Puppy refuses to walk and it's driving me crazy!

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by slchsu, Feb 9, 2009.

  1. slchsu

    slchsu New Member

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    Hi Everyone,
    I need help. My 4.5 month Labragolden puppy suddenly decided she will no longer walk on a leash. If I try to direct the walk, she responds by stopping, digging in, and then sitting down. Our walks, which were terrific just a month ago, have become nightmares. Tugging, either gently or forcibly, is no use. The only way to get her to move is to lure her with a treat (she responds well to "come"). As soon as she gets the treat, however, she stops again. So we pretty much move in 10 foot increments.

    What makes this all the more frustrating is that until a month ago, she was an absolute angel. She would automatically assume the "down" position when she saw me holding her leash, and didn't move a muscle as I clipped it on. We live in a 5th floor apartment, and we would zoom down the stairs, out the door, and then she would happily follow me to a de facto dog park in our complex. There, I would unclip her, allow her to run around, and when it was time to go, she would come when called and allow me to clip the leash on again and follow me back to the apartment. When she did veer off track or start pulling, a gentle tug would get her back on course.

    She still gets in the "down" position for me to clip on her leash. And in the house, she's very compliant on leash. She'll follow me around the house perfectly (I reward her every dozen feet or so with a treat). But as soon as we go outside, it all falls apart. It used to take us less than five minutes to get to the dog park. Now it takes us 30 minutes to get halfway there. It's excruciating. I've tried the treats. I've tried being patient. I get agitated just thinking about taking her for a walk.

    (Background: She wears a nylon collar and I use a nylon leash. We started out using a long retractable leash and it worked just fine until one day she decided she was done with it. The nylon leash worked for a few days, then she rejected that, too. She also used to respond if I started jogging, or if I just kept moving briskly in one direction--she would keep up in order to maintain slack in the leash. But now even that doesn't keep her from just sitting down and digging in, even on concrete, and I just don't have the heart to drag her along in a very cruel and painful game of chicken.)

    I've been scouring the Web for information on what to do, and while it's heartening to see that I'm not the only one dealing with this, I'm also quickly learning that doggie training tips are like cornholes: everyone's got one, and most of them stink.

    So much of the information out there is contradictory, or assumes smooth transitions between learning stages, or doesn't account for the existence of concurrent problem behaviors, or oversimplifies very complicated situations, or offers protracted 25-step solutions that don't leave any time for my pup to eat, sleep, or eliminate. For example, many people on dog forums have said that this age is like the canine equivalent of the "terrible twos" and that pups like mine will simply grow out of their willfulness. That's all fine and dandy, but what the heck am I supposed to do in the meantime??!!

    (More background: I have recently started using a Halti, which she's still getting used to and which does a great job of preventing her from pulling, but is useless in terms of getting her to walk, which is the main problem.)

    I should also mention that other than this one issue, she's a very cute, well-behaved dog. She's housebroken. She's not destructive or aggressive. She's very friendly and curious. She obeys "sit," "stay," "come," and "down" about 90% of the time in the house and maybe 65% of the time outdoors (too many distractions--and if anyone can help on this topic, that would be great).

    In fact, she's sufficiently imprinted with me that she would actually be just fine walking off-leash, but walking off-leash is not an option, at least for now. I really want to be able to walk her on leash. What can I do?
     
  2. So use the treats. I don't see the issue.
     
  3. bjdobson

    bjdobson Guest

    She used to go on walks just fine and now she does not. Why are you rewarding her so often on leash in the house? Perhaps you've gotten her used to the fact that she goes 10 feet, she gets a treat. She goes another 10 feet, she gets another treat.

    I wouldn't be rewarding her in the house for behaving on a leash.

    I think you've trained her to expect a treat every so many feet and now she wants it and won't walk without it.
     
  4. Dekka

    Dekka Just try me..

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    Treats are great.. but make sure they are rewards NEVER lures. Luring makes dogs need to see the treat (it becomes an environmental cue) in order to 'perform'. Rewards don't make the dog reliant on food.

    Can you stand there and wait it out. THen as soon as she moves mark and reward?
     
  5. Great suggestion, Dekka. Maybe you could get a 30 foot longline, and a comfortable chair and a nice book. Put some cool treats in your pocket. Attach said line to pup's collar. Go out near the end of the line, sit in your chair with your back to the pup, and read the book.

    When the puppy arrives near you, provide a treat, and move again to the end of the line, set up your chair, and wait. Once the pup is regularly following you for the treat, stand instead of sit, and lose the chair and the book. Then transition to the regular leash.

