Need advice: Puppy loose leash training



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  • Need advice: Puppy loose leash training

    Hey Folks,

    Newbie trainer here. I have been taking my 10 week old lab out on leashed walks around the neighborhood and need some advice.

    I have only had her a week and I have been trying to get her socialized and introduced to the outdoors. Housetraining and crate training is going well. She travels well in the truck with a few barks here and there in her small plastic crate. She is learning "down" , "leave it" , and "no biting / barking". She has been wearing her flat buckle collar since day one (except when in the crate) and seems to be getting use to it although she still scratches at it once in awhile.

    Anyway here is my problem. Foolishly I did not introduce her to the leash slow enough. I should had her run around the house and yard with it loose much more then I did. But when we started she did so well. We have gone on about six or seven shorts walks around the neighborhood from 4 city blocks to 3/4 of a mile. I did not keep much slack in the leash which really did not seem like a problem because she wanted to be as close to me as she could with out me stepping on her and it seemed to keep her from chewing on the leash. Although now I see this as a mistake. Late last night and this mornings walk she started to either pull back when we walked away from the house or pull ahead when we turned towards the house. This morning she started to sit down and would have been happy to had me drag her. When we we were heading towards the house she would try a bolt ahead. She pulled so hard she coughed once. I tried stopping, calling her back and resume walking but that just seemed like a game with her and we did not cover much ground. I did not yell or yank on the leash. My goal is to have her heel with a loose leash instead of taunt one.

    So here is my question. Should I cease our walks, go back to step one having her run around the house with a loose leash to reintroduce her to the leash? Should I keep walking her and coaxing her with her puppy kibble when she pulls, go slower and make it more fun for her? Is ten weeks too young to expect her to honor the leash? I would appreciate any suggestions.



  • #2
    SMK, I was waiting for the training professionals to answer, but since none have I will tell you my thoughts. Typically, I use a prong collar with mine, but can't remember the exact age that I start using it. I think it is different with each pup. Puppies go through a fear stage some time around 8-12 weeks. Sometimes the fear stage is exagerrated in some pups (the pup is more sensative). If your pup is sensative, I would not use the collar until the fear stage has passed. However, I have found the prong collar to work very well to prevent pulling/tugging at the leash.

    There are some who will tell you that the prong collar is a babaric training device. That is simply not true. Usually, people who feel this way have never researched the collar and have no idea why it was designed as it was.... Research the collar for yourself. I think you will find it to be an effective training tool.
    "It's the journey that's important, with experience and knowledge to be gained along the way, in the company of our faithful dogs and our good friends."
    Ralph Waldo Emerson


    • #3
      honor at 10 weeks?

      Keep up the leash training. Before I go on, let me ask you a question. Any chance you are feeding her or doing something else special right when you get back in the house? If so, stop. At least for now.
      You have a good idea to use kibble. She won't need much, and what you give her can be easily balanced at feeding time. Let her know you have a pocket full.
      What command do you want to use to get her to walk with you? That is the only thing she should be taught for now on the leash during the walks. Remember, she can't multi task, and just cause you love her does not mean she already knows the score.
      Hook her up to the leash, show her the kibble and tease her, and give her a cue and command, such as "pups name, HEAL". Start walking with her and hand her the kibble. Get another kibble ready.
      If she turns to go back, tell her "no", cue/command (pup/heal) and show her the kibble again and tease her. Get her to change directions and give her the kibble. Get another one ready. Keep walking. Before she can turn around again stop. Talk to her. baby talk if need be. Get her looking up in your eyes. Use just enough light/happy tone to get her excited. Show her the kibble, tease her, give her cue/command start forward and give her the kibble.
      You choose when to stop, not her. You decide when to change direction, not her. Remember that her attention span is short. Watch for the signs telling you she is changing her mind.
      Don't just stop or turn around. As she gets wiser, change direction, pace, speed. Stop suddenly. Do different stuff to keep her on her toes.
      If there is too much pull from the house, then take her someplace neutral.


      • #4
        LFL, good post.

