Walking is supposed to be fun...!
September 12, 2011 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Help me curb this frustrating puppy behaviour!

My partner and I have a chocolate lab puppy whom we got at 8 weeks of age. He is now 12 weeks of age and has developed this incredibly frustrating habit of just laying down and refusing to move every few steps at the beginning of his walks. We've gradually worked up to walks to the park as he's gotten stronger, and now (once he gets going) he can walk for an hour or so (and then collapse into a happy, exhausted heap when we get home, which is our goal).

Assume all his needs are met when I take him out: he has been fed, watered, and he is well rested. We take the same route every time, and nothing bad has ever happened to him as we walk along. He always stops at around the same places (we have tried avoiding these places by crossing the street, and that didn't help). After 10 or 15 minutes of this, it's like a switch flips and he suddenly decides walks are fun after all, and he motors along happily.

I have tried coaxing him and sternly commanding him. The vet tech at my vet's office suggested we just keep walking and he'll get up and follow us, but I can't let him off the leash on the way to the park because we live on a busy-ish road. Once we're at the park, cyclists often come zipping around corners, so it's not safe for a puppy whose recall isn't perfect to be off leash. We've even tried literally dragging him. In any case, I would like him to learn to walk properly on leash.

Help, mefites! My patience isn't endless, and I've exhausted my ideas.
posted by torisaur to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My pup does this.

Per our trainer's advice which we've been following: Do not stop, do not look at him, do not call him, do not pay him any attention. Keep walking and pull him if you have to until he gets up and come back to you at which time reward him with the attention for being a good puppy.

What we've also found is that our pup is more likely to pull these sort of hi-jinx on grass vs. on sidewalk. As soon as I pull him to sidewalk he's back up, and then I'll limit his access to grass for the next few minutes of our walk.

Obviously, don't pull hard or rough, intention isn't to punish but rather reinforce that it's your walk and provide positive reinforcement once he's there with you.
posted by dismitree at 9:36 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, and our pup is now known locally as The Drag Dog, and he doesn't do it at the beginning of the walk but when my wife and I ready to go home but he wants more park time.
posted by dismitree at 9:38 AM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

He's precious!

My lab-mix was a total brat when she was a puppy, so I feel your pain. What worked for me was using a harness with her leash instead of a leash hooked to her collar. She always wears a collar, but the harness is for walks. I was more in control b/c I never wanted to pull on her collar too much b/c that just seems cruel (and can really hurt them). I've pulled her furry little butt down the sidewalk too many times to count. Fortunately, she "got it" after a while and is now a perfect angel on a leash.

I've also heard good things about the Gentle Leader, but that really is more for dogs who pull at the leash.

Best of luck!
posted by ACN09 at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about trying a longer leash (20ft) on the walks? Puppies (MOST puppies) don't like to be too far away from their people so if you kept walking he'd probably get up and run to you. He's a cutie.
posted by wherever, whatever at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2011

Shorten the leash so that he can't lay down (the distance from your hand to his neck when he is standing is the length of the leash, he can't go down unless you let him)... once he's down, he's in control.

Develop a command that tells him to walk (I use the term "walk nice") which means he's by your side and moving forward. Reinforce this when he obeys ("walk nice" = walking by your side = treat).

Be very, very, very consistent in these.

that said... my pup drove me nuts until she was 6 months old.... then it settles down...
posted by HuronBob at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree w/dismitree.

I have tried coaxing him and sternly commanding him.

You may think you're doing these things, but from his point of view you're probably not. He doesn't understand language. A stern command that isn't a cue for a trained behavior is just angry noises. Gentle coaxing may just be soothing noises. Neither is likely to communicate what you want.
posted by jon1270 at 9:42 AM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

One hour seems like an excessively long walk for such a young puppy. It may have nothing to do with the behavior issues you're seeing, but with a large breed prone to hip dysplasia, I'd be more cautious about walking your pup on hard surfaces to the point of exhaustion.

