ESS puppy pulling on lead

Discussion in 'Dog Training: Principle and Practice' started by ESSGirl, Aug 9, 2017.

  1. ESSGirl

    ESSGirl Registered Users

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    Hi, I am new to the forum and would love some advice. I have a 15 week old ESS that pulls terribly on his lead. I am trying to correct this using the stop and wait method when he pulls and/or turn in the opposite direction, including treats and verbal praise. However, he is very persistent and at this stage it's having a limited effect. I am currently using a flat lead and have been advised to use a choker, but, after some research am more keen on using a harness. The problem is that he constantly has his nose on the ground sniffing (and hence, pulling like a steam train to follow the scent). My understanding is that these harnesses won’t stop the dog from sniffing; how do I keep his nose up, which I think will dramatically help to reduce the pulling in the first place? Many thanks!

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  2. Atemas

    Atemas Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    A harness is the way to go (definitely not a choker) - one with a D ring on the front and top and use a double ended lead. My puppy also was like yours - it was very hard work - same thing about the sniffing. You are using the right method - just keep going with it - you will get there. My 8 month old walks on a beautiful loose lead now - yet was a nightmare. In new environments or when she picks up a scent do still make her revert to pulling but I reckon it's all a work in progress :D.
     
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  3. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    Hello and welcome to the forum!

    @heidrun and @bbrown are our resident Spaniel experts, so hopefully they'll be along with some specific insights on that part of it.

    I used stop and wait for my two older dogs, but I found it limited in its practical use, not to mention highly frustrating for us all. I knew a bit more by the time my third puppy came along and I could see how this otherwise intelligent little thing just wasn't making any connection between the pulling and the stopping. So, with her, I went about it slightly differently. I lured her a lot more. She got a lot more rewards for walking at heel. If she moved ahead "just because", I would call her back in to me and reward again after a few paces. If she pulled towards something specific, I would stick a piece of cheese under her nose and draw her back to my side. Once I had her attention, I could then work on that specific distraction, either using "Look At That" methods, or, if it was just a smell, walk back and forth at a distance she could cope with and then reward her with a "go sniff". Putting sniffing on cue is a huge thing for my sniff-driven dogs. I know spanners are hugely driven by sniffing (it's pretty much their raison d'être!) so it's something that might work - again, I would ask the spaniel experts about how they manage it.

    Using the method above, and using a huge amount of verbal encouragement when she was doing it right (she responds very well to this), really worked for my puppy and, at nine months (and for the past few months) she rarely leaves my side when we're on walks. I hope the others will be along with more spaniel-specific advice soon :)

    PS we'd love to see some puppy pictures :)
     
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  4. ESSGirl

    ESSGirl Registered Users

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    Thanks for the replies and the encouragement. I should have provided a little more detail and explained that I am also using food/treats as a lure in the same sort of manner as you described Snowbunny. So, it's good to know that I'm on the right path. This afternoon I had a bit of a breakthrough (always the way - it happens after you post a question about it). He stayed by my side heeling for a considerable distance (for a puppy), breaking occasionally, but coming back with encouragement and a food treat every few steps. I kept the walk short, as I know it requires a lot of concentration from him.

    I am quite happy for him to walk on a loose lead, rather than heeling, but it seems that it might be easiest to stick with the heeling for a time as that seems to be easier for him to understand (ie. he is learning what he needs to do to walk beside me, but being at all out in front he can't stop himself from bounding ahead). I definitely need to work on the sniffing at cue!
     
  5. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    I think it's easier to teach the dog the concept of walking at heel rather than a loose lead, because it's far clearer. I think it depends how much time they spend on lead. Mine are generally very rarely on lead, so I'm happy that the lead means they walk at heel. However, later in the year, there are hunters around a couple of days a week, so I keep them on lead when we're on walks for safety. When that's the case, they are on their longer leads and are allowed to sniff.

    Sniffing on cue for a dog (Labrador) that wants to sniff is quite easy, if you can catch it before he goes to sniff, or if there's a particular spot you know he always sniffs at. It's using the Premack principle; using a likely behaviour (the sniffing) to reinforce a less likely behaviour (walking at heel). At a distance he can cope with, you walk him to heel past the smell, then reward with "go sniff". I found doing this with my sniffy boy regularly made him start to look back to me when he wanted to sniff, and I could choose whether or not it was appropriate. It's handy, because I obviously can't smell all the things he can, so that look lets me know it's there and can use it as a reward :)

    Again, I'm not sure how effective this would be with a spaniel, because they are so ruled by their noses. On paper, the fact that sniffing is such a powerful thing for them should mean that it is a phenomenal reward that can be used to build very strong behaviours, but I have no idea of the practicalities of doing that with a spaniel.
     
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  6. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

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    I heard that if a spaniel is in the same county as its owner, that is considered a success :D Joking of course!
     
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  7. heidrun

    heidrun Moderator

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    Hi and welcome to the forum.
    I have five spaniels, two of them, my two eldest, are springer spaniels. I'll say it upfront, teaching a spaniel to heel can be tricky. They are not natural heelers, they want to be in front of you with their noses down moving at 100 mph. But you can get there with a lot of patience and by avoiding a few pitfalls.
    Where are you practicing walking to heel at the moment?
     
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  8. ESSGirl

    ESSGirl Registered Users

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    Snowbunny, thanks for the information on 'training' sniffing/using as a reward. Very helpful.

    Heidrun, I'm currently practicing in my garden and on the way to the park directly opposite my house. It's only a very short walk, which is perfect, and he has the added reward of being let off lead for a time once we get there. I am also doing lots of focus/calm down exercises, for example we sit/stand once his lead is on and wait for him to calm down, do the same once we get out of the door. I think this is helping.
     
  9. heidrun

    heidrun Moderator

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    I'm afraid the walk to the park is the worst place to practice walking to heel. He will have now figured out where you are going and that the fun of a run through the park is coming so his excitement will be going up and he will want to get there as quickly as possible. So he will pull as hard as he can to get there even quicker.
    The best way to practice is in a very low distraction environment when you are going nowhere. Just practice a few steps in different directions and that's it.
    The focus games sound really good. Also practice calm and focus before you leave the house and as soon as you have unclipped the lead, don't just let him dash off.
     
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  10. heidrun

    heidrun Moderator

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    Yes, as you say @snowbunny, on paper it would appear to be a fantastic reinforcer. The trouble is that spaniels don't tend to linger on scents like most other dogs do, unless it is a male dog checking out certain scent marks. Generally speaking they put their noses down and they are in business mode, they are hunting. So very quickly you could get a dog that is hunting on the lead, something very common in spaniels but not really what you want. I would be very careful with that one.
     
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  11. lucky_dog

    lucky_dog Registered Users

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    You could try switching it to training it on the walk home from the park instead? He'll be tired, and it will also mean leaving the park is fun, because he gets lots of attention and treats from you.
     
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  12. ESSGirl

    ESSGirl Registered Users

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    @heidrun , yes I think that was exact what was going on - starting to hunt on the lead. He's improved a lot of the past couple of days, so I'm pleased about that. I'm keeping lead time short and he's really responded to praise, attention and treats.
     
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