Walking puppy in new places

Discussion in 'Labrador Puppies' started by Kobe, May 15, 2018.

  1. Kobe

    Kobe Registered Users

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    We taught our puppy the concept of walking to heel when he was 9 weeks old. He has done great! He will always come back to heel when told, though he does not have the self control to hold it for more than a few seconds, which I think is acceptable given his age (he is 15 weeks now).

    We walk him for 15 minutes twice a day and most of the time it is around our neighbourhood. We follow the same route each walk. As he is extending his walk time, we do it by going halfway down a new street and back again and then continue on the normal route.


    The problem is, he can NOT walk on the leash in a new area! He just PULLS the entire time. The idea of heel is lost on him, not pulling on the leash is impossible. Every time he pulls (and I mean he pulls to the absolute maximum, proper PULLING!) I stop, and I do not move until he turns around and walks back to me, and then sits. But then it is truly one step and we have to go through it again. It kind of ruins the fun, and a 100 metre walk which should take 3 minutes, takes nearly 15 minutes.

    I know it is the smells, the sights, the fun. We took him yesterday to a forested area, which will be our main non-urban walking area, and to be honest it was no fun. It was just so stressful. He just yanks and pulls, super hard, the entire time.

    So I am not sure the "right" thing to do. Do we continue with only walking him locally in our same route every day, until he walks perfectly and is a bit older with more self control? Do I take him to new areas every single day and just be prepared to walk 50 metres over 20 minutes? Do I take him only to the place we were yesterday and just do the same 50 metre path every day? What happens when we make it 100 metres - will he just pull again then? Or do I pretend that he has no idea of the word heel, and teach it to him "new" each time we are in a new place? Or...?

    Thank you
     
  2. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    The "stop-start" method of teaching a puppy not to pull is all well and good, but it has some limitations in my view. Firstly (and most importantly to my mind), it is not teaching the puppy what to do, it's teaching him what not to do. It's reactive, rather than proactive. In technical terms, it's negative punishment, rather than positive reinforcement. Now, before people jump on me, I'm not saying it's mean, it's cruel or anything like that (and, in fact, it's almost impossible in the real world to use positive reinforcement without some degree of negative punishment), but it is still technically punishment and, where possible, I try to use positive reinforcement. *

    The other problem with this method is that is absolutely doesn't work when the puppy is over threshold. You can stand there all day long with the puppy straining at the leash because he is too aroused to think. Dogs who are over threshold simply can't learn. So every time you take him into a new environment where he is bound to get excited, you are going to have to deal with the fact that you're going to be stopping more than you're going to be starting. Then let's look at the human angle on this; if what you're doing is reacting (stopping) when the puppy is doing the wrong things, you're focussing more on the wrong than the right. That's not rewarding for us as handlers. It's frustrating and is more likely to mean we're not going to stick with it. Things that make us feel good are reinforcing and things that make us feel bad are punishing - so let's set ourselves up for a reinforcing experience, as well as our puppies!

    With my first two puppies, I used the stop-start along with clicker-training a walk at heel and it was "OK". We got there in the end. But, man, it took a long time and was hugely frustrating for me, let alone the dogs. When they were babies, we got through it at a speed you'd expect, but then adolescence hit and I found it really hard when they were in situations where they were over-aroused. One walk I was alone with the two dogs in the forest; they had seen a weasel and chased it, and after that kept dashing off into the woods. So, I put them on lead to stop them chasing the wildlife (there were also deer and rabbits around) but had several kilometres to walk back. Darkness was falling and they were so excited, they were pulling like trains. I had to get home, but I couldn't let them pull. It was absolutely soul-destroying for me and hugely frustrating for them. In short, it was an experience so punishing to me that I can still feel that despair three years later.

