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seeking advice and morale boosting for dog pulling me on leash

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My 50-lb. rescue female BC Winnie has a lovely temperament and was adopted 7 months ago. She is 5-7 years old. I had one BC in the past (a once in a lifetime dog), and 2 other rescue dogs who were highly trainable and bonded early on.

 

After 6 months of daily training (short bursts, several times a day) she is still pulling me on leash and has no reliable recall. We worked for 3 months with a positive trainer one on one, and Winnie made some progress on leash walking while she could smell that I had food on me. We progressed very slowly from home, to backyard, to driveway, to my street and a nearby park. I continue to rehearse and practice those techniques. The trainer I worked with said I likely should resign myself to the fact that she might never learn loose leash walking, as this is the case with many dogs.

 

We also practice daily an "attention noise" to get her to focus on me while walking, as well as basic recall, and "watch me." Generally, when the food runs out, there is no attention on leash outdoors. I use kibble up to the amount of her meals per day to avoid weight gain, but there is a limit to how much I can give her on a long walk which she needs for exercise due to hip dysplasia and being a bit overweight. I have tried "fading" very gradually and intermittently with no progress.

 

BTW, once outdoors she has no herding behaviors or instinct to round up her people or stay near them, with the exception of stalking and chasing cars. (We have moderated that with lots of counter conditioning).

 

So after being pulled every few steps for 6 months, I developed an ongoing back problem with substantial pain and medical costs. My physical therapist believes the constant relentless pulling has probably caused the problem.

 

I don't know what else to do. Already tried are the following (1) no pull harness with chest and back attachment -- she still pulls but it keeps her from lunging; (2) halti -- she scrapes it off with great dexterity; (3) using 15 ft. and 30 ft leashes -- she accelerates and still manages to pull me every 5 or 6 steps.

 

I' hoping that someone here can recommend something to stop the pulling, either mechanically or training wise. Perhaps there is "fool proof" harness out there that I haven't heard about. Or even a trainer who specializes or has lots of experience with rescue dogs. I live in the DC metro area.

 

Finally, is there hope for this dog improving? I don't know her prior history, except that she was fostered on a farm for several months before I adopted her. They gave her basic attention re: food and shelter but did not interact with her much as both worked away from the farm. I'm very dispirited at the moment.

 

Thanks to all.

 

Gwenn Hibbs

Bethesda Maryland

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The trainer I worked with said I likely should resign myself to the fact that she might never learn loose leash walking, as this is the case with many dogs.

I am sorry you had a terrible, useless trainer. She said that because she does not have the tools to help you. Not because you and your dog cannot learn to take a nice walk together.

 

Dogs don't pull on leashes because they are rescues, they do so because they have not been taught what pressure on the leash means. She pulls and she get to continue walking, even if it is after a pause (like people 'being a tree', turning the other way, etc).

 

I will PM some helpful links and videos. I do think that finding a qualified trainer is going to be the best approach to really work with you and your dog in person. I think of leash walking as a developed skill, not something to be learned overnight or fixed with a product from the store.

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Hello Waffles,

 

Thanks so very much for the encouragement. It is hard to find a good trainer, but I will keep searching. I got her through a referal of a friend with a rescue dog that was fearful and dog aggressive. She was great with that dog. To her credit, she was immensely helpful in counter conditioning so that Winnie was able to ignore or "alert" to car motion but stopped the stalking/chasing follow up. I look forward very much to your links and videos!

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I will agree that the trainer who told you that "many dogs" cannot learn to walk on a loose leash was not only wrong but should not be attempting to train dogs, let alone taking money for doing so.

 

Please take heart. Six months is not really a long time in training a dog. I have had it take as much as two years to get something solidly through a dog's head, even a border collie. My position on it is that you simply never, ever give up. You are persistent and you are consistent and you never give up. the time it takes is the time it takes, and that time will go by anyway. Ultimately you will either have a dog trained in a way that makes your relationship a joy or you will be aggravated with you dog, and either one will go on for the next many years. Thinking of it that way makes it easy to choose which path to take.

 

there are different kinds of no-pull harnesses. Perhaps the one you were using was not well fitted to your dog or was not a good one. I suggest researching them and trying a different kind.

 

I also second the recommendation of finding a good trainer with whom to work. In the meantime, I would suggest that you simply do not permit the dog to pull you along. Every time you do that, it reinforces the wrong thing and undoes all the work you are putting into trying to train her not to pull. If she pulls, you stop. Start again when she is standing still or sitting. You can even give her a sit command when you stop. Then start again. She pulls, you stop. She doesn't get to go anywhere if she pulls. this may mean you don't get a block down the street in ten minutes, and that's OK for now. It is more important that she learn.

