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leash walking: is this really going to work?


erikor
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So as I make my way through Suzanne Clothier's Bone's Would Rain from the Sky, it seems to me that appropriate leash walking is one of the next steps in advancing the Person-Dog relationship with Darcy (now almost 7 months old). This morning we made our first concerted effort. We took our usual walk, and I let Darcy for the most part dictate the path and when to stop and sniff. The only rule was that if he pulled we stopped until there was slack in the leash again. Our walk lasted an hour and was almost entirely one step at a time (with sniff breaks). The sniff breaks are completely fine with me of course, but there was very little walking without pulling.

So while it was an exercise in zen meditation for me and I can tell I am already a better human, there was no sign by the end that Darcy is a better leash walker. No heartwarming "by the end of an hour of work I could walk 50 yards without pulling!" stories like in Bone's Would Rain from the Sky. So I just wanted to ask if any of you have any success stories with this approach, or any words of comfort as to how long it may take to see definitive progress, or any other advice?

Thank you!

-Eric

 

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A flat collar, and I have used leashes of various lengths. This morning I used a 6 foot leash. It has always been an issue but I have never done any work on it. I have been focusing on The Relaxation Protocol and Look At That! in an effort to help with him be less reactive, and during that time have not done many on-leash walks (he has plenty of yard to run around in). But I felt that this would perhaps be a good time to start work on the leash walking too. (I know I said "our usual walk" but by that I meant the usual walk we do when we go for a walk, which recently has been not very often.)

I know there are other types of harnesses that are supposed to discourage pulling, but I want him to learn to be attentive to me instead of (or at least in addition to) the environment, not simply to not pull on the leash. But that may be misguided or just making things too hard or complicated.

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Ok, so for a bit he has not had a walk of this nature..imagine the environmental overload at finally getting to go again! I would keep with the flat buckle, carry high value treats and continue your *walk* daily. Work on it but don't make it a situation where he doesn't win at all. Walks are for them after all! 5 steps nicely are better than none..build on that.  You might want to switch to a 4' lead, enough for him to sniff but not get up a good pull. And remember - he is just a young pup!

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1 hour ago, erikor said:

So as I make my way through Suzanne Clothier's Bone's Would Rain from the Sky, it seems to me that appropriate leash walking is one of the next steps in advancing the Person-Dog relationship with Darcy (now almost 7 months old). This morning we made our first concerted effort. We took our usual walk, and I let Darcy for the most part dictate the path and when to stop and sniff. The only rule was that if he pulled we stopped until there was slack in the leash again. Our walk lasted an hour and was almost entirely one step at a time (with sniff breaks). The sniff breaks are completely fine with me of course, but there was very little walking without pulling.

So while it was an exercise in zen meditation for me and I can tell I am already a better human, there was no sign by the end that Darcy is a better leash walker. No heartwarming "by the end of an hour of work I could walk 50 yards without pulling!" stories like in Bone's Would Rain from the Sky. So I just wanted to ask if any of you have any success stories with this approach, or any words of comfort as to how long it may take to see definitive progress, or any other advice?

Thank you!

-Eric

 

So you have tried this new way of walking one time and you have not had results yet?  You have not asked this of the dog for 7 months and now you want instant results? It's OK to wait until now to train this, although I always start much earlier, but you will need to work this a bit more before you get the results you want. Don't expect that your results will be the same as what is written in a book, even if the book is an excellent one. This method works, so keep with it. The length of time it takes to see the results you want varies with each dog and circumstance. One of the most important things I have learned is not to put expectations or result-oriented deadlines onto my dogs when training. It takes the time it takes. He's a puppy and probably a very smart one and he will learn. Just give it time and patience.

I agree with your not using a "no-pull" device. I also want to comment that Suzanne Clothier is one of my heroes when it comes to people and dogs, and I love  what she has to say in that book. I have also taken a workshop with her and she is amazing. Good choice of book to read during this time.

