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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, my dogs are fairly terrible at walking with a loose leash. I let Levi get away with it forever because he was such a cute little bear, and I loved watching him run to get to meet people. Well, lesson learned. He's awful now, not reactive really, he doesn't bark, but he does pull to get to people or dogs (don't even get me started on getting to the dog park). Now he's 50 pounds of strength that sometimes drags, and I'm sure has the potential to knock me over. We are not making the same mistake with Heidi.

We have started really practicing, I take each dog out separately in the morning, and then in the evening they go out together with my husband and I. They are both making progress, although Heidi seems to struggle more.

We practice in the house and they are both amazing. We practice on our street, Levi is amazing (we just had an insanely successful walk with ZERO pulling, and instant responses to changes of speed, despite seeing people and lawnmowers), Heidi is alright.

The next step seems to be increasing distractions, but the minute we go somewhere anywhere with any dogs, Levi forgets everything. Should we just keep practicing on the street for a while and eventually move on, or should we just accept it's going to be terrible in the distraction zone and steel ourselves for a pulling-heavy training session?

We are using the technique where as soon as the dog pulls, we stop (thankfully they are both on harnesses, and we try to not jerk them to a stop) and wait for the tension to yield. We give treats for walking nicely, and we give a treat if they pull and then return to us (generally waiting for a sit or at least 5-10 seconds, so hopefully we are avoiding any bad behaviour chains).

Thoughts? Advice? I should also note that Levi does have a nice "heel", but I don't really like that for walks, as I like having them sniff and do whatever.
 

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The way I understand reactivity, it occurs when the dog is just so overstimulated they aren't thinking - they are just reacting to the situation. Fear reactivity is super common, but it can also just be due to overexcitement, confusion, not knowing what to do, etc. etc.

Perhaps I'm understanding it totally wrong, that's just how it makes sense to me. Chisum is a reactive dog, and while it usually is fear for him, it's isn't always.

Have you tried some of the standard reactivity stuff? Such as, finding the point where he notices the other dog but doesn't get excited, then rewarding him for redirecting back to you? Impulse control and a solid leave it, not just for items but animals as well, could also be beneficial.

Hopefully this makes some sense - I had an early morning so I'm not firing on all cylinders today. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The way I understand reactivity, it occurs when the dog is just so overstimulated they aren't thinking - they are just reacting to the situation. Fear reactivity is super common, but it can also just be due to overexcitement, confusion, not knowing what to do, etc. etc.

Perhaps I'm understanding it totally wrong, that's just how it makes sense to me. Chisum is a reactive dog, and while it usually is fear for him, it's isn't always.

Have you tried some of the standard reactivity stuff? Such as, finding the point where he notices the other dog but doesn't get excited, then rewarding him for redirecting back to you? Impulse control and a solid leave it, not just for items but animals as well, could also be beneficial.

Hopefully this makes some sense - I had an early morning so I'm not firing on all cylinders today. ;)
That definitely sounds like him. He has an awesome "watch me" and "leave it", but when he hits that point, he ignores that and you have to put a treat to his nose to get his attention back.

I wonder if LAT would work for us?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Just had a phenomenal walk with both dogs. They are definitely watching us the whole time, because we are rewarding so often, but we aren't luring, which I don't really like for walking. We also allowed them to go sniff things once they were walking on a loose leash.

For once, I'm actually feeling optimistic about maybe being able to take them for enjoyable walks.
 
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Try getting the dog to work for you not a treat.

As you have already discovered, the allure of a food scrap does not come close to the appeal of another dog or human.
 

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Try getting the dog to work for you not a treat.

As you have already discovered, the allure of a food scrap does not come close to the appeal of another dog or human.
What would you recommend to get my dog to "work for me"? We don't lure, and the food isn't visible/we keep our hands out of our pockets and the dog is only given the food reward when the marker is given, so I don't feel like we are bribing, just rewarding.
 

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What would you recommend to get my dog to "work for me"? We don't lure, and the food isn't visible/we keep our hands out of our pockets and the dog is only given the food reward when the marker is given, so I don't feel like we are bribing, just rewarding.
The dog is working for the food scrap because the dog is smart enough to connect the dots and understands how to ultimately get the food reward.

