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Desperate for advice on walking my puppy!

October 1st, 2008, 10:58 PM
So you may know by now about Ozzy, my 4 month old Cocker/Lab cross. I'm posting again because I'm feeling frustrated about taking him out for walks. Please be kind & patient with me - I'm a first-time puppy owner and I'm learning as I go... just looking for some advice.

So Ozzy is learning how to walk on a leash - I got him from a rescue and it's possible he wasn't walked on a leash before. He's learning, and has come a LONG way in the 2 weeks I've had him. He's walking much better now, and sometimes he'll even walk at my side. But most times, Ozzy is running ahead or off to the sides, pulling on his leash. He is almost constantly in a state of pulling, even where he's walking sideways trying to pull to the side.

I've tried to get him to stop pulling. I've stopped and said "no pull". I've held him on a tight leash. He will keep pulling, even on a tight lease where his feet are barely touching the ground and he's gasping for air from pulling. He STILL won't stop pulling. So, when he pulls, I usually check his leash to get him to stop pulling - this is largely ineffective. Apparently his big strong lab neck isn't the least bothered by my check.

Ozzy also keeps his nose to the ground, sniffing EVERYTHING and eating EVERYTHING (trying to anyways) - rocks, leaves, branches, garbage, poo, cigarette butts, etc. This is the main reason for his pulling - he catches a scent and wants to follow it at all costs. Once he finds something interesting, then every time we go for a walk, he goes right to those same places and no amount of pulling can sway him away from those spots.

Essentially, I'm getting frustrated walking him because it's a continuous cycle of "Ozzy, no, (check) Ozzy, no (check)" and on & on. I'm actually dreading taking him out because I know what a pain it is to constantly have him pulling on the leash and also constantly watching to make sure he isn't eating things he shouldn't be. Oh, he also tries to chew and pull on his leash like it's a toy.

Sorry for the long post - it's more of a vent. I'm trying to remember he is a puppy and doesn't know, but I also want to teach him so he doesn't get into all these bad habits. Any advice? Is this normal? What can I do so I enjoy walking my puppy? He's such an angel indoors, and then the "retriever" in him just takes over outside!

October 1st, 2008, 11:09 PM
Don't worry, you will get lots of help for this problem here! One thing I would make sure of right off the bat is to not give him very much leash....once they have enough length to start to pull away on you, you lose even more control. Only give him a bit, and hold it up straight behind his neck so he can't grab it. Try changing directions very suddenly when he pulls and show him that YOU are the leader on walks. When you are at a spot where it may be good for him to do his business, loosen the leash and tell him he's "free", so then he knows THAT is the appropriate time to sniff around.

It's my experience that labs LOVE to pull. I have had the most success with a Halti (head harness) to minimize the pulling and re-gain enough control to teach proper leash manners. The problem being that I still can't walk my BC/Lab mix without one. :o But it's an option you can consider. It works for some people and others don't like it. I'm sure you'll get other suggestions as well so you can then make the best choice for you and your pup.

Finally, the best thing I can recommend is obedience classes! These are likely to help more than anything else!:)

October 1st, 2008, 11:40 PM
Obedience classes, I second that suggestion. You will have much more luck with a hands on instructor than trying to figure out and then remember what we are saying on here. When you take a class, your teacher can see what you need to correct in your postioning and checking. As you likely know, an experienced dog trainer can get a pup walking well on leash fairly quickly, and a new owner can watch and still not quite understand how it is done!

October 2nd, 2008, 12:15 AM
Here is a bit of reading to help you out a bit.You can do some more searching.:)

Watch the video in this one.It will give you some ideas.

Personally,I think one on one training would be good.I'm not saying classes are a bad thing.BUT classes are done inside.So what the pup learns inside is different then outside.I hope that made sense.I have heard many people say that their pups/dogs did well in class,but they don't do so well with everyday outside things like distractions.

All my dogs past and present have been trained with distractions.This started when they were 3 months old.I made then focus on "me"..

Also,you need to teach Ozzie the "leave it" command.;)

October 2nd, 2008, 12:55 AM
Thank you for getting a rescue! As said in one of the posts above about using the halti (gentle leader, etc.), its great, my bigger dog would not stop pulling and this is the only thing that worked for him. Another option is a harness where the chain hook is in the front at his chest, this is what I used for my smaller dog and it worked great for her.

October 2nd, 2008, 06:37 AM
I took Patrón to Obedience classes just for this reason! He was HORRIBLE at walking on the leash! Up until he as 4 months old he didnt think he should have to walk at all! he wanted to be carried! After 4 or so classes they mentioned a Gentle Leader.... And I've been hooked ever since! With the Gentle Leader all 115lbs of me can walk BOTH our big dogs!