        Looks like we both waited and posted at the same time. Both ideas can work. Way back when, I would have used the collar as a tool in early stages of training. Now, I am trying to change my perspective and methods.
        Ideally, and this is something I posted quite a while back, we should Teach, Train, and Test. Teaching is just that. It is normally done without force, without pain, and without repercussion. No, I am not saying the pinch collar used correctly is bad. I do look at it as a training tool though.
        Think about it this way. When I teach a dog to sit, I do so while down on their level, and use my hands softly to place their body where I want them to be, while using the command "SIT". I do it over and over and over. I never tell them to sit without using the hands. Typically one hand will be under the tail collapsing the rear legs, my other hand will be on their chest pushing backwards. Later, when they seem to be understanding the command (maybe showing less resistance) I will go into training mode. I might use my hand on top of their butt with more pressure. I might use a firmer voice. I might tap them on the butt. I will use the leash to lightly jerk up and back. I will start to use the command while standing. But every time I give the command, I enforce it. Period. Always. Through both processes I praise every time they complete the command. The amount of praise depends on the dogs physical and emotional state at that time. I want them happy but not excited to the point they forget what we are doing.
        Testing is done under controlled circumstance, and only rarely. Testing is done only when you can control the outcome. I.e. the dog is on leash, you say SIT, and if it does not you can provide correction. When starting to test I only do it sporadically. If I get a positive result, I might go back to training mode 2 or more times, test, train x3, test x 2, train x 2 etc.
        I do everything I can to eliminate failure during the test. Praise for each positive, correct for each negative. My goal is to have 100% success for each test.
        If all of that makes sense, then I hope it makes sense as to why right now I don't care to use a pinch collar on a young or inexperienced dog as ARR described. Again, I am NOT saying the collar is bad. It is no worse than a choke collar or the flat collar ARR is using when it is used as designed.
        The question presented is regarding teaching a dog to heal. Based on my perspective, I would use methods that increase the positive learning process. Kibble is such a way. So is posture, tone of voice, timing to direct which way the pup goes, and judicious use of the collar and leash so as not to build a negative response.
        As the pup gets older, I think the handler should go into training mode regardless of how well their dogs do. Training methods as described show the dog a tremendous amount of control. I believe that will translate into a dog that will obey under even abnormal conditions more often than dogs that have not gone through that process.
        To close, I caution to never give a command, never "TEST" the dog, if you are unwilling, unable, or not in a position to enforce it.


        • #5
          I hesitated to post anything, as what is right for one pup, certainly might not be right for another. I have had great luck teaching heal with the prong collar, but it may not be right for this poster. That is the danger of the internet.

          I would suggest to the poster to enroll his pup in obedience classes. I don't know where he/she is located, but could recommend some in the Fairbanks area.
          "It's the journey that's important, with experience and knowledge to be gained along the way, in the company of our faithful dogs and our good friends."
          Ralph Waldo Emerson


          • #6
            Hey Folks,

            Thanks for the prompt response; I appreciate the advice and encouragement. We are definitely in the “teaching” phase and a long way from training. I know that it is my lack of experience training pups that it causing the problems and it really is not the dog’s fault. Right now I believe I want to try and use as positive training as possible, although she is very head strong and I can tell that in the future a more forceful method will probably be necessary. I feel a strong hand right now might not be best until I can have some direct guidance from a professional. I am trying to enroll in a beginner puppy class at the Alyeska K9 Trainers but the class cycle does not start till beginning of February. Until that time I need to take her on walks because she has so much energy. If I do not give her exercise she just becomes a terror around the house.

            Yesterday after work, I let her run around the house with a free leash and we played fetch in the house for a little. After about 30 minutes I thought I would try the leash again. With lots of encouraging and kibble as a reward, she did not even get out of the driveway without fighting the leash. It seems she was very distracted and any kind of training would be futile. Since I found myself getting frustrated and upset, I decided I'd better stop and just play with her for the rest of the afternoon.

            In the evening, after she ate and chilled out a little, we tried again with great success. It was slow and a little tedious but we had a great long walk and really found myself enjoying working with the dog. She seemed more focused and accepting of correction and commands. She trotted right along beside me occasionally stopping for smells and sounds. She was far from perfect but was doing better. She only started pulling on the leash when we got close to home.

