more of a distraction with eating wood chips, sticks, etc (all of which he typically vomits up later on). He also likes mushrooms, and has been violently ill on several occasions from eating them. Fortunately, it's still too cold for them, but that will soon change.

Likewise, he is fine in his kennel if he knows we're home, but goes crazy when left alone. Whether this is separation anxiety or not, we don't know. So, we have started to contain him in a hallway when we leave so he has some room to move. When we do this, he usually just climbs in his bed and goes to sleep before we even leave - so the separation anxiety angle is questionable.

Now that you have a better overall picture.... perhaps the username is more understandable.

Thanks again,
At My Wits End

User avatar
Posts: 256
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 6:44 pm

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by Wes » Sun Mar 28, 2010 5:47 pm

What do you use as a treat when trying to distract him? My APBT is very reactive toward other dogs and a regular dog treat just wouldn't work in getting her attention. We've since used hot dogs warmed in the microwave and even rotisserie chicken (for areas that are new to her) and that will usually get her focus. Keep in mind distance from the other dog. I suggest figuring how what his threshold his and staying just beyond that threshold where he'll react and work on your gaining his focus from there and gradually (at his pace) reduce the distance to the other dog as his focus commands get better. I was recommended the book "Scaredy Dog!" by Ali Brown on this website and the methods in the book have worked wonders with my Rosie's reactivity. I think the book would be a good read for you as well. :D

For now, I'd keep his interaction with other dogs to a minimum. He could just be getting overwhelmed and fearful because of it. Or, at doggie day care, he could just be getting tired and want to be left alone. If he seems to have better focus in your yard or your home, work on some basic obedience exercises there - "watch me" is a great way to get your dog's focus and when I was working with Rosie, I taught her some small tricks (wave, high five, etc) indoors to be used as a distraction outdoors when you start working on his focus near other dogs. I've found if I have Rosie's focus if there is a dog across the street, having her do simple commands like "down" "wave" etc helps to keep her attention on me and not on the other dog.

Posts: 8894
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:24 pm
Location: West Midlands

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by emmabeth » Sun Mar 28, 2010 5:54 pm

Woooo... yep you have some issues and sadly these have been made worse by muppet dog trainer (what was his WIFE doing there anyway) pushing things way too far..

I would hazard a guess that your dog is anxious around other dogs, hes ok at handling that anxiety when everyone is busy and hes clear what he is supposed to do. He is even ok when hes fairly tired/content and the other dog is behaving in a 'safe' way..

But when behaviour he doesnt understand happens... or he gets giddy... he tries to control the situation by humping the other dog or doing something else they dont like and when he gets told off by them he freaks out and cannot handle it at all.

For now... I would stick to practicing loose leash walking as per the method in Articles/discussed in here... done to a time limit rather than a destination. Hopefully you can do several of those a day and ought to be able to increase the time you do them for quite quickly. If you come across other dogs whilst doing these, get in front of him and block his view, change direction quickly, hide behind a parked car if you need to... whatever it takes to quickly and with as little fuss as possible, end the situation.

Also if he has a dog buddy he can walk with (even if not play offleash with) you could do this too if you and the other dogs handler can stick to the loose leash walking thing together.

If you want him to have sniffy time where he gets to be upahead... what I would do is buy him a tracking harness and long tracking leash... that is distinctly different to what he wears for normal walks. He will soon pick up on the fact that he is allowed to go up ahead and put tension on the lead IF he is wearing that harness, and NOT if he isnt. Dogs are very good at figuring out what each set of equipment means (most animals are... the horses I used to work with would be loopy mental heads if the hunting breastplate came out and the jumping saddle.. but like beach donkeys half asleep if the driving harness came out!), as long as you are consistent with it.

By all means use a basket muzzle if it makes you feel safer, you can still poke treats into it to reward him with. Dont use a fabric muzzle that works by preventing him opening his mouth though, these are not suitable for exercise at all.

Work on his bond with you and his general confidence at home with clicker training and also take some of his excess energy away by feeding him in a Kong toy, making him work for his food however you can.

Take care in all things to be working at HIS pace.. making progress at whatever rate is comfy for him. Dont worry what other people think, what they know is usually gleaned from watching that smiley mexican chap on the telly and isnt worth a pile of beans... Take a look at the success stories area on here, it will give you a much more realistic idea of how quickly or slowly things may go and that you can count even the tiniest success as a success (and learning to recognise this will help you enormously).
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

Posts: 1637
Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:18 pm

Re: Every walk is a battle...

Post by MPbandmom » Sun Mar 28, 2010 6:36 pm

Listen well to the advice here. I too have a high energy, walk at the end of the leash and keep on going dog. Mine is a husky lab mix. I have just recently started following the advice here. I am using a clicker and baby food stage 2 meat for the treat. I too get dizzy trying to keep ahead of my dog, so I tend to do more statue and make her back up to regain slack in the leash. I am having to do that less and less though because I am discovering that what was really missing in our walks, was her attention on me. With the baby food in my hand, she will now check in with me. Rather than focusing on loose leash walking, I am focusing on rewarding her for looking at me, and the loose leash part is pretty well taking care of itself. I have started praising her anytime she looks at me or checks in with me in the house or wherever. I play double ball fetch with her to burn off energy (as she returns with one ball, I throw another) and require her to look at me before I throw the next ball. She used to put the ball on the ground and stare at it waiting for it to move.

What they say about thinking in terms of time spent training rather than walking some distance has totally transformed my focus on what I need to be doing with my dogs. We go for as long as the jar of baby food or focus ability of the dog lasts.

It seems pretty obvious, and I have been told it repeatedly, but until I found the baby food and clicker, I hadn't found a way to get my dog's focus. And I have been blown away at how many problems a little focus will solve.

Best wishes as you endeavor to get your dog to focus on you more and other distractions less and thus become a delightful walking partner.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

Post Reply