Lead walking difficulties - from the dog's point of view!

Discussion in 'Labrador Training' started by JulieT, Dec 16, 2016.

  1. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    I've been thinking, and reading, a lot about training lead walking. Of course I have. I've got a teenage Labrador. :D

    I'm not all that happy with the standard positive reinforcement advice - to stand still or about turn. It's extremely frustrating for the dog. That much negative punishment, applied again and again just isn't that great. Not that positive even.

    Anyway, one of the articles I read described asking a dog to walk on a lead as 'walking at the pace of death being asked to ignore everything that is interesting'. It did make me smile.

    It also prompted me to watch how Charlie 'walks' off lead. I walked him down a very quiet road last night for last wees (no pavements, and about 1 car an hour, we didn't see a car) and he was off lead. He stayed close to me, but he wasn't at heel. So a kind of off lead loose lead, really if that makes sense.

    He travels along much quicker than I can walk. Then he stops dead and sniffs. Then he takes off again faster than I can walk, and stops again. He zig zags, pulled around by his nose to explore this, and that. He backtracks, because a sniff pulls his nose round 'Oo! Missed one!' and he goes back to see whether that poo spot just rejected was ok after all...nope, it isn't, on we go....

    All of this time Charlie was close to me, we covered the same amount of ground in the same time. Just at completely different speeds (mine steady, Charlie fast or dead stop).

    I absolutely agree that asking him to walk 'nicely' at my side is indeed asking him to 'walk at the pace of death ignoring everything interesting!'.

    Of course, because he can walk to heel if I ask him, he has now earned the right to not have to do so down a quiet country road because he'd heel if I heard a car and return to me immediately if asked. Poor Betsy is still on her lead...

    Random thoughts, but it just underlines to me how very much we ask of young dogs and lead walking. It's super hard for them!
     
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  2. DebzC

    DebzC Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Don't you live in London?!! :eek:

    I totally agree with you! I've thought this too and what you describe is basically our walk once we're off road (all of 2 minute walk).

    I tried all that lead training stuff and if I stop Libby just sits down patiently probably thinking I need to stop. I bought a harness last week and now she can do her stuff without pulling my arm out of the socket. That's all that really matters; we're both happier. :)
     
  3. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    Absolutely, and I've been working on lead walking with my two in preparation for Luna, trying to work out what's best to do. I think it comes down to basic focus. I don't mean that we want them to be staring at us, but they need to be tuned into us so they're not completely overwhelmed by/engrossed in their environment.

    I've made massive strides just by making it a game. I certainly don't have a good "gundog" heel - and you may have concerns with gait - in that, because I've made it a game, they're looking up at me far more, but I can cover good distances now with them keeping proper pace with me. Even if most of the time I'm doing a funny dance down the road. But, I'm approaching it like the "bank account". If I can make it fun most of the time, then I'm generally adding to that account. And then, like today when I took Willow to the vet and had to get from A to B in a certain time, I could make a bit of a withdrawal. In the time I've been doing it, I've also started fading the game aspects so that we can go farther before I throw in an about turn, stop or whatever (which I heavily reward) and this seems to be successfully building up duration on them looking ahead and around, but still keeping an eye (or ear) on what I'm doing.
     
  4. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    I do. We're on holidays for Christmas now though. :)
     
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  5. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    Er....well. Depends what kind of harness. My post was about the challenges of positively training lead walking without a mechanical aid, a head collar or any such thing.

    Sorry, should have been clearer.
     
  6. Emily

    Emily Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    The OH and I have been talking about this a lot recently. As I've mentioned before, we have very few places that Ella can walk off lead so it's very hard for her to do the stop/sniff/catchup/swingaround etc. and we think that's awful. Luckily, if Ella's a good girl, Santa might bring her a retractable lead so she can get the opportunity to walk a little more freely at times. I know it's not the same as off lead and I don't think retractable leads are always appropriate but hopefully it will allow her to walk more like a dog :D

    Have you come up with any alternative ideas to the stand still or about turn?
     
  7. DebzC

    DebzC Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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  8. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    This is an aversive, a punishment, to stop a dog pulling. That's up to you if you want to use one, but it's not relevant to the difficulties of positive training lead walking for those who want to train like this. It would be great if this thread didn't have to degenerate into an argument about horrible devices - it's about positively training lead walking.
     
  9. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    My preferred method is to teach lead walking by first luring, then frequent rewarding with food, for very short periods. Of course this depends upon having safe off-lead areas for most of the time, putting the dog on lead several times during the session. I found this worked with Molly.

    However, I'd be interested to hear about other methods as in January I start teaching regularly at my dog-club (unpaid). At the taster session one person told me she doesn't want to use food for heel work, so I need to think of alternatives. (I'm also hoping that if she gets to know me she may trust me to try my suggestion.)
     
