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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello All,

Our family is a first time dog owner after moving to a bigger place. Our Keeshond puppy's name is Chowder and we got him from a breeder.

Bringing him home from the breeder's farm was ok. He whined and cried for 3 nights but settled in quite nicely after that. Potty training him has been ok thus far but there are still the occasional accident moments or rebellious moments.

We chose Keeshond because of what I've read up on different information sites and threads. After researching the breed, we were sold on the Keeshond, especially my 8-year old daughter. Supposedly, the breed is gentle and great with the family. Our Chowder at the age of 3 months started showing some signs of behavioral issues like nipping and biting. He would also bark with a little growl when told "NO". He would bark aggressively also when he does not get his way. We're not sure if Chowder had a history of some sort or presenting too much of a pack-leader instinct.

Fast forward to today, and after 6 sessions of training, the nipping and biting have improved. He is a quick learner and would demonstrate some patience during training. I say some because it's true that Keeshond has a short attention span when it comes to training. Chowder tends to look away or do something else while being trained; worse is he will bark aggressively to the point of showing his frustration.

Lately, Chowder would get in front of me and start barking aggressively with no intent to bite but with intent to show his aggression I think. He would lunge and nip at my shoes while walking. While not the entire walk, but a significant amount of time he would do this every walk we have. This happens to me, my wife and our helper. I'll let him bark and let him settle a little then I would try to pet him and he lets me. Once he calms down, I would praise him and give him a massage style pet to make him more relax. I'm not sure it's working, but is this a sign of aggression that built in Chowder's instincts? I'm worried for our family and have already told my 8-yr old daughter that we might have to give Chowder up for safety reasons.:cry:

Any Keeshonden owners here that can give advice on how to manage our Chowder's aggression? What wrong things are we possibly doing that could be triggering this behavior? He has lost his puppy teeth this month and could this be a hormonal change? We really dont want to give up on him just yet.

Here is Chowder when he was 3 months old. (He was such a cutie until something changed and as my 5 year old daughter said a "horror puppy.)


Carnivore Dog breed Dog Felidae Fawn
 

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First, let's get this out of the way.

We're not sure if Chowder had a history of some sort or presenting too much of a pack-leader instinct.
Your dog is not trying to be a pack leader. This is honestly the flat earth theory of dog behaviour, utterly wrong but it won't go away.

The alpha, dominance, pack leadership theory has been thoroughly disproven and widely discredited, even by the person who developed it. It was based on flawed conclusions drawn from poorly observed evidence. The wolf pack used in the original study was not a real pack, it was a group of individuals thrown together and the situation (captivity rather than wild) skewed the data as their behaviour was not natural. And dogs are not wolves anyway, any more than we are chimpanzees - in both cases there was a shared ancestor but the species evolved in different directions. That's why we have humans AND apes, wolves AND dogs.

This article explains it quite well. Debunking the "Alpha Dog" Theory - Whole Dog Journal

At about 6 months, he is still a baby, so I am guessing he might be trying to engage you in play when he is nipping at your shoes - that's how puppies play with each other. He just needs to learn that's not how to play with humans. I'd suggest you keep a toy in your pocket and every time he tries to do something like this, give him the toy instead. If he refuses to redirect on to the toy, be like a tree - really, really boring until he stops (and he will) then reward with an enthusiastic 'good boy' and the toy. But you have to be consistent, every person every time. I promise you though, this is not aggression - he is like a five year old child. Yes, you might get frustration and an occasional tantrum but it isn't actual aggression. You don't need to worry about having to give him up for that reason.

Telling him ”no” is probably frustrating him too. The problem with ”no” is that it's not specific enough. I'd like you to imagine you are learning to drive.

Every now and then, your instructor sternly says bangoh!. You would be puzzled. Even if you stopped or interrupted what you were doing, you wouldn't know what you were doing wrong - driving too fast, not using your mirrors, turning left instead of right, going the wrong way down a one way street, in the wrong gear, too close to the car in front etc etc.

And "bangoh" is Japanese for no by the way, but essentially English is just as foreign a language to your puppy as Japanese is to you. Can you see how it is exactly like that for your puppy? Frustrating for him as well as for you.

A firm no is at best an interruptor but importantly it doesn't tell your puppy what he has done wrong, and what you want him to do instead.

