Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Getting It Together for Leash Walking!


Oh leash walking. How I wish it was easier to train with Zoe! Zoe is very environmental and nervous so it's not our most fun way to spend an afternoon. Zoe has a hard time focusing on keeping the leash loose because everything out in the world is so distracting and some things can even be a cause for concern! Phoenix is a lot better on leash and never got a chance to develop any bad habits even though she's generally great on leash by herself we still have some work to do with walking both of them together. They do tend to egg each other on when I walk them together and Zoe's anxiety rubs off on Phee. I would so much rather be training tricks or even training competition style heelwork than strapping a leash on my dogs and stopping every 2 seconds to "be a tree".


It's definitely not Zoe's fault that she pulls on leash, you see, I never fully committed to training her to walk well. For the first year and half she was with me, I used a flexi leash. I knew the hazards of using them but I thought that I was better than other dog owners because unlike most dogs my dog was trained. I could stop her on cue and have her come back to me. No problems at all there! She was under control. Yeah right. I was a little delusional and a lot dumb. I wish I could go back and give myself a stern talking-to. Flexi leads work by giving the dogs more lead when they pull. They pull and they get to go where they want and sniff all the things. So basically they get a huge reinforcement for pulling and it's the best thing ever because they get to where they want to go.


Fast forward a few more years and Zoe still struggles with leash walking because I allowed her to develop so many bad habits and didn't commit to fixing them. My excuse is that I got Phoenix and her issues were more important. It's a valid excuse and it is what it is.

One of the biggest problems with Zoe's leash walking is that she is very "environmental" and hyper vigilant. Certain places can cause her to be anxious and forget what she's supposed to be doing. We did take Deb Jones' "Focus" class through the Fenzi Academy and it was helpful. I am using some of her techniques to work on Zoe's issues. I would almost consider Zoe sort of reactive in the environment and I probably need to treat her more like a reactive dog. Just because she's not barking and lunging on the end of her leash doesn't mean she isn't fearful, she's just not "verbalizing" it.


To get really amazing loose leash walking you need a dog who is very gear aware, the dog also has to be aware of where they are in relation to you. They have to be taught what to do when they feel leash pressure and they need to know where they are supposed to be walking. It takes a ton of consistency to get loose leash walking and I struggle with it. I am planning to do some more posts on how to get your dog to be "gear aware" in the near future. These are all based in positive reinforcement, no leash corrections allowed. Any time the girls get a new harness to try out or a different length of leash they forget what they are supposed to do. Mostly just Zoe. Zoe also tries to get as far away from me as possible as a result of being allowed to wander around on the end of her flexi lead.

This year one of my goals is to really commit to Zoe and working with her on the issues she has. I will definitely have more posts about it soon and what we are doing to get the leash walking better! Right now I'm still resting Zoe for that paw thing that's going on so I'm going on walks with Phoenix only. The walks with Phoenix have been completely eye opening. She is nearly perfect on leash without her sister around! I will post more about that, too!

I will keep everyone updated on how everything is going.

What methods did you use (or are using) to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash?

19 comments:

  1. We never really work on loose leash walking. Most of the time we use longer leashes and can meander wherever we need to with no problem. I think it also just happens with age, as I don't pull, and Bailie has also cut way back on pulling most of the time. Good luck to you, but you are a training ninja, so I know you will get it down.

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    1. That's awesome that you walk so well on leash! Good job!

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  2. Ugh ... Flexi's ... LOL!!! I, too, used a Flexi with Teach and let me tell you, never again!!! I've never had a dog pull like he does and like you I truly suck at teaching the concept of loose leash walking. Tucker came knowing how to do it so he has been a breeze and like walking Phoenix alone Tucker alone is like walking a feather. But I also never put him on a flexi. So fast forward to today I'd rather just let them run loose at an off leash park than try and fix Teach and when we have to be on a leash I just deal with it! What's funny is Teach is the one with obedience titles so he knows how to heel, but heeling ALL THE TIME is no fun for him. I'm going to look forward to your future posts on this, and we may do a post of our own.

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    1. I'm so with you! It's frustrating that I screwed Zoe up so badly. I wish I could go back in time and slap myself silly. LOL! It is definitely much easier to take them to the off leash park and just let them do their thing. I have been trying to work on their leash skills a little there, too because the parking lot is on leash and there's one trail that leashes are required.

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  3. Your girls are so adorable. Well behaved and I think very well trained. They are smart. We need to give them far more credit than we sometimes do.

    Have a woof woof day you two. My best to your hard working mom. ☺

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    1. Yeah, so true! Thanks for the reminder. :)

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  4. For me, having a very small dog and no safe, fenced-in yard meant me and Matilda haven't been so good with loose leash walking either. Since she's not breaking my wrist every time she pulls, it's been too easy to just let her do whatever she wants.

    Do dogs need to be allowed time to sniff around? Matilda actually lifts her leg and marks like a boy - yeah, one of the reasons I wanted a girl was to have walks with less mark stops!

    I do like the method of turning around whenever she starts pulling. If she's rushing ahead, I just turn around and she can't go forward until she comes back to my side - then we can move forward in the original direction. I find it helps, but it can be annoying to other humans like my fiance, so I can only really do it when I'm walking the dogs alone.

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    1. Yeah, I think with the little ones it is easier because they are not going to hurt you when they pull.

      I do believe dogs need time to sniff and I let mine sniff as long as they are not pulling. There are times when I want to just walk so I have a cue that I use to get them to move on.