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  10. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    For a dog that can walk reasonably well on a short lead, and is responsive to their handler, I think retractable leads have their place. They are most problematic when used on dogs that can't walk on a lead, let alone a retractable lead. This is why they get/have a bad reputation.

    A retractable lead was a godsend when Charlie was recovering from injury. He was able to walk on a lead and was sensible on a retractable lead which was my 'safety net' because I couldn't - under any circumstances - risk him running off to have a hoolie (which he was dying to do).

    I imagine you'll find it a good solution.

    I ask myself 'is my dog able to follow my cue in this circumstance?'. If the answer is no, then I: don't give the cue and avoid those circumstances, I think of a way to make it easier, or I lure.

    I'm lucky with Betsy, she is easily lured with food. Charlie was not easy to lure with food. If I have to walk Betsy on a lead in a place where she can't do it, I lure her. Because she is so very easy to lure, I can lure her very long distances - and I don't feel bad about doing it because I've made up my mind it's the right thing to do. I also have better skills at fading a lure now than I did when I was setting out.

    I'm also much, much better than I was (when training Charlie) at identifying what Betsy will find difficult. This makes it easier for me to avoid the places that she will struggle. I spend a lot of time walking down the middle of (quiet!) roads with her and I'll go a long way out of my way to avoid situations in which she will pull.

    She is also much easier than Charlie was though. The biggest difference is she is just not as strong. Charlie was so very strong that he would pull me off balance and get to what he wanted, and because I didn't anticipate that would happen this made training lead walking much longer and more difficult than it otherwise would have been.

    If I make a mistake, and she pulls, I do still stop. But my objective is to avoid having to do this, rather than setting off with the idea that's what I'm going to do if that makes sense.
     
  11. Dawn_Treader

    Dawn_Treader Registered Users

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    Hi Julie,
    There is no quick fix is there? Stopping them in their tracks can seem like a punishment and it's stressful for both of you. There are good phases and difficult ones in a young dog.
    I find our best walks on the lead were when we feel connected. I feel connected to her when I am centered, but of course this is not consistent. She relaxes and goes my speed without a fight when she feels I am happy with her. when she forgets, or I don't focus on her I do the typical things, but it really helps to run backwards about 8-10 paces and smile and laugh at her. She loves this and it makes her focus totally on me until we get sync. I swing a kong in front of her nose and play tug along the way. I do feel sorry for her having to be bound to a snail so when I feel good, I also sometimes pick up my pace and sprint intervals. The best thing though is when I praise her when she is doing it right and talk softly or mumble my silly pooch talk to her. I have different cues to remind her to slow down. I switch them up so she doesn't feel nagged. for example I pound my chest with my fist 2 times like King Kong. She likes the sound of it and it grabs her attention. I also touch her. Stop and give her lots of love pats and scratches and speak gently to her praising and it makes her happy and cooperative. What also helps is the training advice from Pippa- 5 min. on the line, 5 min. play with me, 5 min. self reward. I think I read that somewhere anyway this helps too.

    I've taken on board a lot of advice from this forum and also some book recommendations and it has helped us so much. Thank you everyone for your contributions. There is one happier arm socket in the world thanks to this forum.
     
  12. samandmole

    samandmole Registered Users

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    I often use a retractable lead with Mole now. He will heel on a normal lead but I agree that it is not a "natural" pace. He seems to enjoy the freedom of trotting s bit ahead, sniffing etc exactly as you describe with Charlie. He never pulls it to its full length, and will heel in it if I need him to so it works for us really well when I need to use a lead before we get to a field and I can let him off. I have only used it now he is good on a lead generally. I do use the normal lead if he needs to be closer all the time but for our lifestyle the retractable lead works brilliantly. My last two would have pulled too hard so I think it's Horses for courses.
    Sam
     
  13. Boogie

    Boogie Moderator

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    We ask our pups to walk slowly and ignore smells in all sorts of situations - but never where lots of dogs have been weeing and pooing.

    So shops, high streets, shopping centres, garden centres, cafes etc we expect them to walk on, heads up, loose lead from day one at 8 weeks old. At that age the walk lasts for two minutes maximum, Mollie manages about five minutes now - as soon as she looks distracted I ask for a 'sit' 'down' 'upsit' then pick her up and carry around her to see the sights, then a few more minutes training. Where there are grass verges where other dogs have been we don't walk the pups until they really can concentrate - at about nine months old. So we build up their abilities. They have to work hard at the same time - walk aheadof me, spot obstacles ahead of us and indicate them by slowing right down, indicate steps by putting two paws on and stopping, indicate kerbs by stopping etc.

    But in parks, woods etc they are not on lead and free to enjoy every sniff available.