    With Luna, I started off lead and worked on that really hard from the beginning. It was super fun, just working on proximity to me. I didn't care which side she was on, whether she was level with my leg or anything like that, but all our interactions, whether we were sat on the floor at home or going for a walk, were all based around proximity to me being a good thing. Even before we went on walks, she was taught that bringing stuff to me was brilliant and she'd sit on my lap while we played. In the garden, we had games together which were based around her being with me. Of course she could go off and sniff things as she wished, an she was a normal Labrador puppy about wanting to go and "visit" people and dogs when we got out and about, but always being with me was rewarding. This set us in really good stead from the outset.

    When I got back to Andorra with her at just over four months of age, she needed to be on lead more often. So I started on her lead walking at that point. She'd done a little before, but nothing to write home about. I remember the first time she pulled forwards and I stopped. She kept pulling and then got frustrated. She looked back to me, I marked and rewarded then took a step. She pulled again. After a few minutes of this, I re-evaluated. My puppy wasn't extraordinary in her intelligence, but she picked concepts up really quickly and she just wasn't getting this. She wasn't making the link between the loose lead and moving forwards. I couldn't have made it much less arousing an environment: we were in the garage at this point.

    That's when I decided that I wasn't prepared to put myself or my puppy through the frustration that I'd gone through with Willow and Shadow. Instead, we approached lead walking as we had off-lead walking. It's fun - it's me being proactive and encouraging her to be where I do want her to be, and rewarding heavily for that. Not just a bit of kibble every now and again. She got the whole works - a complete party. We would run, zigzagging up and down the road with me laughing and clapping my hands and her bouncing alongside like a happy jack-in-the-box. I would about turn and praise her if she got it right, and make fun of her (with a huge smile on my face and a "Haha, got you!") if she didn't turn quickly enough. Praise wasn't just a "good girl". It was "Oh my GOSH, you are SO CLEVER! Look at you! What a SMART GIRL!!!". Squidge loves attention and it's hugely reinforcing to her, but some dogs wouldn't care for this, so you have to do what's right for your dog - and for you, too. If you're going to feel an idiot doing that in public, then it's punishing for you so you're less likely to do it. Find a reward that works for both of you. Make it fun. Don't try to get somewhere. Play games on lead - tug if your pup likes that. Use your best rewards. You know, kibble is great and convenient but we're talking about one of the most important behaviours you're going to train in your life and that means you should be aiming to get a HUGE reinforcement history. Which means bringing out the big guns. It's not "my dog will only walk to heel for Scottish smoked salmon", it's "my dog walked to heel which is very important to ME and so I'm rewarding him with Scottish smoked salmon". And don't be in a rush to fade it.

    By doing the above, I got a really strong heel with Squidge well over a year earlier than I did using just the stop-start and a lacklustre "pez dispenser" approach with Willow and Shadow. It was reinforced so well at that very young age that she's barely away from my side even on forest walks. She gets a bit of kibble once in a while now for being with me; the high value stuff is long gone, but we kept with that for months until she was truly joyful about being next to me. Now she trots along with me, happy and relaxed. When we go into new and arousing environments, I just go back to basics and make it fun again. It's reinforcing for both of us - it's fun to do, there's no frustration and I get the results I'm after - so we are motivated to keep at it.

    I hope that essay helps :)




    *If you're interested, the definition is that the "positive" or "negative" mean "to add something" or "to take something away", respectively and "reinforcement" and "punishment" are defined by their outcomes - that is, if what you are doing is more likely to make a behaviour happen in future, it's reinforcement and if it's less likely to make that behaviour happen in future, it's punishment. Therefore, stopping when your puppy pulls is negative (you're removing the forward motion) and is punishing (because the puppy doesn't like that - and so the pulling is less likely to occur in the future).
     
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  3. Kobe

    Kobe Registered Users

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    So basically, anytime we go somewhere new, have to go armed with a shed load of treats and give him one every step?!

    Is that truly the only way, for a puppy who already knows the heel command and who walk on a lead very well in a known-location?

    What happens when you run out of treats mid walk? When you go somewhere unexpected?
     