            Now this morning was a different story. She stopped and sat down a lot more and required kibble and commands to get her going again. This was not that bad but when we turned towards the house she immediately started to yank hard forward towards home. When she starts pulling ahead on the leash, I just stop walking, when she turns to see why she is not moving, I take a few steps back, call her and give kibble, get her close to the correct position, say heel and then start forward again, telling her to heel. I make it about three steps and she is off to the races again. And I have to repeat the process over. It took about 30 minutes to cover three blocks.

            So this afternoon I am going to take her to a neutral place and see how she does. It seems she likes the warm house as opposed to the icy streets. River Rat you mentioned “timing to direct and posture”, would it be possible to elaborate a little more because I think that might be something I am doing wrong. As for your question on do do anything special when we get home from the walk I can't really think of anything besides praise and the pup getting to hang out with my wife. I will try and not immediately feed her when we get home or maybe hang out in the backyard awhile once we are done. Right now I am having to limit the backyard free time because the snow melt has left her little brown treats in the the form of moose nuggets that she enjoys playing with and eating. Man those moose can poop seems like I have been cleaning them up for days. I really appreciate the help guys and if have anymore advice please let me know. I will keep you updated.



            • #7
              How tall are you?

              6'3"? 4'8"? Pretty intimidating to a puppy. I believe posture is important to help dogs feel at ease so to speak. Pups want to look you in the face. They want to be on your level. They are more at ease when you are on your knees.
              That is hard during healing, but you can bend a bit. You can use kibble down at her level. Ever see dogs play? They posture a lot. Each dog gives the other dog clues as to what the game is, or if the game is over. Often those clues are just the posture, sometimes they add voice.
              Your voice is important. Commands are just that, never a request. Never a question. Never "up speak" to a dog. You know, end a sentence with a question? Tone can be used with posture to encourage the dog to participate.
              Some training methods use multiple levels of voice/tone. The higher the pitch and the faster you talk (baby talk) the more excited the dogs become. Watch the dogs reaction to your voice.
              Right now she is young, and like all youngsters has very little attention span. Don't expect to go for a 10 minute one way, one speed walk with her. She will get bored.
              For now I would try and play a lot on the walks. Lots of bending and touching. Lots of encouragement with voice, posture, and kibble. Maybe a squeaky toy. Watch her closely. If you think she is going to change directions, beat her to it. Then a short time later change directions again. Every change of direction gets a command, normally for me (dog/heal).
              Build on the positives. Keep a training log if necessary as to time trained, feeding, illness, etc. I know, I know. I just took the fun out of it. Oh bother!
              I can't tell you how many times people have had a problem that they can't figure out, or worse, they think they know the answer because of mis-perceptions. A log does help keep track, and as long as you wrote accurately, it won't lie.
              Balance the teaching/training. If she always wants to pull, change direction more often. She needs to be looking for you. If she always lags, coax her and help her out. Make it simple to walk with you.
              And through all of this, I want my dogs shoulder or head next to my knee. My lead is slack, there is no tension on the collar. I will use the lead as a guide to turn the dog, change direction, or coax it forward. I never let the dog tow me around, and I never in turn tow the dog.
              Let us know how it goes, and if you found better results at a neutral location.
              Teach, teach, teach.


              • #8
                Puppyhood (Exploration, Socialization and Obedience)

                You can't talk to the mind until the body is tired...........
                I use this a lot as a primary principle in training for young energetic dogs. Here at the kennel I will turn out young dogs into an airing yard that is fenced all the way around. I'll let them run about and play in a friendly social manner. If I'm out training at other locations I will put young dogs on a long rope and just simply go for an outing and let them explore. I won't give any commands at this time because I'm in no position to back it up. Afterwards, once the puppy energy is burnt off, I will start with a short lesson on obedience.
                Sounds like you have already noticed better results when your pups energy level has been notched down a little.
                The advise Ak River Rat has mentioned is great. In regards to turning in the other direction when your pup lounges forward. Just short tugs on the leash enough to get your pup to notice the change in direction. If your pup is lagging you could use short tugs as well to try to encourage your pup to catch up. Use a treat in your hand to try and encourage them to stay along side as well held down at their nose. Sliced hot dog bits work great.

