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Old 02-09-2009, 10:04 AM
slchsu slchsu is offline
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Default Puppy refuses to walk and it's driving me crazy!

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?
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Old 02-09-2009, 10:12 AM
RedyreRottweilers
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So use the treats. I don't see the issue.
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Old 02-09-2009, 10:14 AM
bjdobson
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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.
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Old 02-09-2009, 10:27 AM
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Dekka Dekka is offline
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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?
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Old 02-09-2009, 10:30 AM
RedyreRottweilers
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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.
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Old 02-09-2009, 11:20 AM
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Doberluv Doberluv is offline
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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.
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Old 02-09-2009, 04:04 PM
DaVinci DaVinci is offline
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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.
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Old 02-09-2009, 04:12 PM
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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.
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Old 02-09-2009, 04:16 PM
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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.
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"If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." -- Samuel Adams 1776





"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."

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Old 02-10-2009, 02:44 AM
slchsu slchsu is offline
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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.
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