But I'd also like to know a bit more about the training you have done with him so far - what did you teach him and how did you approach it?
 

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Have to agree with @JoanneF, none of this sounds like aggression. Impatience, sure. Testing boundaries, probably. But at that age, neither is unexpected.

Chowder tends to look away or do something else while being trained; worse is he will bark aggressively to the point of showing his frustration.
The barking is more likely an expression of frustration. Mine still occasionally does the same at times if I'm teaching her something new that she doesn't quite understand yet. Which is a far cry from how she was when she arrived 6 months ago, as a mostly untrained and very badly behaved two year old, who would bark and jump if I momentarily held a stick that she wanted me to throw. So keep with it, and as long as you set clear boundaries, convey consistent expectations, and keep working at developing patience through training, the issue should resolve.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
First, let's get this out of the way.


Your dog is not trying to be a pack leader. This is honestly the flat earth theory of dog behaviour, utterly wrong but it won't go away.

The alpha, dominance, pack leadership theory has been thoroughly disproven and widely discredited, even by the person who developed it. It was based on flawed conclusions drawn from poorly observed evidence. The wolf pack used in the original study was not a real pack, it was a group of individuals thrown together and the situation (captivity rather than wild) skewed the data as their behaviour was not natural. And dogs are not wolves anyway, any more than we are chimpanzees - in both cases there was a shared ancestor but the species evolved in different directions. That's why we have humans AND apes, wolves AND dogs.

This article explains it quite well. Debunking the "Alpha Dog" Theory - Whole Dog Journal

At about 6 months, he is still a baby, so I am guessing he might be trying to engage you in play when he is nipping at your shoes - that's how puppies play with each other. He just needs to learn that's not how to play with humans. I'd suggest you keep a toy in your pocket and every time he tries to do something like this, give him the toy instead. If he refuses to redirect on to the toy, be like a tree - really, really boring until he stops (and he will) then reward with an enthusiastic 'good boy' and the toy. But you have to be consistent, every person every time. I promise you though, this is not aggression - he is like a five year old child. Yes, you might get frustration and an occasional tantrum but it isn't actual aggression. You don't need to worry about having to give him up for that reason.

Telling him ”no” is probably frustrating him too. The problem with ”no” is that it's not specific enough. I'd like you to imagine you are learning to drive.

Every now and then, your instructor sternly says bangoh!. You would be puzzled. Even if you stopped or interrupted what you were doing, you wouldn't know what you were doing wrong - driving too fast, not using your mirrors, turning left instead of right, going the wrong way down a one way street, in the wrong gear, too close to the car in front etc etc.

And "bangoh" is Japanese for no by the way, but essentially English is just as foreign a language to your puppy as Japanese is to you. Can you see how it is exactly like that for your puppy? Frustrating for him as well as for you.

A firm no is at best an interruptor but importantly it doesn't tell your puppy what he has done wrong, and what you want him to do instead.

But I'd also like to know a bit more about the training you have done with him so far - what did you teach him and how did you approach it?
Thank you so much for this reply. Your message is very enlightening and assuring at the same time. We have tried with the redirect method when he was as young as 3 months consistently. Sadly, it didn't work for him. He'd rather go with our ankles, feet, and sometimes arm.

Today, I tried the 'be like a tree' method. He was barking at me quite frustratingly and aimed to nip me but didn't. I looked away and just stood still. He sat down barking still and eventually lied down. The moment he lied down I said "YES" and "GOOD BOY, CHOWDER!". Mistake here was my voice had excitement (as typed in CAPS) and it also triggered his excitement. I did the 'be like a tree' again and that calmed him down. I brought him to kitchen with me and once again he barked with that frustrated tone. I ignored him again. Didn't move and went to cooked my meal. He did try to go after me and when I told him "No" and "Sit". He barked a little and sat down. Gave him water to drink and that truly calmed him down until I finished cooking my meal.

The trainer here in the Philippines use old school method, but applies that Cesar Milan touch. Using the "Tsk", "Collar Jerk" etc. The previous trainer was ok until the trainer started having scheduling issues. After 6 sessions, Chowder improved but slowly regressed back.