"They should not be encouraged to walk or run long distances or for long periods of time. Excessive leash walking, for example, can cause repetitive stress injuries to their developing joints and muscles. Excessive leash walking would be similar to walking on a treadmill, and should not be confused with the leisurely stroll taking time to smell the flowers. There is a huge difference between a puppy sprinting around the yard, stopping, and resuming play at will, and one who is kept moving at a consistent pace for the same period of time."
posted by drlith at 9:47 AM on September 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

Cookies! Goodness, don't start off with dragging, take his meal with you and reward him for walking with you. Training dogs, ESPECIALLY puppies, is all about teaching them what you want them to do, and food is the best way to do this. Also, if you aren't in a good training class using modern science based methods, you really should be.
posted by biscotti at 9:47 AM on September 12, 2011

Just a note, if he's fed watered and rested he's likely got very little incentive to go anywhere ;-)

Try taking him for a walk before feeding him where he might be more treat motivated (most labs are very food motivated). He's likely scared and doesn't have a lot of incentive to go anywhere. So a toy or treat to incentivize him tends to work great.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:54 AM on September 12, 2011

And, I agree with the distance issue... an hour might be too long for him at 12 weeks.
posted by HuronBob at 10:02 AM on September 12, 2011

He's still a baby; I think you're over doing it. Let him just play and have the walks only last 10 minutes or so a few times a day so he can get used to the leash.
posted by shoesietart at 10:21 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

This sounds like my pup when she was little She's a German Shepherd mix of some sort. I got her when she was 11 weeks old.

nthing some thoughts from answers above: an hour is a reeeeeally long walk for such a little guy. Break it up into more frequent, smaller walks. Also, bringing along treats helps. :)

Is there anything at the "usual stopping places" that pup is freaked out about? When Luce was little, she would always stop and lay down at the end of the block. After a while I realized it was because of the big old tree stump in the yard of the house on the corner: it freaked her out.

When she was older but still a bit skittish, I'd bring a friend along on the walk and have him walk a ways in front of me. Luce always wanted to see what he was doing so she'd try and catch up with him...voila, walking.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:27 AM on September 12, 2011

If this behavior continues when he gets older, go the gentle leader route.

Our pooch went through 2 different obedience classes and is great in every respect, except leash walking (including stopping to just sit down wherever), but that gentle leader is the bessssst....but yeah, a pooch that small is probably just being a puppy.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:35 AM on September 12, 2011

I Am Not a Trainer, my dachshund did the same as a puppy. She'd get a couple hundred yards and just lay down. I would pick her up, but keep walking. After a minute or so I'd put her back down and just keep repeating.

It took her about 2 weeks to get over this and obviously a bigger dog might need a different approach.
posted by noxetlux at 10:52 AM on September 12, 2011

I would also encourage switching to a harness (I love love love the Easy Walk), because a dog of any age might back out of a collar and take off.

If there's two of you, have one person keep walking. Even better would be if they jog or run - unless your puppy is made of steel, they'll want to follow and see what's going on.

What happens if you stop 2-5 minutes before the stopping place, practiced a sit or two for a training treat, maybe had a sniff to see if potty was forthcoming, and then continued on?
posted by Lyn Never at 10:56 AM on September 12, 2011

One other thing, I was thinking is if it's really hot maybe he stops because it hurts his tiny feet to walk on the hot pavement. It could explain why it happens within the first 10 or 15 minutes of the walk.
posted by wherever, whatever at 10:59 AM on September 12, 2011

We went through this just a few weeks ago with our puppy Ripley (formerly Floyd until we realised he was actually a she). My normal technique was to walk back beside her, tell her to come/follow/walk whatever tern you are using and, after waving a treat under her nose walk off. She usually followed.

If she was wearing her harness we would sometimes just lift her to her feet to get her going.