I am in ( was ) the same situation as you with my current dog, she is very reactive to other dogs and no piece of raw meat would stop her focus and ultimately going over threshold when encountering many dogs especially ones which would be displaying certain body posturing. Whether it was fear/aggression or simple uber dominant behavior, it made no difference to me, so I decided to take a different tack to beat the problem. I started by eliminating all food rewards and chose a compromise which involved engagement via her tug toy and most importantly I became significantly more involved in the "reward" as she was now working for the promise of being rewarded with a higher priority which indulged her higher drive. My goal was to impress upon her that I was more engaging than any other dog or human. In doing this, she started to ignore other dogs because the engagement I created was more powerful than her fear/aggression/dominance baloney as well as any food morsel. A big benefit to this approach was, it created an incredible amount of focus on me rather than the rest of the world. As long as I had her attention, she felt safer relying on my guidance and took a ton a pressure off of her regarding her phobias.

To make a long story longer, once the food rewards were eliminating and the dog was working more for the joy of our engagement, I allowed her to have possession of her tug toys during our training sessions, so in essence she had the reward in her jaws but yet still obeyed and performed as asked. All I had left for "rewards" was the praise she received when her obedience dictated the praise.

Too many dog owners ( ones with forging unruly dogs ) need to treat the "walk" as an exercise in obedience not a stroll around the neighborhood. Proofing your dog in situations where the trigger exists needs to be done ever so carefully because every time the dog goes over threshold you have just taken two steps backwards.

My bottom line is, through proper obedience where the dog is working with/for you, you can teach a reactive dog to ignore other dogs because the obedience you have instilled in the dog reigns supreme. The best part of this is, over a period of time with the dog staying under threshold because of the heightened obedience, the dog will find itself in the situation which used to set the dog off and it no longer reacts the same way because of your hard work and consistency.

It's a long road to travel with a reactive dog but obedience training and a real commitment on your behalf will make the difference.
 

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@DriveDog many trainers would argue that a toy reward out and visable is a lure as it prompts behavior, no different than food. Also dogs are capable of realizing you have a toy reward hidden on your body, especially after having just been rewarded and/or regularly being rewarded with them during training. How can we be sure the dog is working for the trainer and not for the toy/play with the toy? Not saying it's one or the other but this topic always gets me thinking about it... just interesting to me and often seems to be more semantics...

Anyway! @Shandula what has helped my guys is to use a decent amount of Premack. I try and use those distractions as environmental/real life rewards. Teaches them what to do to gain access to those things. ;)

Sounds like you might already be using this concept a bit. Sniffing is one I also use often on walks. I ask my guys to walk beside me for a bit and then release them to sniff, explore, and just be a dog. After a little while I call them back (often reward that recall with some tossed treats/treats they need to jump to get or play) and then ask them to walk with me some more and then again release to sniff and explore. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Another exercise/game I use is the ''cheese on a plate" game. I initially teach it with a food reward on a little dish out on the ground or a toy. Something the dog wants that I can control easily. The goal is to get to the distraction/reward on a loose leash. Loose leash = forward movement. Eye contact = bonus reward (treats are easiest but can also be play if the individual find it very reinforcing). Pulling = penalty yard or turning and walking back to the start line (done gently and quietly). When they make it all the way to the item I tell them to ''get it'' and let them have it.

Once they understand this game pretty well, I start to apply it to other distractions out and about. The cheese on a plate can become a person, dog, pole or bush they want to mark, groundhog hole (Yes, I actually have one I use often on walks through my neighborhood), etc. :)
 

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If you're doing the stop-and-stand-still thing, I suggest stopping when he stops paying attention to you (which generally happens earlier than when he starts to pull). Helps prevent that yo-yo behavior chain, where dogs learn to bounce to the end of the leash, pull, bounce back for their treat, and repeat.

Loose leash walking is an incredibly difficult skill for most dogs, and not an easy thing to teach. This is especially true when you're trying to transition from low-distraction to high-distraction settings. I just picked up Denise Fenzi's Beyond the Back Yard: Train Your Dog to Listen Anytime, Anywhere!, which addresses the question of how to make that transition. Pretty good book so far, and might be a help to you.

