pt-6

From time to time I have people asking me to help them with their dog which pulls on the lead. Normally they have tried, what they feel, everything and nothing has worked to this date.

The pulling has often been there for a long time and in most cases it started long before the owner thought of it as a problem.

The problem develops when the dog accidentally gets rewarded by pulling, in one way or another.

The key is to find out what that kind of reward that is, is it just walking/running fast, is it pulling to sniffing spots, is it pulling to go to a park where it comes off the lead, is it pulling to avoid being close to the owner because it is confused as to when owner looses his/her temper? Is it a combination of things?
Regardless of the reasons for pulling one of the main things, as with all dog training, is to keep your own emotions under control and to realise that the dog has no ability to do something deliberately, with mal intentions, in order to annoy us or to make us upset. That applies for pulling too.

We have to put our trainer hat on, realising that training will occur in small steps, both for yourself, as the owner, and for the dog.
We have to think about how we can pin point that exact moment we feel the dog is where it should be, in our opinion, as opposed to pin pointing the position we don’t want our dog to be (which often is the case, when we pull back in anger). This also puts us, as owners, on the spot – where DO we want our dog to be?
We have to answer that question in order to proceed.
We can’t train “not pulling”, but we CAN train “where I want my dog to be”. Although we may call it anti pull training.

I use a marker WORD which always is paired with a toy or a treat. I mark the position I want my dog to be in. I.e. every single time the dog is in that preferred position, I mark that with saying my WORD and play with a toy, alternatively give a treat.

My favourite model for teaching a dog its’ rough position is to change direction as soon as the dog is walking faster than us. If you think about it, the problem really starts when the dog starts to pace faster than us. Hence me changing direction already when the dog is walking away from us.
As soon as the dog then is beside us I mark that position by saying my WORD and then ideally play with a ball on a string. If your dog does not like tug of war games, use a treat but try and make it fun.
Treats and toys are firmly put away into pockets so that I walk as normal as I can and then use the marker WORD + toy (or treat). No treats or toys in front of the dogs nose while walking, no lure, just your WORD and then toy (or treat) WHEN dog already is in the preferred position.

You will most probably see an instant change in your dogs behaviour. Now it is time for the next challenge. That is to move this exercise to different places. When you arrive to a new place, you will have to start the exercise from scratch. There are new distractions to deal with for the dog. You will, however, see that the more places you do the exercise in, the more the dog will generalise, i.e. it will arrive with an expectation of what to do because they have done it so many times before. That may take longer time for a very active dog and shorter time for a slightly more placid dog. In either case, it is nothing we, as owners, can rush. It will will happen by itself the more you do the exercise in different places.

Ideally you would like to do this exercise everytime you are out. However, if you know that you cannot train your dog because you are having to rush somewhere with the dog pulling in front of you, please use a harness for those occassions, alternatively a halti. All to give your dog a different signal so that it does not become confusing to the training and results you are trying to achieve.

I have had fantastic withstanding results with this type of training. Please give it time, a behaviour which has taken a long time to build up is not going to be solved over night. However, it may be solved quicker than you think if you are meticulous about your timings for reinforcement and if you are consistent in your training.

Best of luck!