Jump to content
BC Boards

Leash training, reactivity, and progress

Recommended Posts

Hi everyone,

I've been a lurker on this forum for a while now, just thought I'd make a post asking a few basic questions that I'm sure other bc owners can help me out with. Apologies for the long text.

For a little context, I got Zuba (bc/shepherd mix) from the local humane society shelter when he was roughly 6 months old last January. All we know about his past was that he had been abandoned in the countryside before he was found and dropped off to the shelter. We've had him for about a year now, so he's about 1.5 years old as of writing.

It became clear to me from the first day that Zuba had never been walked on a leash before. My first attempt at walking him down the street led to him biting the leash like crazy, which would escalate to jumping onto my arm and trying to nip my hands (I suspect it was a fear based reaction due to being tethered to a human via a leash for the first time). I didn't even walk him for the first 2 months. We would simply just practice leash walking and basic heel training in the house, eventually working our way to the backyard, and then to the street out front. I would always use high value food rewards, and he made great progress as the weeks went by. By late February I could begin walking him out in the environment/neighborhood. He would still pull alot, and he displayed lots of reactivity and would pull towards dogs, cars, pedestrians etc, but If I was prepared and took precautions we could have relatively decent walks everyday.

Since then he's been improving slowly, and the reactivity is still there but I try and take precautions to avoid those situations. I always keep some kibble in my pocket so I can reinforce 'under threshold' behaviors, such as noticing dogs and people but not pulling or barking. Having food with me during walks also allows us to practice some loose leash walking and reinforcing every 50-100 meters or so. Using a front clipping harness has also made life a little easier. It doesn't prevent him from pulling, but he's easier to control when he does. I'm still very hesitant to have him get close to people or dogs when he's on leash as I feel that would simply reinforce the pulling behavior. My main question to the community is; what has helped you all train away or reduce leash pulling behaviors that stem from reactivity towards things in the environment? Zuba tends to get fixated on any moving object that's too close to him. For example, if someone is walking behind us and is within 5-6 meters he'll constantly turn his head and will begin to pull towards the person as they get closer. Shoving food in his face and creating distance between him and the object of his fixation works in keeping him under threshold but I'll admit that we look real silly doing that! I'm jealous of all the other dog owners who can have easy going walks and don't have to worry about what's in front or behind them. I guess my end goal would be to train him to ignore distractions to the point that he's essentially my side kick who I can take anywhere and everywhere without any outbursts, and he's internalized that his 'job' is to stick with me and ignore everything going on nearby. I know it's a long road ahead to get there, and it'll likely take the bulk of his lifetime to get there. Zuba is still quite young, and I'm wondering if a lot of his pulling and fixation towards things in the environment will reduce with age? 

Tldr: tips for reducing reactivity towards moving stimuli (dogs, cars, pedestrians)?

Is slow progress normal when doing counter conditioning?

Will aging combined with consistency lead to a reduction in pulling/reactivity and better progress? 

Is it an achievable end goal to attempt to train a hyper young dog to ignore all environmental distractions and achieve something close to 'service dog' levels of focus when in the environment? 

Thanks everyone,

- Himmy




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...