One thing you might start working on is adding more mid-level distractions into your training. Instead of going from "walking along a quiet and familiar street" to "walking along a new street where there are people, dogs, and so many smells," maybe find some ways to split the difficulty into smaller steps. For instance, if you put Levi's dinner bowl down on the familiar, low-distraction street, is he still able to walk on a loose leash or is he pulling toward the bowl? If so, you've found a controllable, mid-level distraction to help you with skill building. If I have my SO walk twenty feet away and stand calmly, we can usually use him as a major distraction (and then we switch roles, so our dog can practice with each of us). With two dogs, each one can be a distraction for the other. For my dog, even dropping a stinky sock on the ground can present my girl with quite a dilemma, as she has to actively choose between whiffing stinky laundry and engaging with me...and every good choice is one I can reinforce, so that she learns to make more and more good choices.

You can also go to new environments and not walk. Stay in one area (stationary or moving within a small area, whichever is less stressful for your dog), and reward him for paying attention to you. Or, if paying attention to you is hard, play LAT or do some counter-conditioning, until paying attention is an easy choice that he can offer freely. It might not feel like you're practicing "loose leash walking" if you're not actually walking, but going to three new environments a week and just settling in & getting comfortable can help a dog learn to feel considerably calmer over time.
 

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I agree with everything snackrat said above, but especially just going to new places and hanging out!

Super, super helpful in the long run.
I often start with just relaxing, letting my guys acclimate to the environment, and capturing/rewarding attention in new places. Makes things so much easier if I go with the expectation that I'm not likely to get a whole lot out of them in a new place. So goal is just to start building attention in that setting. Anything more is a bonus. After a few visits my guys tend to hop out, look around just long enough to realize where they are and then give me attention. That speedy response/engagement tells me they are ready to work. :)
 

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@DriveDog, you took a similar course to what I did. I could not improve my dog's loose leash walking or reactivity with the usual operant conditioning techniques, they just did not work long term. I needed for him to focus on me and not other dogs, skateboarders, cyclists, strollers and running kids etc. I am still working on this issue, but the improvement has been huge. He no longer reacts to people on skateboards, on bikes, walking strollers or kids playing. He had made vast improvements with dogs also to the point where an unleashed dog can run up to him (while leashed) and he will focus on me and not the dog, and will walk away with me.

I have achieved this through the methods devised by trainer Kevin Behan (https://naturaldogtraining.com/). The methods being "Pushing", "Tug" and eye contact, but with the treat placed in my outstretched hand, so to get the treat he has to look at me and not the treat. Finally I am now the moose to my dog's wolf - the theory behind this is that in the hunt, wolves are magnetized by and attracted to the large prey, who is in fact in control. What these exercises have achieved is that I am more compelling to him now than other dogs and it has created more emotional flow and attraction within him so that he is able to use feeling to overcome instinct and habit.

I should also add these techniques have improved his loose leash walking exponentially, he is has gone from a puller to an excellent loose leash walker, and he is a 200 lb dog so there is no way I can physically hold him if he wants to go somewhere.
 

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For reactivity it's fairly common for trainers (those big on classical, counter, and operant conditioning) to at some point work dogs as you @gnosticdog and drivedog do... I can't remember who told me this but at some point one has to make the switch from classical/counter conditioning to operant conditioning...

My dogs have made incredible progess via similar approaches. I'm big on free shaping, training new behaviors, and solidifying trained behaviors in the presence of triggers (Pam Dennison/REWARD Zone style).

Anyway Kevin Behan does have his unique explainations but nothing as far as the actual training that I am aware of falls outside learning theory... Iirc Pulling is just a specific way of feeding a reward... Makes that treat higher value for many dogs. Not all that different from ''food play'', tossed treats, high treats, carefully placed rewards, etc. used by a great many trainers to up value and create animation and build drive. At the end of the day, it's still +R. Youre still giving a reinforcer to strengthen a behavior...
 

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@DriveDog many trainers would argue that a toy reward out and visable is a lure as it prompts behavior, no different than food. Also dogs are capable of realizing you have a toy reward hidden on your body, especially after having just been rewarded and/or regularly being rewarded with them during training. How can we be sure the dog is working for the trainer and not for the toy/play with the toy? Not saying it's one or the other but this topic always gets me thinking about it... just interesting to me and often seems to be more semantics...

Because transitioning from a food scrap to engagement with your dog via a toy makes the human an integral part of the engagement. IMHO, it's all about engagement. The toy eventually ( as I stated ) is given to the dog during obedience training and the dog has possession of the toy the entire training session, so there is absolutely no lure or baiting, simply the dog working for the human because it chooses to please it's human.
 