Today, he started with a new veteran dog trainer (Veteran because I saw his bite scars). The moment Chowder saw him Chowder submitted right away. Chowder turned to a totally different dog today. I even said to Chowder: "WHO ARE YOU???" jokingly = haha!

Keeshonden are truly motivated by food when it comes to training. I noticed that. Funny thing with CHowder is his pickiness which treats he likes.

At this point the training should continue as my wife and I are so busy that we cannot really focus on our time on him entirely. I try my best and I hope it will be enough.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Have to agree with @JoanneF, none of this sounds like aggression. Impatience, sure. Testing boundaries, probably. But at that age, neither is unexpected.



The barking is more likely an expression of frustration. Mine still occasionally does the same at times if I'm teaching her something new that she doesn't quite understand yet. Which is a far cry from how she was when she arrived 6 months ago, as a mostly untrained and very badly behaved two year old, who would bark and jump if I momentarily held a stick that she wanted me to throw. So keep with it, and as long as you set clear boundaries, convey consistent expectations, and keep working at developing patience through training, the issue should resolve.
Thank you so much for your encouraging message! I have been experiencing anxiety and I was really on the verge of giving up Chowder for fear he might snap. Worst, I have been afraid that he might hurt my wife and children.

I have been a dog person ever since I was a little boy. I've been scratched and bitten, but I still love dogs.
 

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We have tried with the redirect method when he was as young as 3 months consistently. Sadly, it didn't work for him. He'd rather go with our ankles, feet, and sometimes arm
Patience and consistency are key here. At three months, your puppy had the attention span of a gnat, it's like trying to teach a toddler long division. You need to keep at it, the theory is that he learns 'teeth on skin = end of fun". If the toy then tree doesn't work, step out of the room for a few seconds, then back in with the toy. He will learn that playing his way makes play end, and playing your way is actually more fun. But you must, must, must be consistent. Every person, every time. And it may get a little worse before it gets better, that's entirely normal as he finds the things that used to work for him no longer get him attention, so he tries them all the harder. This is good, it shows what you are doing is starting to work.

Veteran because I saw his bite scars.
That would make me immediately walk away. Bite scars are not a badge of honour. In fact, they show that this trainer has not only been unable to recognise signs of tension and fear, he has ignored them repeatedly. Would you learn to fly with a pilot who has had a history of multiple plane crashes?

Dogs go through a series of signals before they get to a bite, warning people they are unhappy, uncomfortable, afraid. If it gets to a bite, they have reached, literally and figuratively, the end of their tether. This is the sign of a very poor trainer who is not working with the dog. Imagine yourself as a dog in that situation, how far would you have to be pushed to defend yourself physically - and make no mistake, this is defensive, not aggressive. I'll say that again, given a choice, dogs will try to avoid and escape a threat (instinctively, an animal will avoid a physical confrontation because in the wild, the risk of injury could lead to their being unable to hunt and feed). The bite happens when they are cornered. And this backs it up -
. The moment Chowder saw him Chowder submitted right away. Chowder turned to a totally different dog today.
Chowder was scared. Let me ask you this. Your daughter is 8. At school, does she learn best from teachers who motivate and encourage her? Or ones who bully her and frighten her?

If you continue with this type of training, Chowder will learn that he cannot tell you more subtly when he is afraid, unsure or uncomfortable. His early signals will not be noticed or, as he might see it, will be ignored. So, he will lose options of communicating with you in smaller ways, and he will be quicker to bite. You are creating the risk of him becoming a biter.

You can turn this round if you change now. But if you continue with trainers who use these methods, then yes, you will have a problem. Please, please avoid trainers in the style of Cesar Milan (who is considered to be appalling by qualified trainers) and look for someone who uses reward based training. A food motivated dog trains easily with food. When you work, you expect to be paid, try to think of it being like that for your dog.

Nobody disagrees with good boundaries and manners but you don't need to bully your dog. If you think about good leaders, perhaps in your workplace, they get better performance by motivating their employees than by intimidating them. Dogs are not really so different.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Patience and consistency are key here. At three months, your puppy had the attention span of a gnat, it's like trying to teach a toddler long division. You need to keep at it, the theory is that he learns 'teeth on skin = end of fun". If the toy then tree doesn't work, step out of the room for a few seconds, then back in with the toy. He will learn that playing his way makes play end, and playing your way is actually more fun. But you must, must, must be consistent. Every person, every time. And it may get a little worse before it gets better, that's entirely normal as he finds the things that used to work for him no longer get him attention, so he tries them all the harder. This is good, it shows what you are doing is starting to work.