But I would think that an hour is a bit long at that age. We're lucky in that there is a canal path near us where Ripley can safely go off leash. She easily goes an hour and longer now, at 5 months, but when she was younger walking for that long would make her grumpy and irritable the few times we tried it.
posted by Fence at 11:12 AM on September 12, 2011

Training dogs, ESPECIALLY puppies, is all about teaching them what you want them to do, and food is the best way to do this.

biscotti, your blanket statement is not true for all animals, and some trainers prefer not to use food at all (it's not needed for their mothers to teach them good pack manners, so why should it be mandatory for us?).

My pup did this at first, and I would stop, crouch, and call him enticingly. Sometimes he still wouldn't come. Sometimes I resorted to dragging him, until he got fed up & followed. Sometimes I decided we'd gone far enough today for his peace-of-mind, but I tried to ALWAYS end on he-came-to-me, not a drag.

Now that dog will stay with me as I sprint up steps on our daily walks, even though the steps are scary, and he's panting heavily (18mos).
posted by IAmBroom at 1:17 PM on September 12, 2011

Response by poster: I use a harness to walk him, not a collar.

I can't see anything at the stopping places that could be scaring him, but there are a lot of dogs in the neighbourhood. Maybe he's smelling something. Or maybe he just wants to go inside.

The hour long walks aren't every day, just weekends, but I will definitely keep this in mind. Usually we go to the dog park and he runs around after the bigger dogs (while they mostly ignore him). It's about a 15 minutes away, as the puppy walks.

Thanks for the advice, all! I never had this problem with my last puppy, so I wasn't sure how to approach it. Now I have some ideas. Good to know it's pretty common.
posted by torisaur at 1:45 PM on September 12, 2011

biscotti, your blanket statement is not true for all animals, and some trainers prefer not to use food at all (it's not needed for their mothers to teach them good pack manners, so why should it be mandatory for us?)

Well, IIADT (I am a dog trainer), and I don't know about you, but I am not a dog, first of all (and how dogs interact and "train" each other is very poorly understood by most people, and is only of limited use when it comes to behavior modification). Second, reward-based training has been extensively studied and is extensively endorsed by an enormous number of trainers and veterinary behaviorists. Most trainers who "prefer not to use food at all" are not using what modern science has shown us about behavior modification, and they are eschewing what is the single most powerful motivator for the vast majority of animals when used properly - and any trainer who rules out what has been proven several times over to be an extremely effective tool with few or no downsides is not a very good trainer, IMO, successful dog training is all about being flexible. Lastly, force-based training unnecessarily sets up a confrontation which does not need to occur. Dogs are cooperative creatures as a general rule, confrontation and force are unnecessary in the vast majority of cases (especially as regards puppies), and are often harmful.
posted by biscotti at 4:10 PM on September 12, 2011

Yeah be careful for hip dysplasia. If he's refusing to walk it could be that he already has sore hips. The unwritten standard is 5 minutes per month of age, sonic your pup is three months he shouldn't be walking more than 15 minutes.
My 2 year old dog was recently diagnosed with hip dysplasia and it's devastating. Please do everything you can to ensure this doesnt happen to you.
posted by whalebreath at 3:11 AM on September 14, 2011

Glad you're a dog trainer, but by insisting "food is the best way to do this", and then complaining that those who don't agree are not "being flexible"... a little self-contradictory.

Your mention of "force-based training" is a complete red herring. Is that your attempt to tar my comments by association with a negative image?
posted by IAmBroom at 2:16 PM on September 14, 2011

Whoops: last comment in reply to biscotti.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:16 PM on September 14, 2011

Response by poster: Just an update, for anyone paying attention: I started crossing over to the other side of the road to walk to the park (I think part of the problem was that we walked by all the entrances to the apartment building, and he wanted to go inside at each of them), and shortened the leash. I also just sort of dragged him along when he stopped. Ten days later, he's much improved! We also haven't taken any more long walks. Instead, we play fetch in the park until he gets tired, or he wrestles with any other dogs that happen by. Thanks for the good advice!
posted by torisaur at 4:14 PM on September 22, 2011

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