    I also find retractible leads INVALUABLE for teaching puppies to tolerate light pressure on the collar without giving them anything to struggle against.
     
  6. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    In addition to Dekka's usual great advice, I have a few ideas that I find helpful. I would practice in the house more where she seems to be more comfortable and then practice somewhere outside where she seems to like it more. Maybe there's something associated with where you've been walking that worries her. (?) Has anything scary happened along the walk? Anything unpleasant? Has your frustration or anxiety made you in a bad mood? Exasperated? Dogs pick up on that sooooo very easily. They read us like a book. And that could be shutting her down if that is happening.

    You could perhaps drive to a place first that she may like better, then walk....for a while. After some practice, you could then try her out again on that original path you make. Dogs seem to enjoy novelty unless they're undersocialized or timid. New sights, sounds, smells might distract her from her balking and even though she may be looking around or smelling the ground a lot, if she keeps on walking, that's the important thing for now. It may make her forget whatever it is that is making her stop and not want to go.

    What I'd do is reinforce much more frequently while she is walking...every other step for a while and don't stop when you furnish the treat....keep right on walking as long as she is walking. The more instances where her forward movement in reinforced, the odds go up that she'll make an association between walking along and getting a scrumptious treat. (use really yummy but tiny treats...hot dog, chicken or last night's left over steak) BEFORE you think she's about to stop, (really watch out of the corner of your eye for facial expression and muscle contractions that indicate she's about to stop) get her excited with a favorite squeeky toy or rope toy. Those rope toys are fun. Wiggle it, play with her while you're both still moving along. Your hands will be full, I know. But try to associate a super fun time and yummy treats with every step or two that she moves forward.

    Like Dekka said, don't lure with the treats in order to elicit walking, but reinforce after she moves one or two steps, then after another couple of steps. Gradually, as she gets onto it, you can fade such frequent rewards, spread them out, mix up number of steps she takes before getting a treat so no pattern is developed.

    Does she have a look about her when she stops? Like something in the environment is bothering her? You say she lies down automatically when you are about to clip on the leash. This was not taught? This makes me think that it may be an appeasment gesture. What does the rest of her body and face look like? Does she lower her head when she lies down or make her body partcularly hunkered down when you go to clip on the leash? It sounds like maybe she has associated the walk with something not good. There's some reason she's balking. So, now an association must be made which proves to her that walking is great fun and not scary. So, be careful where you choose to walk and I'd start out in quiet places for a while.
     
  7. DaVinci

    DaVinci New Member

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    Lose the halti. I have seen them ruin a many good dog. I like the long line idea I have used in the past and it always works.
     
  8. Dekka

    Dekka Just try me..

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    Hmm yes.. try without the halti. I wouldn't say they ruin dogs.. but many dogs find them very suppressive and aversive. If she will walk with out it then you will have to train her to walk properly and not rely on a gadget to do it for you.
     
  9. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Oh yes. I agree. I over-looked that part about the halti or forgot you wrote that. Some dogs seem to do fine with them. But many look sort of shut down with them. It may be part of why she's balking. Something over the muzzle can be too overt or imposing on a dog. The muzzle area is very psychologically sensitive.
     
  10. slchsu

    slchsu New Member

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    Thanks to everyone who's responded. I appreciate the advice, and I think the just venting about the problem was helpful in itself.

    Doberluv, as far as I can tell, there isn't anything physical or environmental issue with being outside. She loves to go outside, and gets very excited at the prospect of going outside. When we actually make it to the dog park, she's totally uninhibited and runs around and explores pretty much everything. When she stops, she just stands there, like she's waiting for something. Just sort of blank and unexcited. She doesn't seem nervous or angry. Just disinterested. I will admit that my frustration and exasperation is probably pretty obvious to her, so I'm trying to work on that.

    (As for her lying down before I clip the leash on, this was something I trained her to do, because it keeps her still, and with her head on her paws she's prevented from grabbing at the leash while I attach it. Just makes the whole clipping in process go more smoothly. Didn't really make this clear in my original post.)

    The only thing I can think of that may have attributed to her sudden change is that I've been out of town for the past couple of weeks and have had a friend take care of and walk her. He's actually the one who first reported the problems with walks--until then I had no problems with her on the retractable, except for some pulling every so often.

    My friend is a very conscientious and diligent caretaker, but he's also a nervous, cynical sort who exudes negativity doesn't hide frustration well. From the interactions that I've observed between him and my pup, I can see that he doesn't necessarily set her up for success. I can imagine their walks may not have been very fun.

