ClickerSolutions Training Articles

"My Dog is Pulling My Arm Off!!"

My thoughts on the Armless Discussion:

  • Whatever you are doing isn't working. Stop it. That is, until your dog learns not to pull, stop taking her out with two dogs. Stop taking her for hour-long walks. Stop taking her where you don't control the situation and can't control your dog. If you don't want to do any of these things, then the discussion is over. Your priorities are clear, you want the hour-long walks right NOW more than you want her to stop pulling, you want to take two dogs more than you want her to stop pulling, you want to not think about the situation more than you want her to stop pulling. End of discussion.
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  • If you want her to stop pulling, and you can't take her for walks because that is continuing her education in pulling, you can exercise her by throwing a ball or frisbee or whatever, or you can practise recalls between two people. She can get just as much exercise this way without continuing to be reinforced for bad habits.
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  • If she will heel, that's great, you have a way to get her to the car and get her into the vet's office and get her from the car to class, etc, but you are correct in thinking that heeling is NOT loose-leash-walking. Heeling is work, hard work, for the dog, it is a competition behaviour, I certainly won't say it isn't fun, but it isn't fun for an hour, and it certainly isn't relaxing. And you won't GET heeling for an hour, you will get sloppy heeling, inattentive heeling, crummy heeling, so you're not getting heeling anyway.
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  • Understand that what you have been doing is not only not working the way you want it to, it is actively instructing your dog in the art of pulling. She knows that she HAS to pull in order to get anywhere, that's the rules. If you want the pulling to stop, you need to begin The First Day Of The Rest Of Her Life with no, zero, nada, never, ever, ever ANY pulling.
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  • Be A Tree works sometimes. Not often, but sometimes. The problem with it when people think it should be working and it isn't is that by the time people notice the dog is pulling, the dog has already pulled them two or three feet closer to wherever the dog wanted to be, and then is rewarded by being allowed to stand there until she has finished looking at/sniffing whatever it was she got closer to.
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  • What DOES work, with a carefully thought-out plan of action, is "penalty yards" (TM pending, Lana Horton). The carefully thought-out plan of action means that the dog cannot overpower you - GL or whatever you need, that you TOTALLY control the situation, that you have a plan of what you are going to do, what you are going to reward, what you are looking for.
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  • You totally control the situation - she is in your basement, your kitchen, your training building, your totally-fenced back yard, whatever, so you control who/what she sees, where she goes, etc. You need to have tack that you can handle - that is, tack that allows you to pull the dog rather than the dog to pull you. This includes not only a halter, but a leash that is heavy enough that it won't hurt your hands. Unless you are a very small person, I suggest a 1" leather leash, and I suggest it be six feet long because that length will give you time to think. BTW, you put the leash loop over one thumb, then wrap the lead twice around your hand, put both your hands together grasping one another, and put your two hands tight into your stomach. That's where they stay. Once the dog has pulled your hands away from your stomach, she controls you rather than you controlling her. Now put your feet shoulder-width apart, dominant foot slightly ahead of the other foot, toes turned out a bit. Lean back onto your back leg. Practise this without the dog, and get your husband to try to pull you off balance. Feet apart, one slightly ahead, hands together in stomach, lean back. Sink your weight down a bit, and grow your soles into the centre of the earth.
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  • You have a plan of what you are going to reward. EXACTLY what behaviour are you looking for? What if she sniffs? So what? Is that what you're working on? Or are you working on a loose leash? If you are working on a loose leash, then that is the ONLY behaviour you are working on. She can crawl, fly, sniff, roll over, bark, scream, pee, eat grass, whatever, as long as the leash is loose.
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  • What is a loose leash? Most people define a loose leash as "the dog isn't pulling really hard" - not good enough. "Pulling really hard" is fuzzy criteria. Neither you nor your dog can work with fuzzy criteria. You need something specific, something easy to spot, and something that errs on the side of extreme lightness. IF THE LEASH SNAP IS NOT HANGING STRAIGHT DOWN, THE LEASH IS TIGHT!
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  • What are you going to do? Assemble hungry dog, leash, good shoes, gloves if you need them to protect your hands, great treats, clicker. Put your back against a wall. This is Ground Zero. There is NOTHING here for the dog to look at, sniff, interact with, or do except you.
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  • Click dog a dozen times for having the leash loose. Not for looking at you, not for sitting, not for "paying attention", not for standing on her head, not for lying down. For having a loose leash. Try to get your dozen clicks in Rapid Fire, that is, within a minute.
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  • Now toss (or have someone place) a focal point out about 20' from you. This could be a ball, a toy, a treat, whatever your dog would like to have. Bam, dog hits end of leash, but you don't care, your soles are one with the core of the planet and you just stand there with your back against the wall and your hands in your stomach (this is the ONLY time you will Be A Tree, because with your back against the wall, you KNOW the dog didn't pull you forward).
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  • Eventually (5 seconds, 4 hours, whatever) the leash will loosen, click, and shove the most wonderful treat in the dog's face. Rapid-Fire another dozen if possible. Take a step toward the focal point. If you got one step forward, Rapid-Fire another dozen. If you didn't get one step forward without the dog whipping to the end of the lead, then BACK UP until your back is against the wall again. Wait for the leash to loosen, and Rapid-Fire another dozen.
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  • Repeat until you can take that one step and the dog keeps the leash loose. Take another step. Click if you've got the loose leash, back up TO THE WALL if you don't. Keep working.
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  • If the dog gets to the toy WITH THE LEASH LOOSE, she can have it. Click just before she grabs it.
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  • Do the same thing the next day (or that afternoon, or whatever). And the next. And the next. And the next.
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  • When it's WONDERFUL, take it somewhere else. ******NOT****** out for a one-hour walk! Somewhere else where you totally control the situation. When it's WONDERFUL in the second location, take it somewhere else. And somewhere else. You could, after you have about 8 local locations, work on house-to-car with a loose leash. Once you've got that, get the dog in the car and go somewhere where there isn't anybody, and work it using the car as your wall to put your back against. Now you have Infinite Locations.
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  • Keep working it until you have it everywhere. Whether you get it or not depends ENTIRELY on whether you want it or not, and whether you want it enough to actually teach it rather than going for walks, exercising, etc.

Sue eh?
sue.eh@dragonflyllama.com
copyright 2002 Sue Ailsby

 

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