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Advice Please - Do I Have to Worry?

pennynikkel
September 14th, 2005, 10:08 PM
Hi All,

This is gonna be long, but I could really use some advice. Max (now 7 months old male, neutered SA Mastiff) went to our 3rd training tonight. I think he's doing quite well, but...he is bad at one thing. As soon as we get there, he starts to grab/pull at his leash. As some history...from day one when I got max @ 11 weeks, he would grap pants/skirts and pull. He also had a persistent problem with grabbing/pulling on leash. I never encouraged any of this and immediately went to work. To discourage this behavior, I used bitter apple on the leash, firm "no's", refused to "play", and taught drop it using a treat to exhcange for the thing he wanted. As of today, I would say he is completely outgrown the clothing thing. He'll still pick up shoes, but if I say drop-it. He does. As for the leash, whenever I walk him out in public...since about 2 months ago...he has stopped the leash behavior, and doesn't ever try it. So, now... at training school, he is starting up again...reverting to a prior bad behavior, forgetting his manners. (maybe excited?)

My trainer advises that I should give a firm pull of the leash from his mouth and make it no fun. I was doing that last week, and, frankly, it didn't discourage too well. This week, again with her advice, I started the yanking of the leash (during a heeling exercise), and he totalling started this huge grab/pull, grab/pull. As soon as I yanked it, he grabbed it again. Not fun for either of us...as he seemed to be working himself up. Eventually we get to the end of it, but not after a couple of minutes of, what I started to feel, was becoming me against Max. She seemed concerned that he wasn't respecting me, and that I need to keep ahead of this kind of behavior, and that my corrections weren't firm enough. That these dogs are very strong minded and to keep on top of this.

I am quite aware that Max is a large dog, and am very cognizant of keeping ahead of him. He does a 15 minute down/stay every night. He is on the Nothing in Life is Free Program, he comes, he sits, he downs. He sleeps on the floor. I eat first. I haven't recognized any other issues, other than the still occassional shoe grabbing, and some jumping on me when I come home from work. But when a trainer tells me I might have a problem...I pay attention. But on the other hand...I was kinda thinking that the technique was what was causing all him to be all riled up.

I was really getting disturbed by his insistence on the leash. I know that if I had whipped out a treat, he would have dropped it and sat. Max is normally so laid back, I rarely see any reaction from him...so I'm thinking...is this what lays underneath when he doesn't get a treat? On the other hand, I think...all this leash/yank/grabbing was just working it up and making it confrontational.

My trainer wants to work one on one with me to correct this behavior, and I'm thinking...correct the behavior we just instigated? Or is she right...do I need to work on this. I'm worried that if I "work" on this with her, it'll just make things worse.

To top off the night...right at the end...we're all sitting in our chairs...Max is laying down...and the cute little pekignese next to us (all of 5 pounds) is yanking and tugging and chewing up his leash! The owner is holding him on the leash with one finger, not doing a thing! Max is laying there, watching this little guy do all the same stuff he started the night doing...probably thinking "what the heck...why does he get away with it all?". I just thought that was super ironic.

Thanks for listening, and I appreciate your honest opinions.

shannonRN
September 14th, 2005, 10:58 PM
I think many times poor manners are tolerated in smaller doggies because they're seen as harmless. The barking/snarling/nipping you'll see in some small dogs whose owners think it's 'cute' is definitely not cute in, say, a mastiff. I think your trainer has your best interests in mind.

First, you have to be confident in your trainer. If you come to the conclusion that you're not, then find someone else. It's easy however to have your feelings/ego bruised when you're in the spotlight for not doing a technique properly, especially when you're already frustrated. Don't take it personally, they're just trying to help.

I don't have too much advice for you, and what I do have probably isn't worth much :rolleyes: but I would recommend phasing out the treats as reward at home before you expect him to go 'cold turkey' in the classroom.
The dog needs to start to see YOU as the reinforcement, too. And using the food treats intermittently (keep the dog wondering what the reward will be--praise, toy, food) makes ALL the rewards that much more powerful.