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Because transitioning from a food scrap to engagement with your dog via a toy makes the human an integral part of the engagement. IMHO, it's all about engagement. The toy eventually ( as I stated ) is given to the dog during obedience training and the dog has possession of the toy the entire training session, so there is absolutely no lure or baiting, simply the dog working for the human because it chooses to please it's human.
I understand engagement....
And spend a lot of time working with my dogs on it.

I just don't necessarily buy the dog is working to please the handler rather than the play.

I could maybe see working to please the handle if the handler never used food or toys, just personal play, praise, and attention... But still how would we really know the dog is working to please the handler or if the dog enjoys the play and attention? Idk... semantics...

guess end of the day I don't buy that dogs work to please people. I see them as working to get what they want or enjoy. Could be a variety of things including interaction with the handler. And that's where I feel engagement comes from - a history of reinforcing interactions (can be food play, toy and personal play, praise and attention, anything the dog really likes, even a combo) with the handler on exchange for focus and attention from the dog.

Really, it's interesting to talk and hear a different pov. Important thing though is that we probably have more in common in how we actually train despite not agreeing on the why. :)
 

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I understand engagement....
And spend a lot of time working with my dogs on it.

I just don't necessarily buy the dog is working to please the handler rather than the play.

I could maybe see working to please the handle if the handler never used food or toys, just personal play, praise, and attention... But still how would we really know the dog is working to please the handler or if the dog enjoys the play and attention? Idk... semantics...

guess end of the day I don't buy that dogs work to please people. I see them as working to get what they want or enjoy. Could be a variety of things including interaction with the handler. And that's where I feel engagement comes from - a history of reinforcing interactions (can be food play, toy and personal play, praise and attention, anything the dog really likes, even a combo) with the handler on exchange for focus and attention from the dog.

Really, it's interesting to talk and hear a different pov. Important thing though is that we probably have more in common in how we actually train despite not agreeing on the why. :)

Because once the dog has mutual ownership of the so called reward ( tug toy in this instance ) yet still abides to the human's desires the dog is now working for the human with the "reward" of a certain pending engagement between human and dog. If the dog had a porterhouse steak in it's possession versus a different drive motivator ( such as a tug toy ), the dog no longer requires the human to satisfy it's drive ( food drive in this case). Since this topic started by Shandula is focused on dogs which exhibit certain conduct stemming from behavior which humans find undesirable, one has to go beyond "treats" and find a better and more appealing method to curb the behavior. Anybody can have a dog which will perform for food except those which are reactive to certain triggers. My opinion is that one needs to find the strongest drive in their dog and utilize that as the tool to make the correction towards the undesirable behavior one is trying to correct. By doing this, and most importantly bringing the human into the equation as an essential component ( engagement) in satisfying the dog's drive impulse/desire, the dog will work for you with the "reward" or part of it, in it's possession ( tug toy in it's mouth). The dog has to work for me in order to make the tug toy have any drive benefit ( my engagement) even though the tug toy is in it's mouth already. If hyper-reactive dogs could simply be cured via a food treat, life would be so easy.

At the end of the day, a reward is a reward whether it be a piece of food or a hearty wrestling session filled with praise and proud smiles but finding the best tool ( drive motivator ) to create focus and obedience which involves engagement will be a far better path to take in beating the problems of a reactive dog versus a piece of meat.

Yes, we have much in common regarding our goals. We both pursue the understanding of the uniqueness of dogs and strive to create a bond particular to the dog we know so well. It can be very difficult for us intelligent humans at times to see life through a dog's eyes, this perhaps has been my biggest struggle over the years regarding my relationship with my wonderful dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I don't think my dogs find anything more appealing than food, it is definitely their number one motivator.

Levi had class last night, and his heeling was amazing, the instructor asked us to move on to heeling without a leash, and he was stellar.

I definitely think we will start taking them random places and just having them sit there and offer attention. I think a large part of our problem is that when we venture out of our neighborhood for walks it is so new and exciting that they also forget they should also be walking nicely.

I also have to remind myself that they are still both quite young (Levi is just over a year, and Heidi is 4 months) so some excitement and puppy antics are to be expected.
 