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An important part of the 15 foot lead training for my dog was that whenever she hit the end of the lead, I would make the noise my mother made when I was small and tried to, say, play ball in the house across fragile things. Like an "ah ah ah ah ah" noise, very sharp. With a big HEY! if it was repeated. Very clear, only done at the second the leash is taut, and talking quietly in a calm friendly voice when the lead was loose. Carrying things in the lead hand and having them drop noisily on the dog when it pulled worked too, though this was an accidental consequence of walking three dogs whilst reading.

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It's one of the hardest things to teach a dog. Take comfort in that.

 

I solved the same problem a while ago.

 

I combined loose leash training on a normal collar with an anti-pull harness.

I added the anti-pull harness to the mix, because I didnt want all of the walks to be entirely about

leash training. That becomes frustrating, which is very very counter productive.

 

I've tried two anti-pulling harnesses, one of which works wonders. It's very pet friendly:

it simply hooks the leash on the chest part of the harness, so when your dog pulls, she

turns towards you. Pulling is simply not possible anymore.

 

Check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/Petsafe-Deluxe-Harness-Medium-Ocean/dp/B015TNW01O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483696262&sr=8-1&keywords=petsafe+easy+walk+deluxe

 

(I dont have any shares in petsafe by the way :P)

 

Again, I only used this when I just wanted to have a relaxed walk with my dog, and train other things than loose leash walking. On other days I put the leash on the collar again and constructively worked on a loose leash. But this time I could do it with patience and without frustration, because the previous walks were very positive :)

 

Hope it helps

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Dear Doggers,

 

I had a good friend whose Border Collie towed her. One day while we were walking my two (off lead) and her one (tow truck) I suggested she try a leash pop correction.

 

"Oh," friend said, "I've tried that but she has a very strong neck."

 

"Why don't you kick her in the ass?"

 

Donald McCaig

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Dear Doggers,

 

I had a good friend whose Border Collie towed her. One day while we were walking my two (off lead) and her one (tow truck) I suggested she try a leash pop correction.

 

"Oh," friend said, "I've tried that but she has a very strong neck."

 

"Why don't you kick her in the ass?"

 

Donald McCaig

 

I think anyone with a dog that pulls at one time or another has tried the leash pop correction.

 

But I don't think that's a very wise thing to do to a 5-6 month old. Besides chance of physical harm,

it sets a bad association with the lead and I havent ever seen it work. I've seen dog trainers, that

'know how to apply it well', fail to learn dogs to behave on leash time after time..

 

By 'kick her in the ass' I presume you mean you need to apply a zero tolerance policy,

and there's no excuse for letting your dog pull you around.

 

In which case I agree :D but keeping it positive is alway better in my opinion.

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not sure if I gave this suggestion already, but a martingale collar can be helpful in this case. I used with my dog, which is quite stubborn and I used the collar as a self-correcting tool.

so, short leash and hand anchored to my leg, just walking around changing direction often to give the dog the idea he needs to pay attention and follow my lead. if the dog would try to go in front of me or crossing, I would step ahead and use my leg to turn him in the direction I wanted him to go (more like a body blocking). we progressed changing speed while walking, and alternating from heel position to a more free walk at my side or ahead of me, but without reaching the end of the leash. this was a training done outside in a busy neighborhood, as he was quite good in obedience settings, but I needed the same skills in more challenging situations.

the trainer I worked with was able to teach her coydog (very skittish, would not take treats) to heel very nicely using this approach.

also when we go running or when we go to the farm, I use a waist leash (iron doggy is mine).

about the treats: I used meat at the early stage of training.

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In your case, preservation of your body is paramount, if you are broken, no one is going to take Winnie on a walk. I would try on every no pull harness, snoot loop, etc there is until you find one that works. You may have to visit a couple of stores to find one.

 

Because every dog body is different, every device will fit different and some will work better than others. Halti vs. Gentle Leader vs. Snoot Loop. You need to protect yourself from getting pulled. If all else fails, I would consider a prong collar....yes, I know that they look awful and if used badly can be very aversive, but if used correctly they can really stop the pulling so you can get to teaching. Its not my first choice, but it does work for some dogs and it beats you getting hurt.

 

Then find another trainer and keep going.

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In my experience, leash pop corrections do work. Starting when I was 12 years old, I trained more dogs than I can remember to walk nicely on a leash and also to heel obedience-style by using a choke chain collar and leash pops. It worked fine every time no matter the size or breed or temperament of the dog. I stopped training that way about ten years ago when I (belatedly) discovered positive reinforcement training because I had become increasingly unhappy with that method; not because it did not work, but because I really don't like to use corporal correction on a dog, especially as a training method. I wanted a kinder and more gentle approach.