 

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Thank you Journey and D'Elle for the excellent advice as usual.

Just to clarify one point...I am not shocked not to see results, but after doing it for the first time it seems like quite a bit of effort for both Man and Dog. Which is totally fine but I just wanted to check with the experts that this is a reasonable strategy before deciding to stick with it.

I think I will (1) make these training walks shorter and (2) stick with it and (3) continue reading Bones Would Rain from the Sky in the mean time =)

Thanks again,

Eric

 

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I mostly use the leash when I want the dog to walk next to me. Off leash time to me is sniffing time. I do give a “free” command for the few times my dog is allowed to sniff on leash or to relief herself.

I feel this makes things a lot clearer and at the very least ensures that training loose leash walking is not too long and has a great reward at the end (as we’re training while walking to a place the dog can be off leash). Might not be doable for everyone, since you might not have the same off leash opportunities that I have here. 
 

This method has worked well for me training the dog I dogsit (is there an easier way to say this? In Dutch we have a word for it “oppashond”), with the adaptation of asking the dog to get back in position next to me before continuing again. She wasn’t used to walking on a leash either and was about one and a half when I started. It took a couple of days, but I think it would have been longer if my own dog wasn’t setting such a good example. She does need a little reminding every now and then though and I am pretty sure she would pull with other people holding the leash.
 

 

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So this morning I combined all the above advice. We did a short bit of (attempted) loose leash walking to the wooded trails by our home, then I switched to a longer lead (15 feet, which is the longest I have at the moment) and told him to "go play". He wandered about and sniffed and there was very little pulling (a fifteen foot radius was sufficient apparently, and I stopped whenever he stopped). Then when we got back to the road I put him back on his short leash. On the way back to the house there were several pretty decent stretches of nice walking (pretty fast, but I need the exercise). A passerby at just the right moment may have been duped into thinking a well trained human was out walking his well trained dog. Then someone drove into their driveway and let their dog out and all hell broke out again. But...progress! Just a little progress now and then is all I ask to keep me on the dog train.

Darcy and I have also invented a new game indoors called "invisible leash". I walk around the house with a treat enclosed in my left hand held out to my side as if I am Jeeves walking a dog. Sooner or later Darcy catches on and starts to follow me on my left side. I say "heel" a few times as he walks along and then give him the treat. I like it because it teaches him to keep an eye on me in case I am carrying the invisible leash--a.k.a treat--while at the same time producing some nice looking heel walking. Also the kids find it amusing.

Now if only someone can explain why deer scat is so appetizing to Darcy. I am pretty sure that is something I will never understand.

 

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41 minutes ago, erikor said:

Darcy and I have also invented a new game indoors called "invisible leash". I walk around the house with a treat enclosed in my left hand held out to my side as if I am Jeeves walking a dog. Sooner or later Darcy catches on and starts to follow me on my left side. I say "heel" a few times as he walks along and then give him the treat. I like it because it teaches him to keep an eye on me in case I am carrying the invisible leash--a.k.a treat--while at the same time producing some nice looking heel walking. Also the kids find it amusing.

This reminds me of a game we have played a lot in my Freestyle group, called "choose to heel". It's a variation on what you are describing, but I think more effective. You just walk around with the treats in your pocket. when the dog comes into a heel position, you immediately click and treat. Then you throw another treat out away from your body for the dog to go get, taking him away from you. Whenever he comes back into heel position, click and treat. If the dog is motivated, he or she will keep coming back into heel position to get treats. the idea is that being in heel position is a good place to be, because it means rewards, and it makes heel something the dog wants to do. 

I think you could, if you wanted to, incorporate this into what you are already doing. Sometimes reward for just coming into position. sometimes ask for a few steps in heel and then reward. Both teach the dog that it's a great place to be.