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Anyway Kevin Behan does have his unique explainations but nothing as far as the actual training that I am aware of falls outside learning theory... Iirc Pulling is just a specific way of feeding a reward... Makes that treat higher value for many dogs. Not all that different from ''food play'', tossed treats, high treats, carefully placed rewards, etc. used by a great many trainers to up value and create animation and build drive. At the end of the day, it's still +R. Youre still giving a reinforcer to strengthen a behavior...
Kevin addresses your first point, to some degree in his FAQ section:

https://naturaldogtraining.com/freq...whether-you-intend-to-or-not-whether-you-ack/

Here is Kevin Behan's explanations on why he pushes, the objective is quite different to food play, tossed treats, placed rewards etc if I am understanding correctlly what those things are. He uses pushing to move energy, to overcome resistance. To get this, you really need to understand his theories and accept they are valid. Having done some of his techniques and studying his theories and observing them in my dog, I do think he has gotten closer to the canine mind that anyone else.

Why We Push

How I Developed The "Pushing Technique"
 

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For reactivity it's fairly common for trainers (those big on classical, counter, and operant conditioning) to at some point work dogs as you @gnosticdog and drivedog do... I can't remember who told me this but at some point one has to make the switch from classical/counter conditioning to operant conditioning...
I also wanted to comment on this point you made, I hope it isn't just trainers that do these techniques and then hand the dog back. The dog's handler needs to be pushing with the dog a lot. Some people even feed their dog via pushing. This is not practical for me because my dog is raw fed and he is big and strong, so I would probably end up battered and bruised. Although I am still trying to get him to amp up the intensity and push really, really hard, but too hard and I am on the floor!
 

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I think most dogs pretty quickly learn that the food comes sooner or later and that not earning the food reward now doesn't preclude them from earning it in a couple minutes when they get done doing what they want to do first.
 

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I don't think my dogs find anything more appealing than food, it is definitely their number one motivator.

Levi had class last night, and his heeling was amazing, the instructor asked us to move on to heeling without a leash, and he was stellar.

I definitely think we will start taking them random places and just having them sit there and offer attention. I think a large part of our problem is that when we venture out of our neighborhood for walks it is so new and exciting that they also forget they should also be walking nicely.

I also have to remind myself that they are still both quite young (Levi is just over a year, and Heidi is 4 months) so some excitement and puppy antics are to be expected.
That sounds great and if your dog's highest drive and motivator is food than run with it, I wish I could say the same for my dogs. My dogs have displayed their prey drive as their highest priority so I use this particular drive as the training tool to create the desired obedience. My current dog would ignore a piece of food if certain distractions ( say a rabbit darting out of cover ) present themselves. However, if I use techniques which appeal to her prey drive, I can train much more effectively and keep the dog focused on me. In the long haul it has proven to be much more effective dealing with distractions which used to result in the dog suddenly forgetting all her training and obedience. My dogs are all about the chase and capture ( prey drive ) versus the consumption ( food drive ) of the chase and capture. So, I tend to use motivators which trigger their prey drive. Motion is a great example. This time of year with all the leaves on the ground offers an easy way to captivate the dog's attention 100% even though the leaves are lifeless until I choose to kick a few in the air. The dog has been conditioned through engagement to fully understand it requires me to kick the leaves in order for the dog to satisfy it's desire and the dog does her level best to induce my engagement via her adherence to my commands. The beauty of this is, since the dog knows I am an integral part of making a lifeless object come to life she continually stays focused on me and ignores the rest of the world. Of course, when she is just being a dog, she certainly is at liberty to indulge herself as she chooses as long as it is acceptable behavior.

It sounds like you have smart dogs and as you mentioned are still young, especially one of them. I think your choice to perfect certain obedience skills in a sterile environment and then slowly proof the dogs in different environments with added distractions is a good plan.

Just one last thought regarding your comment " I think a large part of our problem is that when we venture out of our neighborhood for walks it is so new and exciting that they also forget they should also be walking nicely". Being completely honest with yourself, do you believe in any way, shape, form and mostly mindset on your behalf, do you act exactly the same ( 100% ) both physically and mentally when you venture out to new areas compared to the usual treks through the neighborhood? I'm a big believer that the slightest inkling of any trepidation or other emotion felt by the handler, no matter how well disguised is picked up by the dog and this creates a certain pressure on the dog which usually results in this " it's like the dog forgot all it's training" attitude. From the backyard to the obedience classroom usually has handlers acting differently because of the different environment. In many ways, the human needs to proof themselves in different environments in order to maintain the same consistent mentality and physical conduct because most any dog will instantly pick up on any differences displayed by the human and this in turn creates confusion on the dog's behalf resulting in a departure from it's "backyard" obedience skills.
 
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