  4. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    I'm talking about setting up for success. I'm talking about training your dog, not simply managing your dog when you get in trouble. I'm talking about making your dog WANT to walk with you, in every situation.

    Your puppy doesn't know what "heel" means in this situation. If you believe he does, then you're setting yourself up for failure. If you expect him to be able to do it, then you're also setting yourself up for failure and that's not rewarding for anyone.

    What you're asking is akin to asking a toddler to go on a hike because "he knows how to walk".

    I'm talking about creating a really, really strong reinforcement history (read more here: https://spellboundhorses.com/2017/07/25/the-super-power-of-reinforcement-histories/) so that there's no choice between performing the behaviour or not.

    No, it's not the only way. There are many ways, some involving more punishment of different flavours, some involving more prevention, some involving not ever putting your dog in that situation. I'm just telling you that, for someone who has chosen not to use positive punishment, this is what has worked best for me. In situations where I needed to get from A to B in a certain amount of time and couldn't guarantee she would be able to do it without pulling, I used a harness with a front-fastening attachment to ensure she couldn't pull in those situations - and still rewarded her heavily for making the right decisions, because that's what sets the standard for the rest of the dog's life. If you are going down the force-free route, you can basically make your choice; you put in a LOT of reinforcement at this stage so that you need a lot less later on, or you can use a lot less now but have to use it for longer - and likely become frustrated along the way.

    Looking at this in terms of the potential to forget (which is subtly different to what we're talking about, but will come into play as you continue training), many years ago, Benton J. Underwood talked about how the rate of forgetting a behaviour is linked to how well that behaviour is learnt, rather than the rate of learning. The picture he used is this. Imagine an Erlenmeyer flask:

    31Jys8FRx7L._SX342_.jpg

    The act of learning is the flask being filled. The act of forgetting is evaporation. Because of the shape of the flask, evaporation (and hence, forgetting) will happen more quickly when the flask is only slightly filled. As the flask is filled more, the surface area available for evaporation diminishes. So, the higher the level of learning that is achieved (meaning, understanding in all scenarios, through training), the slower the process of forgetting will be. Going back to our subject, the same analogy can be applied to your reinforcement history. The more you spend time building the level of that reinforcement history, the less will be "lost" through not reinforcing. So at the early stages, when the behaviours haven't been learnt yet (this means now - your puppy doesn't have this understanding yet), you need to really fill that flask with a huge amount of reinforcement in order to fill it. As the behaviour becomes solidified, though, the reinforcement needs to happen less and less. If you stop reinforcing in the early stages, your surface are is too great and it will evaporate out.

    The great thing about walking nicely is that in the end, it becomes reinforcing on its own, because walking means your dog gets to experience his environment. You don't have to use treats, you can use other things. Reward with the sniff of a lamppost, or greeting another walker, going to look at the farmer's chickens, whatever. But this doesn't detract from the point that you need to build that reinforcement history in the first place and the easiest way to do that is with food.

    If you don't want to believe me, that's fine; we all have to learn the best way for our own dogs in our own way. People told me "don't be too fast to fade treats" and I thought I was being slow enough. I learned and continue to learn what works best for me and each individual dog. I just know that it's a damn sight more fun teaching through fun activities rather than creating frustration in both myself and my dogs.
     
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  5. Kobe

    Kobe Registered Users

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    I'm not saying I dont believe you. I am just trying to sort through a lot of theory to understand the ultimate point - which is to go armed with loads of treats and reward constantly. And be prepared to do this until he is as least a year old. Correct?

    Although I must say I still do not know how to stop the pulling. Treat, and the second he's eayen it, he pulls again. Sometimes he's still eating it while he statrs pulling again!
     
  6. Anomaly

    Anomaly Registered Users

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    I’ve found we can’t go to an exciting place until the 3rd, sometimes the 2nd walk of the day if there’s been other play. Otherwise I have a similar experience.
     
  7. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    To address your individual questions:

    Yep!

    Nope - play games, don't walk.