 

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Erikor, I'm no expert, but it sounds to me like you're doing all the right things, so keep it up.  There's one bit in Bones Would Rain from the Sky that chastises dog training titles like "10 minutes to the perfect heel" and "the one secret that will get your dog to listen every time" (I'm paraphrasing).  She says a more accurate title would be "Diligently use these techniques for the next two years and you'll probably have a lovely, well-trained, friendly companion" but that such a title wouldn't sell.  People want instant miracles, not a rewarding journey.  

You and I are in a similar situation, but my guy is about three months behind (he's 17 weeks).  Here's what I'm doing with regard to leash training, which may give you an idea or two: On our normal, daily walks, I have him on a retractable 16-foot leash.  I switch off between (1) giving him the lead so he gets to decide where to sniff and explore (within reason), and (2) me taking the lead by zig-zagging, changing my pace, and walking in different directions.  It could be 1 minute for him in the lead, 30 seconds for me, then back again. I always try to keep it lighthearted. 

When he happens to walk beside me, he gets praise, eye contact, and maybe even a treat.  When he starts to walk ahead, all praise stops, but the lightheartedness continues.  If (when) he hits the end of the leash, I stop immediately and sometimes give a quiet "oh, too bad".  If he doesn't start to walk back to me within a second or two, I encourage him over to my side or, when his pulling is particularly egregious, I stop, turn around, and start walking or skipping in the opposite direction for a while. 

One thing I have taught is a command that I periodically use when he's walking ahead: I say "Finnegan, with me", which gets him to walk around my right side into a traditional heel position.  (For this I use a treat).  Right now, he's pretty good about doing it, but right after eating his treat, he rushes ahead again.  We're now starting to add the requirement that "with me" means he circles around, and then sits before we move off again.  Next will be to stay with me a few steps after the sit, but it's a progression and I expect it to take quite some time and practice.

Where I still have absolutely no control is when a group of people (especially with children) come near.  He charges to the end of the leash and wants to interact with them.  I honestly don't know what to do, so I typically just pick him up and carry him by (I have no idea if this is right or wrong, but at least he's under control).  Any input on tips/techniques on highly-excitable situations would be appreciated!

So that's where I am with regard to casual walks.  As for more formal short leash "heel" training, I have only barely begun.  I do a lot of the invisible leash training and give treats as he walks besides me.  I have also attached a six foot leather lead to his collar and had him sit beside me while I praise and give him treats.  

It's a long, but rewarding, road.  Have fun with the process and keep us up to date on your progress!  

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Love hearing about everyone’s leash techniques!

I had an experience worth sharing I think, with leash walking. Mabli is 14 weeks and we’ve been working on leash walking in the past week. She’ll normally walk to the end of her leash which is about 4ft and pull a little. I tried a variation of the green light red light game. She starts to pull, I give a cheerful “uh oh!” And turn around to walk 4 steps backwards, pulling her a little if I need to, as she’s usually all kinds of confused to suddenly be going in the opposite direction. I did this for around 25 minutes on a morning walk with her. I felt incredibly stupid while people were walking past and definitely got some strange looks but I stuck to my guns. I also made her wait maybe 15 seconds after we had taken the 4 steps back and asked for a sit every now and again. Then I said “okay! Come on” and we went back. Towards the end of the walk on the pathway home which she knows well, it took 10 minutes when it would normally take 1. I thought it would be a long old road as she showed no signs of recognising the trigger for stopping and going backwards. HOWEVER! Later that afternoon I took her on a walk as I normally would and miracle of all miracles she’s not pulling!! She’s definitely not perfect at all on leash, don’t get me wrong! But she has made massive progress and seems to feel the slight strain on the leash and slow her pace. I always allow sniffing unless I see her popping things in her mouth then it’s a swift leave it and come on (she’s managed to sniff out old pieces of chewing gum on the ground 5 separate occasions now! Ew.) we still have a problem with her deciding to chew the lead every now and again but the pulling is much less. I really didn’t expect to see results so quickly with that method. She’ll still pull, mostly if we’re close to home, or if there’s too many distractions but far far less than the consistent pulling that was before. 
 

 

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