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Dog Training 911

posted May 27th, 2013 by
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by Mary Green

Q I would love to be able to take my dog for a walk, but he pulls on the leash so bad he chokes himself! How do I stop this?

A Teaching loose leash walking is especially challenging when your dog is already a committed puller. Sometimes the best way to start is to make a change in equipment. Today there are a number of dog harnesses on the market that are specifically designed as no-pulling, or anti-pulling, harnesses.

Traditional harnesses did a good job of taking pressure off of the dog’s throat and distributing pressure across the whole chest but did nothing to discourage pulling. In fact, they make pulling much more comfortable. Over the last decade, there have been many advances in no-pull harnesses.

The Whole Dog Journal™ reviewed various no-pull harnesses in the October 2012 issue, listing their top picks. One pick for being simple and economical is the SENSE-ible harness, which is one that we recommend to our K9 Manners & More clients.

A no-pulling harness can help you control the front end of the dog without causing him pain or discomfort. Using a no-pull harness is definitely a management tool, and if you are using it as such without teaching the dog (with positive reinforcement), to walk calmly with you, he will eventually learn to pull against the harness as well.

Collars such as choke chains and prong collars might help stop the dog from pulling, but there are reasons why we do not recommend them. They are not easy to use without causing damage to a dog’s throat, trachea, tonsils, and perhaps, thyroid. In some cases, they actually increase a dog’s reactivity or aggression while on leash. Here are some of our tips for teaching loose leash walking:

• If he is pulling, we are not moving! Just stand still for a second, and then do something to get your dog’s attention. Move forward once he has reoriented toward you.

• Lure/Reward! Have treats in your hand and lure him along where you want him to be. Every few steps he gets a treat. After you’ve done that a few times, he will know that’s where the good stuff is, and you can reinforce him for staying close.

• If he pulls out ahead of you, stop. Then lure him so he is facing you; then lure him toward you (still facing you); then lure him around to your side. Feed the treat at your side.

• Be interesting and a little unpredictable on a walk! Walk in a circle, do some about face turns, stop and sit, etc.

• Take time to smell the roses! Or maybe smell the mailboxes? Stop frequently and let your dog enjoy a sniffing opportunity! Walks should be fun and interesting for both you and your dog.

Q Why does my dog seem friendly one minute, wanting to make friends with another dog, and the next minute wants to fight?

A Goodness, I wish I had a perfect answer for this question! The truth of the matter is that we just don’t know. It often seems that the snarky behavior came out of the blue. Some dogs are snarky at times with dogsthey know really well and usually get along with. Others are reactive only to dogs they don’t know.

Here are some points to ponder:

On leash/off leash: Many dogs are just fine with other dogs while off leash, and are reactive only when on leash. Reasons could include prior experience of being attacked while on the leash, making flight not an option.

Or perhaps some were collar corrected for sniffing other dogs, so they now associate the presence of another dog with a correction coming. Another reason I see for dogs to react while on leash is that they have been subjected to improper greeting by dogs, and their owners have “made” them tolerate it. So they want to warn off a potential improper greeter!

Resource guarding of their important human: I do think some dogs are just not comfortable with a dog coming too close to their beloved. Or maybe just too close to their stash of treats!

Prior bad experience: Some dogs react only to a certain breed, type or look of dog. It could be because of history of a bad experience.

Reaction of the other dog: There is a split second where dogs decide how the encounter is going to go; play, fight or retreat. They really are great at conflict resolution, and the vast majority of encounters do not result in fights. Frustration: Dogs that play with other dogs a lot may be frustrated on leash because they are not going to play.

Cues and signals from the owner: We can trigger a reaction in so many ways—tugging or jerking back on the leash, speaking sharply, tensing up or holding our breath. Our dogs are so attuned to us that they might sense danger because our hearts are beating faster, and we are breathing rapidly. And, since we are afraid our dog might act aggressively, we do all of these things!