 

I will say that I have found it generally takes a longer amount of time and more patience to train a dog to heel or to walk on a loose leash with positive reinforcement than it took with the old fashioned method. But I also don't claim to be an expert at it, and I think that it is one of the harder things to teach using positive reinforcement. These days I tend to use a combination of positive reinforcement techniques (such as the "choose to heel" game), and correction in the form of simply stopping when the dog pulls, and verbal correction such as "ah-ah". It takes longer but I am no longer willing to jerk a dog on a leash; it would make me feel bad.

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Dear Doggers, Mr. Smalahundur wondered if my ass kick worked and as it happened I boarded this dog for 8 months. Sure it did - not because I hurt her but because I convinced her I meant what I said. Wonderful dog who once she returned to her owners resumed running the show with an iron paw.

 

These various corrections, whether leash pop or rattle paddle or my new favorite for door clutter with the new bear dog -the very brutal, scarey flyswatter break the dog's focus on what is often mindless obsession PULLPULLPULL and allow it to hear what you're saying. It also reminds the dog that this -leash walking, taking a "down" is a shared activity.

 

Donald McCaig

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Dear Doggers, Mr. Smalahundur wondered if my ass kick worked and as it happened I boarded this dog for 8 months. Sure it did - not because I hurt her but because I convinced her I meant what I said. Wonderful dog who once she returned to her owners resumed running the show with an iron paw.

 

 

So it worked, but once the dog got away with it again, it didnt work anymore.. That's the problem with negative reinforcement.

 

I get the whole 'snap out of it' approach and think that can work for many dogs. Especially border collies that can be very focused. (though I'd never resort to kicking)

 

But if not combined with positive reinforcement and patience, the good behaviour will not settle in. The only thing you create is a dog that's avoiding your reprimands.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Some kinds of corrections are so effective they can create a lifetime, any owner change. They tend to be the dangerously powerful ones. Mostly, the dog distinguishes the owner who means what he/she says from one who doesn't. Four years after I returned this dog to its owners, she was reliable, off leash, for me - though not for them.

 

Our dogs aren't stupid, they have needs, wishes and whims and no method, none, is effective when employed by someone who doesn't believe they have the right to ask the dog to do what it doesn't particularly want to do.

 

Donald McCaig

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Dear Doggers,

 

 

 

Our dogs aren't stupid, they have needs, wishes and whims and no method, none, is effective when employed by someone who doesn't believe they have the right to ask the dog to do what it doesn't particularly want to do.

 

Donald McCaig

So true.

Many times I have worked with a client's dog, sometimes for only a few minutes, and then demonstrated to the client what the dog is doing and had the client say "Oh my gosh....I can't believe that is my dog!" The attitude of the trainer is just as important as, or more important than, the method. I think that many people are, though they don't know it, intimidated by their dog. I believe in always treating dogs with respect. But the bottom line of the deal is that they have to do what I say.

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I can't believe I'm typing this, but in your shoes I would go straight to a new trainer and a prong collar.

 

Yes they look like medieval torture devices. No they are not positive. But what you're currently doing is causing your body damage.

 

The only way for a dog to pull that is healthy for it is if it's in a fitted harness designed for pulling. If you let your dog pull in a flat collar, head halter, front-clip harness, etc. she's adjusting her posture and putting pressure on areas that are not designed to bear load. The huge advantage of the prong collar is that they are uncomfortable enough that the vast majority of dogs are not willing to pull very hard against one. That saves your back and it also saves your dog's body.

 

You want to use it with a trainer's supervision because you want to make sure it's fitted correctly and that you're using it right.

 

You can still continue with positive reinforcement training. In fact, positive reinforcement will be most effective if you never let your dog perform the undesired behavior, i.e., pulling. So make it a goal that she never actually finds out what the prong feels like when it tightens. Having it there can just be your insurance against making your back strain any worse than it already is.

 

You could also try teaching your dog to heel. This was actually easier for my dog to get the hang of than consistent loose leash walking. I think because there is a clear expectation of what she's supposed to do and she's able to just focus on that.

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A prong collar is not by any means necessary, can cause injury to the dog and is unkind.

If you are using a prong collar, you are not simultaneously using positive reinforcement training. The prong collar is not positive reinforcement.

 

There are many kinder and more effective ways to train, and some of them have been listed above. There is no need to go straight to such a severe correction device, and it is unsuitable to use such a thing on a border collie (or, I believe, any dog). Border collies are very sensitive dogs, and will respond to the correct training.