That would make me immediately walk away. Bite scars are not a badge of honour. In fact, they show that this trainer has not only been unable to recognise signs of tension and fear, he has ignored them repeatedly. Would you learn to fly with a pilot who has had a history of multiple plane crashes?

Dogs go through a series of signals before they get to a bite, warning people they are unhappy, uncomfortable, afraid. If it gets to a bite, they have reached, literally and figuratively, the end of their tether. This is the sign of a very poor trainer who is not working with the dog. Imagine yourself as a dog in that situation, how far would you have to be pushed to defend yourself physically - and make no mistake, this is defensive, not aggressive. I'll say that again, given a choice, dogs will try to avoid and escape a threat (instinctively, an animal will avoid a physical confrontation because in the wild, the risk of injury could lead to their being unable to hunt and feed). The bite happens when they are cornered. And this backs it up.

Chowder was scared. Let me ask you this. Your daughter is 8. At school, does she learn best from teachers who motivate and encourage her? Or ones who bully her and frighten her?

If you continue with this type of training, Chowder will learn that he cannot tell you more subtly when he is afraid, unsure or uncomfortable. His early signals will not be noticed or, as he might see it, will be ignored. So, he will lose options of communicating with you in smaller ways, and he will be quicker to bite. You are creating the risk of him becoming a biter.

You can turn this round if you change now. But if you continue with trainers who use these methods, then yes, you will have a problem. Please, please avoid trainers in the style of Cesar Milan (who is considered to be appalling by qualified trainers) and look for someone who uses reward based training. A food motivated dog trains easily with food. When you work, you expect to be paid, try to think of it being like that for your dog.

Nobody disagrees with good boundaries and manners but you don't need to bully your dog. If you think about good leaders, perhaps in your workplace, they get better performance by motivating their employees than by intimidating them. Dogs are not really so different.
Actually, the Veteran trainer also owns a boarding school for dogs. He said one of the dogs got very aggressive and he had to stop the fight during socialization time. The trainer was not at all fierce with Chowder. Chowder's first reaction with the trainer was so relaxed and so friendly. Like I said, with the trainer, Chowder had become a totally different dog hehe. This old trainer uses treats also like you mentioned. He was gentle and even dancing with the Chowder during his training. The trainer was trying to show me that being anxious and too rigid also triggers Chowder's frustration. When I mentioned Cesar Milan style, the trainer uses a leash well because of regulations here. Chowder is a runner and the association forbids off leash dogs in our community. We don't really have that space similar in the US or Europe for dogs to play like that. I wish we did though...

Truthfully, the trainer has caught my body language and tone with Chowder. He spotted where some of my moves would trigger Chowder to be frustrated. For instance, I was holding the leash too tightly while walking and also confusing Chowder with my tone while giving him the commands like 'No'. The trainer is amazed at how fast Chowder learns the commands. From his perspective, Chowder acts aggressively towards us because he sees us as playmates and unfortunately uses nipping and biting to 'herd' us into his play.

Thank you so much for the advice! We will surely take this into account going forward. I understand what you are saying about listening and feeling the puppy's signs. I believe the trainer needs to train me more than he needs to train Chowder.
 

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The trainer was trying to show me that being anxious and too rigid also triggers Chowder's frustration.
Dogs are very adept at picking up on our moods. They usually interpret anxiety by thinking there's something to fear - which from their point of view can't possibly be anxiety over their behaviour, so it must mean that there's a threat they need to watch for. So if you're seeing frustration when you're anxious, it's more than likely you're inadvertently causing it.