      My husband is the same way about not wanting to train on walks so I can only train when he's not around. So from now on when we go for hikes together, the dogs will likely where gentle leaders so they can't pull and be reinforced for it. That way my husband doesn't get irritated. :)

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  5. Ha - that explains the off leash dogs that their owners reluctantly leash back up when Blueberry and I come along. I've noticed most dogs off leash are pretty awful when they are leashed. I've actually heard someone mutter "I have to put the leash back on you because of THAT dog (meaning Blueberry)". I wanted to tell her the leash was because IT IS THE LAW MORON, DON'T BLAME MY DOG. But I didn't. ;)

    I didn't have a choice with Blueberry. When I first adopted her, I had to coax her along on our short walks, she really just wanted to stay home where it was safe. Once she became more confident and discovered bunnies, well, that's when the "I'm a tree" training kicked in. I had to prepare myself mentally for that because I admit, it was frustrating for me to move along at a snail's pace to train her. But it paid off and Blueberry pretty much knows loose-leash walking. She still has set backs - but it's way better now than it used to be. I also learned that loose leash walking is the same no matter what length the leash. If your dog pulls with a 6 foot leash, they'll pull with the 15 or 20 foot training leash too. Blueberry is pretty aware of what length leash she has and how that impacts how far away from me she can walk. When the tree method doesn't work, I will back track and have B follow me and have her give me a sit or a spin or other tricks to refocus her back onto me before we start walking forward again. Otherwise, she has a one track mind when it comes to seeing bunnies or jack rabbits or coyotes. I imagine it is a harder process when your dogs are used to being off leash and all of a sudden, you are taking away their freedom and fun! Can't wait to see how you tackle that training issue!

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    1. LOL! We've only ever gone off leash in areas that were designated for it, had no signs that said otherwise or for training in empty fields. :)

      That's awesome that Blueberry does so well on the leash and great job for showing her how to not be afraid! <3 Those are great ideas for refocusing, too!

      The girls are on leash a lot because we live in an apartment so they are used to it and they walk amazingly well around our complex on a loose leash, it's when we go hiking or any other new place where Zoe is really bad with pulling.

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  6. Me and mom have had many bad walkies over this very same issue. Finally we agreed that I will walk loose leash only when I have to and it better not be too often!

    Keep Calm & Bark On!

    Murphy & Stanley

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  7. And see, I'm the opposite: I love teaching LLW! I don't even know why, it's just something I really enjoy. There's almost no where to be off leash here (except the beach), so not pulling is important to me.
    The only thing that worked to teach Nola LLW was a combination of silky leash, and using pulling as her reward. Two steps slack leash, ten steps of pulling. Slowly whittling it down until we were at only pulling on cue/after release.

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  8. I am embarrassed to say mine dogs don't really do the LLW. Hailey has been better, but I don't have time to take them each out separately to train her, so I live with please don't rip my arm off.

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  9. Oh man. I love loose leash walking. Any time I walk with a dog that isn't good at it, I'm so happy to get back to my Barley girl. Barley and I have done a lot of different techniques to get used to it and to reinforce it every now and then. We do a lot of walk, stop, sit, walk and then adding in some changes in pace with jogging instead of walking--that makes Barley focus on me to see what's coming next. We spent some time training that when I stop, she sits, too, so if she does pull I just stop and she's like oh, right, I'm supposed to sit and it refocuses her. When she's really in a pulling mood, we add in new patterns--I'll change directions quickly or we'll add in some circles around a tree or serpentine patterns between things on the trail, just things to get her attention. We even do mini noseworks games sometimes where I'll toss a treat (only if we're not in a busy place and it's safe to let her be a little wild) and have her find it and after a few times with that, then she wants to pay attention to me to see when the next treat will come. Good luck with the girls!

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  10. Oh boy, don't I know it!!! I can train my dogs to do just about anything.... but loose leash walking? HA! Fugget about it!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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  11. As you know, Dakota isn't a fan of leash walking either...he used to be, until a Mother Goose tried to attack him (seriously), and a garbage truck scared him. I have also worked with him, albeit inconsistently. He will do great for a while, then he starts tugging....then....when he has had enough he just sits down and refuses to budge. I am such a failure as a dog Mom :( DakotasDen

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  12. I also used flexi leashes when the dogs were young, and both girls are pullers. I didn't have a clue what I was doing back then! It is so hard to train, and even though Luke does better than the girls, he is still not perfect either. Both girls are 11, but I have worked more with them recently - now that I know a little more - and they are not great but they have gotten better. I look forward to hearing how you do with Zoe.

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  13. I hate loose leash walking too and I just found out that I'm in charge of the dogs' exercise today. I don't get home until after dark so I'll be walking four dogs after dark and it's easier to just load them up and take them some place, because Rodrigo is black and if he takes off on me (when we're at home) I won't be able to find him.

    I didn't commit training our dogs to walk on leash either. I thought they'd eventually get it. Today, I have one dog who walks well on leash (Sydney) and three who are like fish on a line - they're all over the place when we walk. Eventually they get the groove and we're good to go - until a cyclist or another dog walker comes along and then we're screwed!

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  14. I hate it too!!!! But, I totally committed to it with R when he was young, and it has paid off. Shyla is a different story. She can't walk in front of me without pulling. So, the Duo and I have a weird walking formation - R is in front, then me, and then Shyla is behind me (all of our trails are very narrow so we end up in single file naturally). It works....

    Please keep us posted on your progress. I consider R to be a "reactive" dog, but we rarely see people. I've been able to make him comfortable with walking past specific people by going around them, so we are outside his threshold zone. His threshold distance got shorter and shorter but it took a whole year until we could walk directly past the first neighbor who I did this with! But it worked.

    I'll be interested to hear about your progress.

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