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Dear Doggers,

 

There are no magic tools nor training methods.If you can read dogs and talk to them when they need talking, you'll establish a wonderful lifelong relationship. If not, not. There are no shortcuts to dog savvy and no methods that cannot be cruel.

 

Donald McCaig

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Dear Doggers,

 

There are no magic tools nor training methods.If you can read dogs and talk to them when they need talking, you'll establish a wonderful lifelong relationship. If not, not. There are no shortcuts to dog savvy and no methods that cannot be cruel.

 

Donald McCaig

 

Agree and the only thing I'll add is consider each dog's personality and their level of adaptability. For instance, if your dog is pulling for fearful reasons such as cars and zooming by, other dogs are in site or making noise then kicking them in the ass will most likely just send them over threshhold and get them biting your foot and/or leg in reaction.

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A prong collar is not by any means necessary, can cause injury to the dog and is unkind.

If you are using a prong collar, you are not simultaneously using positive reinforcement training. The prong collar is not positive reinforcement.

 

There are many kinder and more effective ways to train, and some of them have been listed above. There is no need to go straight to such a severe correction device, and it is unsuitable to use such a thing on a border collie (or, I believe, any dog). Border collies are very sensitive dogs, and will respond to the correct training.

 

 

From a training perspective, I completely agree that there are better methods, and finding a new trainer who can teach some of those is a great step forwards. When I recommended a prong collar, I did so thinking of it as a management tool rather than a training tool. Putting a prong collar on her dog is not going to teach the dog anything about walking on a loose leash. What it will do is physically prevent the dog from pulling so hard she causes injury to her owner. I know there are harnesses designed to do this but in my experience (walking large shelter dogs with them) many dogs are able to figure out how to continue pulling even with front clip harnesses. Using a prong collar in this context is like using a muzzle on a dog who bites. The muzzle isn't there to train the dog not to bite, it just physically prevents her from chomping down on someone while using other methods to train the desired behavior.

 

There are a lot of great recommendations in this thread, but most of them are probably going to require consistency over weeks or months to really cement the behavior.

 

Prong collars can indeed cause injury (which is why I would certainly not use one without getting it fitted by a trainer who knows how to do so appropriately). They aren't unique in that. Sustained pulling against a choke or buckle collar can also be very dangerous for a dog. Normally I would recommend a harness to avoid injury to a dog who pulls. But the disadvantage of a harness is that it allows the dog to pull without putting all that strain on their neck, which in turn allows them to pull harder. In this case, the owner is already injured because her dog is pulling. Avoiding human injury is important too.

 

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While I agree with Donald McCaig that there are certainly no shortcuts or magic tools to get your dog to instantly stop pulling, there are things you can use to make sure your shoulder doesn't get ripped out of its socket.

 

These won't help the problem go away, but they will make sure you can have a fairly positive walk, if and when you want to take a break from the constant leash training, which is beneficial to the dog and the owner. Not every single (freakin) walk should be about leash training. It becomes frustrating, and thats counterproductive.

 

Being able to read a dog, and react in the right way, is the best goal to have. But certainly not everyone has the experience necessary to do that. It takes months / years to get to that point :)

 

I stand by my suggestion to go for an easywalk harness that clips in the front. Try one of those, they are cheap, and work wonders. If not, there are other options, besides a prong collar (I wouldn't recommend those).

 

Get a good anti-pull harness that works, work on leash training on a normal collar on the even days, use the harness on the odd days and enjoy your walks together.

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While I agree with Donald McCaig that there are certainly no shortcuts or magic tools to get your dog to instantly stop pulling, there are things you can use to make sure your shoulder doesn't get ripped out of its socket.

 

These won't help the problem go away, but they will make sure you can have a fairly positive walk, if and when you want to take a break from the constant leash training, which is beneficial to the dog and the owner. Not every single (freakin) walk should be about leash training. It becomes frustrating, and thats counterproductive.

 

Being able to read a dog, and react in the right way, is the best goal to have. But certainly not everyone has the experience necessary to do that. It takes months / years to get to that point :)

 

I stand by my suggestion to go for an easywalk harness that clips in the front. Try one of those, they are cheap, and work wonders. If not, there are other options, besides a prong collar (I wouldn't recommend those).

 

Yes. And training takes time. And in teh meantime the OP is getting injured which is not OK.

 

There's a lot of options for no pull devices, and some fit some dogs better than others. Different dogs are shaped differently and some options work great one one dog while not fitting well on another.

 

I wouldn't use a prong collar first but they can certainly be used safely and humanely if the OP finds the other options don't work (she mentioned shes tried a few without success). It beats the OP getting hurt or the dog getting zero exercise.

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