                Another bit of info. Never correct the pup at your side. Beside you is suppose to be a place of comfort a good place to be. I let the rope slide through my fingers for about 4 ft or so as they pull ahead then command "heel" give the correction and change of direction. This way really defines to the dog that they were away from your side when they were corrected. They will be less likely to leave your side as more practice comes into play.
                Make sure you teach what is required but the end result is a dog that follows your lead and stays at your side even if distracted. You never change your pace nor stop to justify the dog. You are in charge of the walk. How fast and in what direction is up to you not the dog. It is your dogs job to keep up or slow down according to your lead.
                Baron Rea


                • #9
                  Ten weeks is so fun and they are full of energy. I don’t have too much to add but check how long you are making her heel. Like Baron said, keep it short. Hey where you walking anyway. I had to walk at the sports complex to even get any exercise. It’s too icy here.

                  I’m trying to get our newest rescue to heel, a 2 year old sprint sled dog and I’m only giving him about 5-10 min up and down the driveway on a special collar built for sight hounds. It’s a buckle collar with a slip section to tighten it without pain, no pinch or choke so I don’t have my usual tools. But he’s not a Lab or the usual dog. I’m doing the same easy turns, walking the other way etc. and he seems to be getting it. When not heeling he is doing the same squirreling at the end of the long line.

                  Field trainers don’t like treats but if you watch the Jackie Mertens “Sound Beginnings” she uses treats and a pinch collar. I followed that with Lucy the Lab when she was a puppy. The only thing that I think happened using the pinch collar so young was that Lucy now 6, is not affected by the choke collar. She does have a high tolerance to negative reinforcement. That could be all her drive, I don’t know. Her desire is so high that food is not much of reinforcement either when field work is involved. Different tools different dogs.



                  • #10
                    Happy puppies

                    Linda is absolutely right on several things, except one. I am a field trainer. I used to do things a certain way. Over time, I found that I limited my options. I now try and look at the training process a bit differently than I once did. Treats and squeaky toys are in, when needed.
                    I used to spend very limited time teaching. I went to training pretty quickly and now looking back am not sure it was wise. If a person is not careful, they might end up using more negatives (corrections) in a training session because they did not first really teach the concept.
                    Most of us are not pros on a time line. We do not have customers paying for training and expecting instant results. We have for the most part all the time a dog should need to try and make teaching and training as positive as possible. And here is the disclaimer, I am not saying that pros cut corners or do their clients a disservice. We just have the luxury to use more time as it costs us nothing. I have trained dogs for money, I do like training better when I do not have those pressures on me.
                    Not wanting to sound like a broken record but:
                    TEACH the pup what you want
                    DON'T yank on the lead, just use little tugs (for now, she is only a baby)
                    KEEP the sessions short. train more often if you want.
                    USE positive enforcement when she gets it right (good puppy)
                    HAVE FUN. IF you do, she will too. If you are mad, she is scared.
                    tell us how it is going so we can live vicariously through you. All of us love these dogs. When you think you have the teaching part down and she is older, we can go into training methods.


                    • #11
                      A quick update

                      Hey folks,

                      Thanks for all ideas the help. Just a quick update. She is showing progress. Today, we went for one long walk after work and 3 short walks one early morning, after dinner and late evening with the wife working the leash.

                      The pup is doing a lot better. It seems she is starting to understand "heel" and often will get in the correct position with just a command. Although sometimes she gets in "hammerhead" mode. I am using less kibble, more commands with small tugs and stopping and changing directions if she bolts forward. My neighbors must think I am crazy zig-zagging across the street. Also trying to set the pace and not let the dog stop the movement for every little smell. My wife did really well with her this evening.

                      We enrolled her in a puppy class starting in February. I got a long line today and I am trying to incorporate "stay" with her "sit". But she loves to chew the long line. Should I start teaching the whistle commands now or is that something that can be taught later. It seems like her little brain is getting overwhelmed. You can really tell when she is ready to learn something and when she is just a ball of energy.

                      Well I need to sign off and get some sleep for tomorrow. Thanks again for the all the help and will try a figure out how to post some pictures.



                      • #12
                        whistle commands for the young

                        Their minds are sponges right now. No reason not to say sit and toot. "Here" and toot-toot-toot, a "come in whistle" (the happiest whistle of all) for fun. You run the opposite way. It's FUN! You'll learn to talk and walk with a whistle in your mouth and if you smoke it's easier to quit. Make it fun and the dog will pick it up.



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