It's not a replacement for not teaching your dog to walk on a leash nicely... but it CERTAINLY helps with the process....

And Thank you thank you thank you for rescuing!

October 2nd, 2008, 07:35 AM
This is taking into consideration that he is only a puppy and will learn, but the advice below was taken from a television programme by ceasar milan, a well known (and very good IMO) american dog trainer

I know im setting up a scenario here, but when you are about to go out for a walk, does he suddenly get all excited, for example, he see's you with the leash, and goes really exited, or runs to the door, or shows any sign of being uncalm in any way?

if so, then the moment he gets like that, put the leash down, walk away and wait until he is calm, Only when is is relaxed and looking to you, knowing that only you can be the one to take him out will he be okay to leave the house. The on the walk, if he suddenly starts to pull, turn around and start to walk home, do whatever it takes to let him know that once he gets like that, he's blown it, no more walk.

hope it goes well


October 2nd, 2008, 08:13 AM
Thanks for all the advice!

Obediance Classes - we start on Saturday with puppy classes taught by our province's Search & Rescue Association. I'm hoping they can help us, although they are group classes and they are held inside.

Halti/Gentle Leader - we saw the vet on Monday and he recommended the Champ Walk Master ( for walking Ozzy. But he said since they are more costly, we may want to wait until Ozzy is full-grown or else we'll have to buy a bigger size soon.

I've read the links & watched the video you sent me - and it gives me hope that I can try these tips out on Ozzy. I've been making mistakes. I keep walking for example, so Ozzy has no reason NOT to pull. He's getting what he wants! He's pretty smart, so hopefully with consistency I can get him to learn.

I'll try the training & the obediance classes, and if I'm still having no luck, I'll very likely invest in the Champ Walk Master.

October 3rd, 2008, 02:52 PM
Way to go!
You've got great advice here. My lab is turning 3 y.o. this month and he's in the middle of taking the intermediate obediance classes. As a lab owner, I can feel for you. We've been using a Halti to walk him since his puppy school days with moderate success. He can still take my petite DW to a swim if he's determined to go after the ducks.:D
Walking is the 1st lesson in his current class. We now use a Martin-gale type collar to walk him and distraction from classmate is designed in the lesson. There're times in his walk he still try to test his limit but we have the option to say no.
My advice is to practice what you'd learn in class daily. They know they can get away with murder b/c they are lovable.

October 4th, 2008, 09:42 AM
I have not been on here in a while but thought I would check things out. I was happy to see that I am not the only one having trouble walking my dog! I have recently been trying the, don t give a lot of leash, while walking. My dog Cassie, sniffs EVERYTHING! It is hard to tell if she is just sniffing or if she is sniffing to do her business. Cassie is a year and 2 month old, 8lb yorkie chihuahua. Its is hard I find trying to keep her beside me without me pulling on her. I end up giving her more leash when she starts sniffing off to the side because she is so small and I dont want to choke he her. I have a harness for her as well but she hates putting it on. Would it be better to walk he with the harness so I dont hurt her.

Gail P
October 4th, 2008, 12:55 PM
Do you do any clicker training with your pup? Often a clicker-trained dog is very focused on their handler, maintaining eye contact and just waiting for their next command. You could get a clicker and start to click and treat every time Ozzy looks at you. Start it in the house where he pays better attention. At he realizes that he gets a treat for looking at you, add his name to the equation. "Ozzy!" he looks up, you immediately click and treat. Then begin to try it outdoors, before you even begin your walk. You will get him to pay more attention to your voice. Carry treats with you and if he begins to get too far ahead, just call his name and if he responds appropriately, click and treat. You can also begin to add the word "wait". I do this with my dogs, when I go out to get my mail at the end of the driveway they all rush down toward the road but one word "Wait" works for everyone (7 dogs). They immediately stop or turn back to me. You can probably teach Ozzy to heel by carrying a treat in your hand, and keeping your hand down beside your leg/hip as you're walking. If the treat smells good enough and he wants it, he will find that more enticing than the other smells. Go a few steps with him following your hand, then click and let him have the treat. Keep doing that and associate the word "heel" with his action and begin to try it for longer distances. Eventually as the dog really gets the hang of it you should be able to dispense with the clicker and treats. But while you're using the clicker always treat if you click.