The trainer here in the Philippines use old school method, but applies that Cesar Milan touch. Using the "Tsk", "Collar Jerk" etc.
This is definitely something to avoid. It may suppress undesirable behaviours in the short term, but it's only effective as long as the fear of the negative feedback outweighs other instincts. There is also a lot of accumulated evidence that negative feedback like this substantially increases the risk of a dog displaying aggression. Much better to work toward having a dog which approaches the world with thought and curiosity rather than fear, and obeys out of love and because they trust you want what's best for them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Dogs are very adept at picking up on our moods. They usually interpret anxiety by thinking there's something to fear - which from their point of view can't possibly be anxiety over their behaviour, so it must mean that there's a threat they need to watch for. So if you're seeing frustration when you're anxious, it's more than likely you're inadvertently causing it.
I believe this to be very true. 2nd day of training involved me more than the 1st session. Trainer focused on how I was walking Chowder and how Chowder was reacting to me body language. I am clinically diagnosed to have anxiety and Chowder can detect it quickly. With the trainer, he was happy and obeying with trust. When I took over, Chowder's body felt less relaxed. At that time I felt tensed and so I believe I inadvertently transferred this feeling to him. While I was adjusting my hand, trainer noticed Chowder stepped aside defensively.

At that moment, I realized I need the training more than Chowder does. I spoke with the trainer and he agreed to work with Chowder and our family.

Thank you again!
 

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I believe this to be very true. 2nd day of training involved me more than the 1st session. Trainer focused on how I was walking Chowder and how Chowder was reacting to me body language. I am clinically diagnosed to have anxiety and Chowder can detect it quickly. With the trainer, he was happy and obeying with trust. When I took over, Chowder's body felt less relaxed. At that time I felt tensed and so I believe I inadvertently transferred this feeling to him. While I was adjusting my hand, trainer noticed Chowder stepped aside defensively.

At that moment, I realized I need the training more than Chowder does. I spoke with the trainer and he agreed to work with Chowder and our family.

Thank you again!
Sometimes the biggest part of fixing problem behaviours is recognizing the part we play in them. I'm glad you've found a trainer who can help you with that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Would anyone please help me how to understand Chowder's behavior? When I put the leash on, he is such a good boy. I ask him to sit and stay before going out the door and he obediently listens. It is when we're out the house something goes differently. Before our walks, I let him sniff around to make him go pee and poo. When he's done, we would start the walk. At some point even on a loose slip collar, he would suddenly look at me and then walk in front me. He would proceed to bark at me and start lunging with intent to nip and bite lightly. When I apply the pull and let loose method, he would only get more wound up than before. So I then proceed to make him sit and he surprisingly obeys. We'd start walking again and same he goes back in front of me and begins to lunge. I would try be like a tree and no effect. I would try to instruct sit and stay but he still persists. I think he is trying to HERD me.

Any thoughts and suggestions here? Treat or no treat same behavior would happen. Sigh...
 

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I think another possible explanation could be that he is overwhelmed, and he is trying to communicate this by lunging and nipping. Leash walking is hard for 6 month old pups, and environment can be a lot too. It can easily become too much, and this is often how they communicate discomfort. Does his lunging and nipping "feel" more playful or more stressed to you?

If it's stress release/communication, I would try shorter walks, probably very short, just more often, and see if it changes anything. Loose leash walking takes a lot of focus, and 6 month olds sometimes can't successfully do more than a few minutes at a time.

Another thing that makes me think it might be stress and frustration is because you mention his reaction to your pulling on a slip lead. I would suggest using a kinder tool (I like harnesses for walking dogs, but I understand they might not be everyone's cup of tea - my 10 month old pup dislikes them, so she gets walked on a very wide, comfortable collar where the environment is not too difficult for her to focus). I'd go above and beyond to avoid putting pressure on the neck of a dog, especially a puppy this young, because negative associations with leash walking can form very quickly and lead to fears, reactivity and physical problems down the line. Often, young dogs are physically capable of longer walks, but mentally they are not ready, so it can become too much and they get frustrated and overwhelmed.
 

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At some point even on a loose slip collar, he would suddenly look at me and then walk in front me. He would proceed to bark at me and start lunging with intent to nip and bite lightly
This sounds like an invitation to play. As a puppy, I'd guess he's reached the end of his attention span for 'calm walking'.

When I apply the pull and let loose method, he would only get more wound up than before.
He may be interpreting this interaction as an assent to play, and then be frustrated when you don't follow through.

So I then proceed to make him sit and he surprisingly obeys.
As something different from walking that gives him your full attention, he may view this as part of the game.