    Last night, I took Dekka et al's advice and ditched the Halti and went back to the retractable. Things improved immediately. There were still some problems with pulling but we were moving pretty good and there was no digging in against me. When she did stop, I just walked to the end of the line and after a moment she would run after me.

    The only other change besides going back to the retractable was that I paid a lot more attention to my pup while we were walking, trying to be fun and entertaining and making sure to keep encouraging and rewarding her, while also trying to anticipate her moves, etc. This required a lot more work on my part, but the results were good.

    Now, I have a question about pulling. With the longer line of a retractable, it's much easier for her to veer off course, so she gets to run a long ways before she hits the end of the line and has to stop. Am I supposed to try and change her direction before she runs out to the end of the line and receives a rude jerk? Or should I stop the line as soon as she starts going off course?

    And when she does hit the end of the line, either when it's run out or because I've stopped it, she doesn't rebound. She just keeps pulling. I fear this will both damage her throat and also condition her to pressure on her throat, which would lessen the effectiveness of a corrective tug.

    So what should I do? Just stand like a statue and wait for her to stop pulling? (This could take minutes.) Or stop, allow the line to pop, and then give her a tiny bit of slack so she's not choking herself? Or give her a tug? I'm just not sure how the timing of all this should go.

    Thanks again to everyone who took the time to respond.
     
  11. Dekka

    Dekka Just try me..

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    See I am not a fan of retractable leashes for pups. Its hard for them to learn loose leash walking when no matter what they do the leash is never loose. A long line works better as there is no constant pull. (When my dogs are older I will occasionally use a flexi lead and they seem to get the difference)

    What I do is I reward heavily for walking beside me. If the pup gets a head and starts pulling I stop, wait.. if nothing changes I start walking backwards. The INSTANT the pup looks back I mark and reward. Though the pup must come back to me for the reward (all rewards happen beside me on the side I want the pup to walk). They get it pretty quickly.
     
  12. slchsu

    slchsu New Member

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    Thanks, Dekka. A couple of questions: what exactly is a long line? Is it just a, well, long line? And what's a flexi lead? We're actually living in Shanghai right now, and the pet stores are about a generation behind those in the States and Canada. I had to have someone schlep the Halti back from the U.S. And what do you mean by "mark"?

    With the retractable, I take up the tension with my off hand whenever she's walking next to me, so the length of leash between my off hand and her collar is loose. When she starts walking away, I let go of line with my off hand and the tension returns. It's not heavy tension, of course, but it's more than nothing.

    So when your pup starts getting ahead or pulling and you stop, does the line go taught? What do you do when the pup is straining at the end of the line? Just wait? When you walk backwards, are you pulling the pup, thus creating a situation that may encourage the pup to dig in against you? Or do you call the pup back to you? I understand the idea of stopping but don't quite grasp the specifics.
     
  13. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    A long line can be a horse lounge line or a soft rope of 30 feet or there abouts...whatever you like. You can get a rope at the hardware store and attach a snap clip on the end. I used my horses lounge line sometimes. You can get them at farm and feed stores or tack shops.

    A Flexi lead is a retractable, long line that comes out of a plastic housing. It has a lock on it that you can switch with your thumb to stop the line from going out. So you can make it any length within it's allowance. It takes some practice to get coordinated with it and there are conveniences with them. They can also be very dangerous if the dog somehow manages to yank the thing out of your hand because the housing can reel in at mach speed and injure the dog. Or a person. Unless the lock is in place, there is always tension on the dog's neck...it's light weight so it's not injuriously tight generally but nevertheless, there's tension.

    To mark a behavior is to identify the behavior to the dog. Marking is a conditioned reinforcer. In other words, a value is assigned to something that formerly had or inherently has no value by associating it with something that does have value. It can be a word or a sound that immediately precedes something of value. (Pavlov's bell) Clickers (little cricket toys) are used often in dog training. They make a distinctive sound. You click-treat, click-treat over and over until the dog learns that hearing the sound of the click means a treat is forthcoming. The click then, once the dog learns it's meaning is used to mark or identify a behavior you like and want repeated in the future. A treat or other reward is then given right away. Rewards must be given as close as possible in timing to the behavior. Since this is not possible much of the time or not precise, the click can sound just at the second the behavoir is happening and the communication to the dog is more exact that that behavior he's just doing IS what he's being rewarded for. The conditioned reinforcer bridges that gap in time or effectively eliminates or makes moot that time gap. Once the behavior is well learned, the clicker can be dropped from use on that behavior. ClickerSolutions Training Articles Contents Clickers can also be used to shape behavior. So you don't have to get the whole behavior perfect in order to reinforce. You can reinforce approximations to the goal and build the behavior to being more precise or better.