    Don't. I can count the number of times I've run out of treats on two fingers, max. If you do happen to run out, use different reinforcers. Food isn't the only thing you can use. There are environmental rewards, toys, your voice, interaction... my dogs have been trained to do all sorts of fun behaviours that are now secondary reinforcers; that means, they were trained with a primary reinforcer - food - but have become enjoyable in their own right, so I can use them to reinforce other behaviours. I just need to "top them up" every now and again). These include: "middle", front feet up (on a wall, a stone, a tree, me...), four feet on (a wall, a rock...), leg weaves etc etc etc. The bigger your toolbox of reinforcers, the better. But food is always going to be the most convenient.

    If I am going somewhere that I know my pup won't cope with, I use a front-fastening harness to prevent her from pulling. Or I just don't take the puppy. Or I drive. I set us both up for success. Imagine how you'll feel doing the stop-start method in that scenario. I've been there. I wanted to blow my brains out. :D

    That depends on your base level of training and how well you are proofing it in scenarios he can cope with. If all you do is put him into situations where he can't think, then he's not going to learn. That's why you need to build up gradually. I have had FAR more success doing this through games-based training rather than through trying to get from here to there. Go somewhere where you don't need to "walk" in order to get the basics. Take him to the park and practice this with other dogs around. That's where you'll get your learning. If your pup can manage to stay glued to your side when there are people playing frisbee and dogs running around, because you might break into a sprint or play tug with him at any second, then walking down the street will be far easier.

    My puppy could walk through town at about five months old. We did an awful lot of "rewarding nothing" training, too, which is hugely valuable to teaching your puppy to control their impulses. This is over a year ago, so I cringe at some of it, but here's my four-month-old VERY sociable puppy learning to be calm around exciting people:



    And at five months, there's a little bit of lead walking at the beginning - albeit this is in a very quiet place, it's somewhere my other two struggled with for a long time, knowing that they were coming up to an off-lead run:



    With my other two, using the stop-start and "pez dispenser" method got me a good walk at heel with Shadow at about 6 months and with Willow about 8 months. Then adolescence hit and it was approaching two years before they were what I would call "trustworthy". Of course, they were my first dogs, so I made a lot of mistakes and I was training two at the same time (not in the same training session), so that has to be taken into consideration. Plus, Luna is a very different dog, temperamentally speaking. If anything, though, you'd think her far greater confidence would make her more likely to be a puller than not. I can't say how the different methods would have been had I used them on the other dog/s, all I know is I've had far more, far earlier success with Luna than I did with the other two, and it's been fun for us both.

    I would add one more thing and that is that I do use a stop sometimes with Luna - as much as I set her up for success as much as possible, I have to have a plan for if she does pull. So, yes, I will stop and wait for her to reorient to me. But that is something that I have taught separate to our heel walking; I go out of my way to teach that if I stop, it means reorient to me. That means there is no confusion if I do stop; she already understands that it is a cue to look to me rather than trying to figure out in that instance of arousal what she should be doing and becoming frustrated.
     
  8. QuinnM15

    QuinnM15 Registered Users

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    Could Luna be ANY cuter in the first video!
     
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  9. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    She says, yes. She is far cuter now, thankyouverymuch. If you like hippos that sit on your head in the morning. :cwl:
     
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  10. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    If you're after cute, though, this was her very first walk:



    Not a bad location for a first walk, I think you'll agree.

    You'll see that I'm already working on orienting to me, a bit of walking at heel and being a bit goofy. Not much walking, just discovering the environment and having me there to enjoy it with.
     
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  11. shawnlinus

    shawnlinus Registered Users

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    Although I was addressing another problem altogether, I found rewarding my pup for having his attention on me (similar approach to what snowbunny has described) to inadvertently solve a lot of behavioural issues when out on a walk.