We'd start walking again and same he goes back in front of me and begins to lunge. I would try be like a tree and no effect. I would try to instruct sit and stay but he still persists.
I suspect that from his point of view, he's already established that he's bored with walking, he's gotten your agreement to play, the game has started, and he's not ready to stop playing yet.

To avoid this whole scenario, it may benefit you to keep the walk reasonably short, and make it all a big game: alternate walking 'at a heel' with sniffing on a loose leash, running, changing directions, active tricks (right/left spins, backing up, etc.), still commands (sit, stay, lie down, etc.) - whatever it takes to keep him actively engaged for the duration.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
I think another possible explanation could be that he is overwhelmed, and he is trying to communicate this by lunging and nipping. Leash walking is hard for 6 month old pups, and environment can be a lot too. It can easily become too much, and this is often how they communicate discomfort. Does his lunging and nipping "feel" more playful or more stressed to you?

If it's stress release/communication, I would try shorter walks, probably very short, just more often, and see if it changes anything. Loose leash walking takes a lot of focus, and 6 month olds sometimes can't successfully do more than a few minutes at a time.

Another thing that makes me think it might be stress and frustration is because you mention his reaction to your pulling on a slip lead. I would suggest using a kinder tool (I like harnesses for walking dogs, but I understand they might not be everyone's cup of tea - my 10 month old pup dislikes them, so she gets walked on a very wide, comfortable collar where the environment is not too difficult for her to focus). I'd go above and beyond to avoid putting pressure on the neck of a dog, especially a puppy this young, because negative associations with leash walking can form very quickly and lead to fears, reactivity and physical problems down the line. Often, young dogs are physically capable of longer walks, but mentally they are not ready, so it can become too much and they get frustrated and overwhelmed.
Chowder gets excited whenever I pick up the collar slip or the tether kind leash. I prefer to use the collar slip because he has gotten skin abrasions from his collar due to excessive pulling because well he gets so excited while walking.

When he puts this "attention" to me, it's a combination of playful and stress I believe. It's more playful than stress though as the Trainer had seen this reaction to me. The trainer was able to capture that very moment when Chowder walks then suddenly steps in front of me and starts barking. His body wasn't stiff but rather engaged to have a chase. Just to be clear, I dont mind the chase, but I mind the nipping and biting - ouch! 🤪

I've started the short walks but more frequently when I'm around. So far he has attempted to lunge once but I was able to remind him with a slight quick and release collar pull plus verbal cue "No". Took 3 tries before he finally sat down and calmed down.

I give special attention to the neck as advised by trainer and online videos. Have to adjust every now and then, which is fine by me so long Chowder feels comfortable. Loosening the tension helps ease the frustration from Chowder and me too 😆

Thanks everyone! I'll keep everyone posted.
 

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Ah, yes, I see, the ambivalent pup - playful and overstimulated at the same time. I've had a few of those myself :)

For my enthusiastic pullers, I found that "allowing" any pulling or neck pressure ultimately contributed to overarousal. That's why I switched to harnesses and looooots of loose leash training, both indoors and outdoors. My dogs tend to be on the bigger side, so it is important to me/for me that they have self control and don't rely on my reminders or corrections. If they lunged, I would fly! Plus, I like the feeling of walking together focused, relaxed and connected. But it's a project, uff. :)
 

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His body wasn't stiff but rather engaged to have a chase. Just to be clear, I dont mind the chase, but I mind the nipping and biting - ouch!
If you can catch this moment, it's the perfect time to start a game of 'Follow Me' (which is essentially a human-speed game of chase with 'rules' that help teach walking in heel): keep the dog to your left (or right, if you prefer - it doesn't really matter which as long as it's consistent and they're not running in circles around you), call for 'attention' and alternate walking backward (you, not the dog, who may either back up with you or turn around while keeping to the same side) / forward / alternating directions / changing speeds for 4-5 steps at a time. Giving rewards when their nose is at your hip encourages them to learn the proper position for walking at a heel regardless of direction of travel and speed. If they do nip, that's when the game stops. The intent is to teach that good behaviour = fun and rewards, and bad behaviour = no fun and no rewards. Remember too: this is a game, so keep leash pressure to a minimum (they should want to follow because it's exciting, not because you're pulling them).
 
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