I personally don't work on heeling with my dogs because I actually want them to pull (we dogsled), but I do want them to have decent leash manners. I try to teach them the difference between walking with a collar/leash, and pulling in harness. My smallest dog is actually the one I have the most difficulty with, on leash she's a puller and I mostly just put up with it because I don't want to ruin her for sledding. Off leash though she's fine, she will stick right with me if I ask her to. She's actually not on leash very often, mine are all farm dogs that are able to run freely around the fields when we're out doing chores.

If you do any cross-country skiing you could actually make use of Ozzy's strength and tendency to pull. There's a sport called skijoring where you have your dog(s) pull you while you ski. It doesn't take much in the way of special equipment, just a sledding harness for the dog and a skijoring belt and line to attach the dog to yourself. It's a lot of fun and great exercise for the dogs. When there's no snow you can also bike-jor or scooter.

p.s. my lead dog is a border collie/lab mix and he's a great puller on the sled/cart. He's been clicker trained for agility though and if I bring out the clicker he sticks right near me, staring into my eyes like "what?what?what??? What do you want me to do? Please, just tell me what you want and I'll do it!" He practically trips all over himself trying to figure out what I'm going to ask him to do next. I also do disc trials with him. He gets very excited to go to "work", no matter what the sport we're doing.

October 4th, 2008, 02:05 PM
Walking on a LOOSE leash by your side is actually very simple.

First - breathe and calm down.

Second - think about this...every step you take with your dog as he is either pulling on a tight leash or walking in front of your toe line is a REWARD for pulling and walking ahead.

Third - People are the ones who teach their dogs to become great sled dogs - the dogs actually think they have to pull their very slow, and heavy human where ever they want to go. They are leading their humans everywhere and it is not their job to take you for a walk it is your job to take them for a walk with good manners.

Here are the simplified steps to get you started...

Post Drill - Begin in the house by standing still (be an oak tree and lock your hand with the leash into your pocket) and don't let your pup pull against the leash - not one inch. As you have stated he argues with a tight leash and pulls even harder to get what he wants. Teach him to create a loose leash. Each time he tries to pull against you - say 'close' in a firm tone and just stand there. He will argue and strain and when he doesn't make any forward progress he is take a little step towards you and create his own loose leash. Then you need to praise him for making a good choice. Do this a few times until the word 'close' stops him beofre he gets to a tight leash - now he is thinking!!!!

Leader-Follower Drill - Now go to the next step which is about moving on a loose leash. Have him beside you on a LOOSE but short leash. You are going to take 2-3 steps forward and stop abruptly. He is your dance partner and is going to get a slight cue forward as you leave and then have a loose leash. When you stop DO NOT stop him with the leash (he doesn't use his brain if you force him). If he stops behind your toe line then praise him and wait 10 -20 seconds before you do it again. IF he goes past your toe line then turn on a dime and go in the opposite direction he is looking and go 2-3 steps and do it again. Most of the time I want you to turn into your dogs neck and shoulder and make him get out of your way (respecting your space) as you go in the opposite direction. You might have to use your leash to keep his momentum back so you can easily turn into him. Do not walk around your dog respecting his space.

Do this several times until you see him have his 'ah-ha' moment and he stops and looks at you when you stop. Lots of soft, happy praise!!!!!! Repeat until you get consistency.

Yo-Yo Drill - Now the next step....Start to walk towards something he wants and stop 1/2 way there. If he doesn't stop with you then go backward 5-10 steps and take him with you - make sure you direct him back to the side he started on - then immediately walk forward again and stop in the same place. If he is good then walk 1/2 way there again and do the same thing. He needs to learn that he does not get any closer to what he wants by pulling you there, in fact he gets further away. He will have his 'ah-ha' moment and learn that he gets to go forward by walking nicely beside you on a LOOSE leash.

From here heeling is a breeze. Always start practicing in the house (level 1) and then move outside (level 2). Your basic rules are: he does not get to go one step infront of your toe line EVER, and always on a loose leash (unless you are directing or correcting). If you a thinking - "Good luck if he sees a squirrel" - the answer is he/you aren't ready for the squirrel test yet - that is college level and you have to practice at the lower levels first. It shouldn't take days, but you need to go through your steps sequentially in order to give him the best shot at success.

Devices and bribes don't teach - the dog is either reacting to the force or the food and it has little to do with you. Dogs are SMART - you just have to understand how to teach them and break it down into baby steps.

Hope this helps.

