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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

A quick introduction: I´m the proud owner of Billy, a 3.5 year old bundle of joy. I adopted him, so I´m not 100% sure what his mom & pops were, but it´s clear he´s got both hunting and game dog in him. I adopted Billy when he was 6 months old, and not sure of how his (short) life before that was.

The main issue we have is walking. Billy is easily excitable, very active, prey driven, and I think he may suffer from ADD ;) I don´t think he considers himself to be a pack leader...maybe he does, but it doesn´t seem like it. He just wants to move!

Walking was never fun. I would get upset, frustrated, angry, stressed, etc. I would pop the leash, get angry at him, slap him on the bum... Walking is where stress and anger would be created. I wasn´t very balanced, at all. I´ve realised I screwed up, and am going to do better from here on.

In order to prevent anger and frustration, having to constantly pull him back, or having to stop every two feet, what I´m doing now is making sure I always have him between myself and a wall/fence/other object. As soon as I notice him trying to pass my, I´ll just put my leg in front of him and block him. No voice correction, no leash, just blocking him. This allows me to stay calm and enjoy the walk more.

I´ve been doing this for 2 weeks now. He´s still sniffing around, trying to pass, and he still has an overall excited/anxious energy about him, but it seems the walks are becoming more of an enjoyable experience. At least for me they are. My question is: does this make any sense? Will we get to a point where Billy understands he´s not to pass me? Is it helping to establish my position as a leader? Or am I most likely going to have to look for routes where I can keep him between myself and a solid object for the rest of my life (or, Billy´s life)? Has anybody else used this "technique"?

An additional question here: we have a huge park next to the house where I let him off-leash during all walks. He´s allowed to roam around and do what he wants. Can this have a negative effect on his walking on the leash? Would it be advisable to only do on-leash walks for a couple weeks?

Looking forward to hearing your opinions. Thanks :)
 

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Firstly, throw any "pack leader" BS out the window. That, along with any other dominance-related theory, has been thrown out years ago.

I don't particularly think this method is effective. It would be annoying to me to have to constantly put my leg forward to block my dog. It might be helpful to look up training videos on walking (positive reinforcement only; Kikopup has some amazing tips).

I would absolutely not let the dog off leash until he has perfect recall and walks well on a leash. Absolutely not being off leash at all if your area has leash laws where you're walking.
 

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I don't think your dog's off-leash time would affect his leash behavior negatively. In the contrary, it might be a good way to let the worst steam out before attempting loose leash training.

You probably don't find many people recommending a method like that on this forum. It is good that you do not scare or hurt your dog but at the time you are just preventing him to perform the undesirable behavior which is to pull on leash. Loose leash walking is a learned skill, not a sign of bad or good leadership.

My dog is a natural talent in loose leash walking but I had a male JRT over a weekend when his owner had broken their leg - the dog tripped them over by a sudden lurch.

I tried the stop whenever the leash tightens method. A short walk that normally takes 20 mins took more than an hour and I was very frustrated when I got back inside.

I took out my clicker and treats and charged the clicker. I took the dog out. He pulled, I stopped, took a step or two forwards and the short while he walked loosely I clicked and rewarded. And the clicks and treats streamed down for every step he walked nicely. I was a lot less steaming when I returned.

Then he started ignoring the clicks and treats. Then I learned his motivation for pulling! It was sniffing. Somehow he had never learned that those nice scents will not run away and that he can get to them without pulling. I started using environment as rewards. Walk nicely = you can quickly sniff the tufts of grass we pass by. This required me to walk next to the green area though. I don't see that as a limitation because I do that all the time with my own dog anyways. On the asphalted areas I kept giving treats for good walking.

If he had been my dog I would have continued training and increased the distances he had to walk nicely to get a reward. I might also have worked on impulse control for he still tried to launch himself towards trees he knew were popular marking posts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Right, forgot to mention a few things. He has near perfect recall. He´ll maybe miss 5 out of 100 recalls, and that´s mostly to blame on him being so excited and so much going on. In those cases, he´ll come on the second call. I´m based in Spain, and letting dogs off-leash isn´t a problem where I´m at. Regardless, I´ll keep him on the lead for the moment, until he has the walk down :) Thanks!

During the first year I had Billy we worked with a trainer for a total of probably 20 - 30 one-hour classes over a period of 2 - 3 months. All positive reinforcement. We got to the point where he would come on command, stay fairly well, etc. It´s just the walk that we never got down. Will check out Kikopups tips.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
FinnAlva: that´s Billy for ya! He´s absolutely not motivated by food. Short term maybe, but he´ll get bored of it and start ignoring the clicks and treats. He loves to sniff. His favourite thing to do in the park is sniff around. Other dogs are playing and running around. Billy´s just sniffing. Using the environment may work for him.

So I understand walking nicely = smell that nice tree, a bit of grass, that corner that all his buddies mark, etc. But what happens when he pulls? Do you stop? Just ignore it? How did you handle that?

Hope to hear back :) Thanks.
 

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He did try to lunge for trees and so. Then I just stopped and stood on my two steady legs until he gave up and loosened the leash. Then we walked calmly to the tree. But I'd aim for a situation where the dog is walked to the tree without pulling or lunging.

He did not 'heal' over the weekend but I saw some progress. Anti-pulling training needs a lot of exercise.

Some dogs might benefit for learning to walk on some defined spot because then it is clear what is wanted from them. Sort of training your dog to walk where he does now but instead of blocking him, reinforce with something he values and let him find out that seeking this position will be productive. The training should be started indoors or a neutral place where there are no distractions like too many scents or people/dogs and then add distractions.

If you want to learn more about environmental rewards, you'll have to google or ask others for links because I only knew about that by remembering reading an article by some famous trainer (Karen Pryor?) years ago.
 

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Instead of waiting until the leash tightens and the dog is actually pulling, stop when the dog stops paying attention to you. This prevents various common errors (like having a dog who learns to run to the end of the leash, turn back to the owner, and then yo-yo back to the end of the leash), and helps lead to a more connected walk in the future. Dogs can manage to pay attention to you and still explore their environment...in fact, keeping the leash tight is one way they sometimes do this. But they can do it in other ways too!

When your dog resumes paying attention to you, continue the walk (that's positive reinforcement too!). Kikopup's video about yielding to leash pressure is also a great skill. You can practice loose leash walking in 'boring' places, like your house or yard, which is often a good way to help the dog understand what we're actually asking of them.
 

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Try exercising your dog before you go for a walk and treat the "walk" as an exercise in obedience. Your dog sounds like he is simply indulging in his instinctual desires, so use that to your advantage as a reward for a proper 'walk". Dog minds for the obedience portion of the walk then the reward is some following scent at the place you choose.

Leash obedience needs to be initiated with small successes for prey driven dogs amongst others, so start small while he is on lead and treat the leash as a necessary evil but reward for every small success. Use whatever form of engagement keeps the dog's attention focused on you and proceed from there. As you develop the "walk" to your liking over a period of time it will simply become a habit regarding the dog's behavior and all will be well.

Start small and ensure success.
 
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