    In the same way I'm not allowed on Facebook at work :)


    ...
     
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  14. DebzC

    DebzC Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    I don't think we're arguing about this. All devices are aversives but we still need one.

    I got the harness so Libby can wander and sniff a bit without: a) yanking my arm b) having to do all that stop, turn boring stuff without really getting anywhere and c) getting run over as would happen off lead. She doesn't seem unhappy in it at all so I'm not sure it's a punishment. It doesn't hurt. She's happy and I'm happy, that seems a good result to me. She gets to come on more walks actually as we're not in that puppy spiral of stop/turn.
    We were beginning to do ok on normal lead until she couldn't have treats because of a sore tummy so for us the lead is actually a worse choice because she yanks and I get cross and exhausted. No lead at all would mean certain death. It's very tricky but we're in union here, we want the best for our dogs.
     
  15. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    @Boogie Can I ask what you do if a puppy does pull?
     
  16. Boogie

    Boogie Moderator

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    We do the wait, about turn and figure eight moves. The pups have to walk with our leg by their rump so it's not like walking to heel - they learn to make decisions on how fast to go depending on the obstacles ahead.

    We wait, calmly, looking the way we want to go, ignoring the pup - then set off as soon as the pup is ready. If they pull while waiting we put them in a 'sit' then move off when they are calm.


    Lots of praise and treats for getting it right.


    :)
     
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  17. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    I do think that Mags has raised an interesting point her, and one that's worth discussing.

    Just as a bit of background to the point, I have been reading Susan Garrett's material (and I signed up to her astonishingly expensive online courses). Now, Susan Garrett is not my idea of a positive trainer. She doesn't use harsh punishments, but she does pull the dogs around a fair bit, and she is not really a fan of giving the dogs choices - training her way, the dog's world is pretty much arranged so the dog has no choice. (Having said that, she is very skilled, and I have picked up a few new ideas, modified so I'm happy to use them).

    One way this can be applied to lead walking is to restrict the choice of the dog. You can do this by simply using a very short lead and never, ever, let the dog put its head down or access the environment while on lead. This is what Mags describes in the way Guide dog puppies are trained, and it's also the way Susan Garrett would train.

    This is a point that I've given some thought to, and have tried various things with Betsy. It is not aversive, but it completely restricts choice so the dog must comply. It's probably the quickest way to train lead walking, but I'm pretty much in two minds about it.

    First, because if this is the standard that you are going to enforce for lead walking, lead walking for the dog is not about enjoyment for them. I can completely see that for a dog destined to be a Guide Dog, well, their lives end up very different from that of a pet dog - much busier for a start. For a pet dog though?

    It depends, doesn't it? If the pet need only do lead walking in 2 minute slots, and can be exercised off lead then perhaps....even so, there are times in a pet's life when they have to stay on lead for extended periods.

    But for a pet living in an urban environment, or in a country with leash laws, no way really. A standard that allows the pet no freedom to access the environment on lead would result in a bit of a miserable existence, I think.

    The other way to do it, which is what I'm doing with Betsy, is to have her on a longer lead but reduce the attractiveness of the environment, so she chooses to keep her head up. This is a great deal more work, and also isn't practical at times, so isn't as effective and isn't as fast.
     
  18. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    Yes we are - or at least I'm arguing with you in that I couldn't disagree more with what you say. :) What I'm going to do is quote your post about the harness and start another thread to reply if that's ok so this thread can be about positive training.
     
  19. Boogie

    Boogie Moderator

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    Yes, they do have a very different life, when working they are concentrating every minute of walking and they learn to settle at work/school/cafes etc. They have a great life in that they are never left home alone - and, of course, they get lots of time off to run and play and just be dogs.


    Yes - it depends on the kinds of walk the dog is going to get. Tatze's walks are about 2 hours and almost always 100% off lead. Her only lead walking is two minutes to the free run place. So expecting no sniffing on that bit is fair and easy imo.

    I also think that - if a dog (and the owner!!) can be safe using an extendable lead then that would be an option in areas with strict leash laws.

    I love your way of doing with Charlie. Tatze isn't so well trained for me to trust her to heel in an emergency if we were on a quiet country road (which we never are) - she'd be after any squirrels and cats for sure:oops:



    ...
     
  20. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    Charlie is a good boy, really. :) He is only unreliable around retrieving. A squirrel, a cat etc. can run across the pavement in front of him right under his nose and he wouldn't move forwards on or off lead heel. He'll pull to get to sniffs though! Bonkers dog.

    Charlie walks on lead for at least an hour a day even when he also gets an off lead run. Sometimes he gets 2 x 1 hour lead walks, and that's all. Around city suburban streets. When he was injured, he was on lead for 8 months - no way he would have stayed sane if he couldn't sniff on lead.
     

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