    You can mark a behavior you like and want to reward. (a conditioned reinforcer) Or you can mark a behavior you don't like by using a no reward marker (like my use of "uh-oh" when the dog gets to the end of the leash) It means that "you just lost out buddy." The walking forward is ceasing because you came too close to the end of the leash.....or you made tension in the leash. (whatever your preference) This would be a conditioned negative punisher...in other words...the good thing ends.

    I am also not a big fan of flexies. I know a lot of people use them and I can see that if you have no place to go for off leash play or running. But I like my dogs, when on a leash to walk fairly close to my side....not a perfect heel, but not going all over the place. And I don't want them to get use to constant tension on their neck as part of the "deal" for walking forward. As it's been said, dogs pull because they're taught that pulling allows them to walk, pulling is just part of the walk. It goes together.....because most people just keep walking when their dogs pull. The fun walk is the reinforcer for pulling. (dog is not being "dominant" or trying to be the "pack leader." Rofffffff) It's just flat out fun to go for walks.

    As an aside for the "pack leader" crowd... even with mild collar corrections, it is often worth it to them as long as they get to keep on walking, (going on walks is very valuable to most dogs) so mild collar corrections tend to not work very well either. You have to be very stern and injurious with a choke collar to deter them from pulling and they tend to shut down and dislike working with their owner.It's confusing to them because they're being punished one second and being rewarded all at the same time practically....rewarded by walking forward immediately following the yank. Mixed messages.

    For pulling etc:

    I don't want my dogs to walk across the front of me and trip me or yank me over to the side while they sniff or pee. They can go ahead a little bit, but not further than about 4 ft of my 6 ft. leash. When learning, just before the dog gets to the end, I say, "uh-oh" and stop or turn back the other way, circle back on the same boring path. (they hate that) Mix things up to prevent anticipation which can create a sort of behavior chain where they automatically get to the end and stop, go out to the end and stop over and over...just automatically. So sometimes you stop, sometimes go back, sometimes make a couple of little circles or sharp turns to the left, to the right etc. Do these things just BEFORE your dog comes to the end of the leash rather than after. Prevent that tension in the first place. Eventually, they get in the habit of paying attention because of your random maneuvers and get use to no tension on their neck and staying in the vicinity of you. LOL. Dogs pull because it has worked well in the past to be able to walk. When you change the rules on them, they're going to keep on trying for some time. Stick with it and don't take one single step forward EVER if there is tension in the leash.

    I keep the leash close to the same length all the time so they learn just how far they have to go before they hit the end. Keeping it shorter helps keep them under control so they have a harder time walking broadside across the front of you. I don't want them to hit the end hard so I use a little word first so they know it's coming. Later they seem to learn...."oh, I have one more foot to go." LOL. Once they get use to a word or sound preceding the stopping of the walking, I find I have to use it less and less because they're at the same time learning not only the length of the leash, but being frequently reinforced for staying near me. (that's where the really good stuff happens) But if they forget or are interested in something else, I can use my little reminder word and they come back along side me better, either by pausing till I catch up or whatever.

    Remember....frequent reinforcers for nice walking along side you until well learned, then you can space them out more. Encouragement if she's lagging. (rope or squeeky toy, pat your thigh, hop or skip, make goofy sounds.....make it fun and cheery, not exasperated or nervous)....No reinforcement for pulling. aka... continuing to walk when tension is in the leash...not one step.

    If you need your dog to have more freedom and can't do off leash anywhere safely, I like a long line better than a retractable too....until the dog is trained to walk without pulling. But it's the same thing as with the leash. Try to teach her to recognize when she's nearing the end of the line with a warning word just before the tension happens. And start out with not so much length until she gets use to it so she doesn't get rip roaring and then slam against the end.

    Separately, at home, you can teach your dog to look at you on cue. That's a good one to get them to focus on you at times when you need him to pay attention.

    In addition, if your dog is super eager to go for a walk and has been inactive for a long time, see if there's a fenced place where you can get the zoomies out first, where she can run like mad and burn off some of that pent up energy before trying to make her walk nicely. It's really hard for dogs to walk so slowly like we do with only two legs. LOL
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2009

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