Good luck!

tenderfoot
September 14th, 2005, 11:24 PM
You have to do what works for your dog. If the corrections don't work either because he doesn’t respect you, or because when you increase your energy he matches it and thinks it a game. I think he is trying to engage you in play or take control of the situation - hard to read when I can't see him doing it. Either way if you don't play the game or let his distraction work then he will get bored (usually in a minute or so) and quit.

As always you have to work on things that will increase his respect for you - always beneficial! AND/OR DISENGAGE your energy when he does this. When he grabs the leash don't let it get tight at all. Go completely calm, don't even make eye contact and try to keep it loose. Hopefully you have taught him to drop things and when he gets calm (because it was too boring to continue the game), you say drop it and then praise him when he does. You become an non-event and he learns it doesn't work.

Lucky Rescue
September 15th, 2005, 08:19 AM
My trainer advises that I should give a firm pull of the leash from his mouth and make it no fun. I was doing that last week, and, frankly, it didn't discourage too well.

I'm not surprised. Your trainer has told you to reward this behavior with a fun game of tug. Considering the size of this dog, you are going to lose this game and reinforce his behavior.

I have to wonder about a trainer giving this kind of advice.

StaceyB
September 15th, 2005, 10:54 AM
I would have to agree that yanking on the leash like this is nothing more than a game that he is more than willing to play.

StaceyB
September 15th, 2005, 11:08 AM
When he does this I would step down onto the leash. This will remove your hands from the fight. Give him very little leash to play with and stand still until he gives up, give him no attention that would make him think he is rewarded for this behaviour. Once he does you can remove your foot and instruct him to do something for you, sit, down. Also if the bitter apple helped you before, soak down the leash just before class.

pennynikkel
September 15th, 2005, 01:28 PM
Thank you for all your advice.

I feel like Max is a good dog, and I've actually been quite proud of his overall good behaviour. It spooked me to hear that she thought this was a bad sign...so perhaps I over-reacted.

I have, in the past, used the "stay calm" and don't play approach. And it worked...eventually. I didn't do the stand still thing, because he is so strong...I can't just stand there while he pulls, because he would pull me to the ground! When he was younger, I got around this by making the leash loose, and when he pulled, I would just kinda step towards him...thus keeping the leash loose. He then had nothing to pull against, and ended up loosing interest.

I think that this would have been my first choice to handle this again, but by being in a classroom environment, being lead by our instructor, I felt I should take her direction. Perhaps I'll just decline future help in this trouble spot, and hope that he doesn't do it again in the classroom next week...and use the bitter apple!

mastifflover
September 15th, 2005, 02:09 PM
I disagree with your trainer that is instigating the behaviour. I find that Buddy (English Mastiff) responds best to voice commands if I tell him no in a strong tone he knows I am not pleased. Pulling your Mastiff is going to turn into a tug of war with a dog that weighs than you. Buddy is a big dog and if he was inclined could pull me down the street. You need to do what works the best for you Mastiffs are very sensitive and don't like to disappoint you. So when he is doing what you want give him tons of praise. Forget jerking his leash

pennynikkel
September 16th, 2005, 08:41 AM
Hi thought I'd post a couple of pictures of Max and Blossom so you could finally see who I'm talking about...

Hope it attaches OK.

pennynikkel
September 16th, 2005, 08:42 AM
Here's the two of them...

mastifflover
September 16th, 2005, 05:24 PM
What cuties do you live in Toronto, love to have a plate date if you are. I had an English Bully for a short time great combo. They really seem to get along well. Buddy still thinks every bull dog wants to play with him

StaceyB
September 17th, 2005, 05:40 AM
What a beautiful face, and please don't take offence but the little guy looks like a sweet little butterball.

pennynikkel
September 18th, 2005, 09:02 PM
Hi Mastifflover,

Unfortunately, I don't live in Toronto, so can't make it for a play date. They are a great team, although it didn't start out that way. Max LOVES Blossom, and I think that Blossom is finally keen on Max, too.

Yes, Blossom is built like a brick on 4 inch legs! Although... that picture was taken about 2 months ago, and I have been cutting back on her food. Just the other day, someone said she was sleek! I don't think she's quite in the "sleek" category, but it was nice to hear.