    When I first started walking Gimli, all he wanted to do was bury his face in the ground and eat every stick/stone/unmentionable item he could get to. I began using treats as a lure to keep his focus on me. For the first week it was pretty much a conveyor belt of treats as the second I stopped his attention went back to the ground, but slowly I began decreasing the frequency I gave him treats until he would walk along beside me for the majority of the time. I firmly believe this also solved other issues like pulling or being too interested in other dogs/people and when I do find him doing any of these, a quick call of his name and he instantly reverts his attention on me and I give a reward.

    Don't get me wrong, he's only 14 weeks and isn't by any means perfect on walks yet, but I would wholeheartedly endorse the methods snowbunny has suggested above! :)
     
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  12. edzbird

    edzbird Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Coco is 4 years old in 2 weeks, we still go out armed with a shed load of treats. He might get a treat for being in position. Maybe for returning to position. Maybe for jumping onto a wall. Maybe for offering me a look. Maybe for relaxing when he sees a dog. Maybe for a game of "find the treat". We're a long way forward from treating every 2/3/5 steps, but I'm always armed with treats to reward anything I deem needs a reward.
     
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  13. Kobe

    Kobe Registered Users

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    I feel I am being misunderstood. :)
    I know how to teach him to heel and focus on me. We started that at 8 weeks old. He DOES know how to heel and the heel command. He knows to focus on me, he is very capable of all of this.

    However - at 16 weeks old he does not have self control. A goose runs across the path and he wants to run after it. There is nothing that I offer him that stops him from pulling desperately to chase it. No amount of fresh smoked salmon or dancing around with a toy is suitable. He pulls with desperation.

    I am wondering what the proper thing to do is. If it is not for me to stop and hold the leash still, because that is punishment, then what is the proper thing to do? He is too focussed on his desire to be able to listen to me or want anything. So we stop, wait until he is done pulling (30 seconds, 5 minutes, whatever), reward for sitting and go. In a new environment this can be every single step.

    I dont feel it is possible to live a life where everything is 100% planned. If I have my dog with me and something comes up then we have to do it. I realise many people have diffetent definitions of "having time in your life for a dog" but for me, I do not have time to say that I can drive 20 minutes home to leave the dog at home and then return to where I was because I didn't want yhe dog to be unsuccessful. He needs to learn to be adaptable. I can only do that by taking him almost everywhere wuth us, which is what we aim to do.

    So last night we dug out his tiny puppy harness that he would not wear as a wee puppy and it turns out it still fits (with lots of room to spare) and he is very willi g to wear it now. I took him to a new place this morning and yhe different style of harness really helped a lot. He can't pull the same way he could in his old one, so that helped a lot.

    I will try with the saving the forest for the last walk of the day rather than the first and we will give him a super good play at home to ture him out before we go, and see if the combination of these things helps.
     
  14. Boogie

    Boogie Moderator Forum Supporter

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    I do understand because I do both with different dogs.

    Tatze is my pet dog and generally well behaved, but not to be trusted. So she has a front fastening harness when near roads. Her recall is 100% but everything else is dodgy - and I don't mind. 99% of our walks are off lead anyway.

    My Guide Dog pups have to be totally reliable in all circumstances by 12 months old so I train them by the book - and it works. This is my 'job' and I love the challenge.

    You get out what you put in and it's entirely up to us how much we want to do, so long as our dogs are safe, healthy and happy.


    :)
     
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  15. edzbird

    edzbird Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    I understand this totally - Coco would be the same. We see ducks - he pulls excitedly. He is too close to them. I think setting up training scenarios for this is my best option. Practice Look At That with the ducks (or your goose) at a big enough distance that he doesn't react like this, and gradually reduce the distance.

    This doesn't help when the quarry just pops up unexpectedly, and I accept that this is mostly what happens in real life. Then I would stop as you do. I might turn about and walk the opposite way. It's all about management in this case. This does happen frequently for us :(.

    A brand new walk often causes us difficulty too. Coco is keen to pull to the next sniff. Maybe just walk in circles for a bit to settle him.
    This all sounds like a great plan.
     