October 4th, 2008, 02:10 PM
In the last couple of days I've been trying to train Ozzie on leash. I keep a treat in my hand and hold it at my side, and he walks beside me looking at me like "when are you going to give it to me?!". After about 10 steps, I give it to him. When he pulls ahead, I stop and call him back to me, usually with a treat and pat the side of my leg. He comes back to my side, and then we start walking, after a few steps I give him the treat. Now when he pulls ahead, I often just have to say "Ozzy, no pull" and he'll stop pulling! It's been amazing so far, but only if I have treats. Otherwise he doesn't care. I figure he's learning, and eventually I can take the treats away...

We had puppy class this morning, and they recommended a martingale collar for Ozzy. I'm not sure it'll work, cuz he's such a big puller - but we'll try it and see. The class was great for socializing him and we worked on sit, down, stay. He was very distracted though, and failed to come to me when I called him. He ran to other dogs instead.... :shrug:

October 4th, 2008, 02:26 PM
You have proven my point - treats don't teach. The pup is simply reacting to the food but not thinking about the behavior in respect to you and your body. We get calls from people everyday who complain that their dog will not perform without treats or the device they have been using.

The martingale is no better. If you didn't have a treat or the martingale will your puppy heel? probably not because you haven't learned how to teach a good heel and they haven't had to think about a thing just react to force or food.

Don't misunderstand, treats are okay SOMETIMES, but as long as you rely on anything - treats or devices - you dog relies on it too and it is hard ot be successful off leash or with distractions.

Gail P
October 4th, 2008, 10:49 PM
In my experience treats can and do work well for teaching, but I only use them to help shape a behaviour and do away with them once the behaviour is learned. Using treats for training has in no way been a hindrence to being off-leash, mine are off-leash most of the time, responsive and have excellent recalls as well as other commands. Two are now herding and doing goose control, and it's not like I can run through the sheep and across the field to give a treat when I tell a dog to lie down. They learned lie down with a treat, now know the command and will do it when working away from me with no treats.

The one dog I have not tried harder to correct with the leash pulling is a very soft dog. If she ever even thinks she's in trouble she will cower or hide (and no, she was never abused or mistreated in any way, it's just the way she is). With her temperament/personality I don't want to mess her up for sledding by insisting she not pull on leash only to turn around and expect her to pull her little heart out for me in harness. In harness they are all taught to "line out" (staying out in front of me with their tug lines tight), so on leash I let them walk in front the same way, just not pulling hard. If they start to pull I tell them wait or easy and they pause and let the line go loose. They are not actually leading me everywhere and taking me for a walk, simply walking in front, with the exception of that one little dog that does pull a little more than she should on leash. She just seems to have not differentiated between leash walking and harness pulling but off leash she's great, and always sticks very close to me.

October 5th, 2008, 12:32 AM
Using a treat as a lure can be helpful - too many people simply don't wean off of the treats as you have. It sounds like you are very involved with your dogs and devote a lot of time to their skills. Great job.

In everything that you do with a dog you should be sensitive to the dogs temperament and adjust your energy accordingly. You never want to cause fear or pain in your dog as you would loose trust in the relationship. Learning happens in a series of 'steps in the right direction' and everything a dog does in that direction should be rewarded. That way your dog learns what you do want and will be eager to try again.

We believe that a dog can learn to heel properly as well as pull when asked to for sledding or carting etc. Its like so many conformation competitors who try not to teach a 'sit' for fear the dog would sit in the ring. We help many handlers teach their dogs to show without sitting and then be able to sit on command when needed. Dogs are smart and can learn the differences between environments, equipment and circumstances.

October 5th, 2008, 10:24 AM
Dogs are smart and can learn the differences between environments, equipment and circumstances.

I totaly agree with this.

My GSD was a working dog.He was on the force with my brother.Tron knew the difference between working and not working.As does my brothers current partner.I did all the basic training from 3 months(when I got him) to 18 months.I worked very hard with him.At the same time I had his cousin Yukon.So I was training 2 pups.He knew when tracking,he was able to go ahead 20 feet on the lead.When he was done,he knew to be at my brothers side.This is something I had to train him to do as part of his training.There is so much training involved with these dogs.

I worked with treats for a while.Then stopped using them.

October 7th, 2008, 07:56 PM
I have a 10 month old Malamute who LOVES to pull by nature and NOBODY could find a way around it. We were at a flyball competition last weekend and someboday recommended we use a Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness, which fastens around the chest but links the leash at the front as well. Any pulling results in the dog being turned around to face the handler. We are using it as more of a teaching tool than a solution. When Thor pulls and is turned towards us we say "With me" and position him at our side. This way he'll still understand that it's the human looking for a behaviour from him, not just the harness preventing him from doing what he wants. It's working wonderfully so far!!