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  16. Maxx's Mum

    Maxx's Mum Registered Users

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    @Kobe You should be proud of the results you have already achieved. We are rubbish at training and Maxx is very unruly when outside of the house. We do our best with the limited time we have but need to try harder
     
  17. Kobe

    Kobe Registered Users

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    Thank you. To be honest we ARE proud of the results of a lot of work and effort over the last 6 weeks (omg only six?! it feels like months, I'm so tired!!). He is a very well behaved puppy. Not just obedient but well behaved. I disagree that my dog does not know what heel means or that he doesn't know good stuff comes from us, he does. It's the self control and the "I'm not allowed to pull you places" that he has to learn. I don't know how to teach that.

    I always had perfect dogs as a kid. Absolutely perfect. The kind you could leave outside the bank on the sidewalk unleashed and they wouldn't move a muscle. He'd have been desperate to chase a duck but never would unless given permission. My dad was an amazing dog trainer, just I was too young and as a teen not interested in how he got the dogs to be that way. He's not around anymore so I cant ask him which is a shame! It also means sometimes perhaps I have expectations that are too high for my puppy I realise!
     
  18. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    So, there's a big difference between "pulling on the lead", which generally means a consistent pulling effort to try to get somewhere from the minute you leave the house, to "lunging on the lead", which is towards a trigger. In those situations, you need to train to be steady around exciting things. You can do this by setting up scenarios yourself, using all sorts of triggers. Some food scattered on the floor, a favourite toy, a person he likes. Start off easy, at a distance and with the "thing" static. Gradually decrease the distance and increase the arousal of the "thing" (make it smellier food, throw the toy rather than placing it or have someone animate it, have the person do jumping jacks or try to entice him over by making squeaky noises or patting their legs etc). Out and about, you can practice this, too. Reward him each and every time he walks by anything novel without reacting to it, even if that's a boring lampost, a bicycle propped against the wall, anything. Then you can practice Look At That for things that are known triggers (more information here: https://thelabradorforum.com/threads/look-at-that.22184/). The key is that if you don't see the trigger and take evasive manoeuvres in time to use it as a training scenario, and so your dog ends up lunging, you're too close for him to manage within the boundaries of his current level of learning and self control. So you either have to manage the situation to prevent him rehearsing the undesirable behaviour - as the more a behaviour gets practiced, the more likely it will be that it happens again in the future - or you have to create distance so that you can get him to a state where he is able to look at the object without reacting, and you can start training. No training is going to occur when he's riled up enough to be lunging. Not taking food is very often indicative of a dog whose emotional state is very aroused.

    So, there are many options. Using a front-fastening harness will prevent the pup from lunging. However, in my opinion it is not appropriate for such a young puppy to be on a front fastener, especially if he has a propensity to lunge. You could have a very high value treat that you use as a "treat magnet". This has to be something large enough that you can hold right on his nose and feed continuously as you move past or away from the thing he's lunging at. Something like a 10cm baton of mature Cheddar cheese or roast pork. An about-turn will also give you the distance you need. I do this by running my left hand down the lead so it's close to the dog's collar, saying "this way!" and turning 180 degrees. Some dogs do better turning to the inside, some are better on the outside. The important point is that both of these two things (treat magnet and about-turn) should be practiced a LOT in a neutral environment to get fluency and so that the dog understands what is expected of him before having to use it in anger. And most people don't bother doing that, so it's really hard for the dog to know what's happening when there is a trigger. But both are really easy to train and once you have the mechanics down pat, you can increase the level of distraction by using them at random points during your walk. Even on my morning run with Shadow today, I did two about-turns - he thinks it's a great game! I have used it in the real world with him - he is a leash-reactive, potentially dog-aggressive dog and by training this, it gives me the control I need to get the distance he needs - and his anxiety is reduced when he is given a simple task to do that he is confident in performing.

    All these techniques work equally well both for fearful and for over-excited dogs and puppies.
     
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  19. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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