Any pointers about running with Pointers?
December 8, 2011 6:26 PM   Subscribe

My dog is very active. I like to jog long distances. When we run on the lead he pulls and gets distracted by wildlife. Is there a better lead solution? Personal electric fence? How can I get him to run by my side? Must he be condemned to a mostly sedentary lifestyle? He is a Pointer.
posted by zaebiz to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You want a gentle leader, it's a type of leash.
posted by notned at 6:42 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

Train the dog to heel, and train him to recognize sniff breaks (that you allow because you recognize his goals are different from yours) vs. dedicated running periods.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:44 PM on December 8, 2011

Does your dog know the heel command, which keeps the dog by your side? I don't run but I walk long distances with my dog and he does well with heel. I do have to remind him because, well, he's a dog and bright shiny thing and all, but if I say, 'heel, stay in your heel' he remembers that he's supposed to stay with me. I do let him wander some so that he can enjoy being out. Part of heel training is having a treat in your hand that the dog tries to nibble at so he has to stay at your side and focused on you while you go along. Also, talking to your dog keeps his focus on you. In my dog training class, the instructors come along and try to distract our dogs out of heel but calling them, acting goofy, dropping toys, squeezing squeaky toys, etc. I praise mine and rub his ear to keep him from paying attention to their antics and it works.
posted by shoesietart at 6:45 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to answer this as "how can I make my dog pull less" since that is a question I've spent some time on. First, if he has room on the lead to run after things, he has too much lead. Reel him in. Give him very little slack. I think dogs like the idea of running along right next to their humans and it won't bother him but if he has another choice, he will take it :)

Secondly, there are loads of "stop your dog pulling" contraptions out there. We've tried harnesses, gentle leaders, etc. For last 7 months, we've used pinch collars. They aren't perfect and they look medieval, but they don't bother the dogs (our dogs make it known when they hate a walking device - see "Gentle Leader" above) and they are effective in correcting pulling behavior. Just give one sharp tug every time the dog pulls.

Do not confuse pinch collars and choke chains. Choke chains are pretty universally said to be cruel. Pinch collars look pokey and awful, but they don't allow you to pull tight enough to actually choke the dog.

On preview, I should clarify my feelings on the Gentle Leader. They are GREAT for making dogs not pull. I can walk 2 dogs together that weigh 20 lbs more than me combined with GLs and feel totally in control. Give them a try. But our dogs hated them so much that I just couldn't make myself put it on them anymore. We tried for a long time. It made their muzzles itchy and irritated. Your mileage may vary, in which case I envy you.
posted by troublesome at 6:46 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your dog is getting distracted by wildlife because your dog is a dog, and dogs like chasing things. The only thing that will make your dog stop chasing wildlife is if your dog is offered something more rewarding than chasing wildlife or chasing wildlife becomes less rewarding for the dog. In a situation like this, I would recommend doing heel work with your dog and working on your dog's focus. While you're out running it must be very rewarding for your dog's focus to be on you and nothing else.

Positive reinforcement is the way you want to go with this. I would start slow, simply walking with your dog. When you see a potential distraction, call your dog's attention to you as soon as you notice that your dog is becoming distracted, and use extremely high value rewards for desirable behaviors (cheese, hot dog slices, really smelly stuff that dogs really like.) If your dog gets too worked up, bring him back inside until he calms down and try again later. Once he gets the hang of this, work towards walking briskly, and eventually jogging. Bear in mind that pointers tend to be easily distracted and stubborn, so this might take a little bit.

DO NOT under any circumstance try to use a pinch, choke, or punishment collar on a pointer while jogging. Dogs can do a lot of damage to their throats by lunging while wearing those, and if you're dog takes off at something that is running the opposite direction from you, you'll find yourself pulling in one direction while your take takes off in another, and this can matters way worse. I don't like correction collars under any circumstance, in this one, they are especially dangerous, given the higher velocities that you're dealing with. Besides, negative reinforcement methods aren't nearly as effective at achieving desired results.
posted by triceryclops at 6:48 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

more info here about Halti and Gentle Lead collars
posted by hms71 at 7:24 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

And nthing Squeak Attack, dogs experience the world through sniffing and it's important that he get time to wander, sniff and pee on stuff. And nthing troublesome, I also use a prong (pinch) collar. My dog is big and I wouldn't use anything else.

I used both treats and corrections. Treats were great for learning commands, corrections worked best for adherence. You do have to know how to do corrections properly and you have to be observant. Done correctly, it refocuses the dog. When I see my dog notice things that I know will get him going, I talk to him or give a correction, if necessary, which refocuses his attention. That way he doesn't take off after something. If you're using a standard 6 foot leash, this really shouldn't be a problem because he doesn't have enough length to get up enough speed.

I have a large and very powerful dog that could be a danger to others if he weren't well behaved. Obedience is very important me and we do a lot of off-leash playing. The gentle lead just didn't work for me. They can also be dangerous and while they prevent pulling, they don't teach the dog not to pull. Plus my dog, powerful as he is, isn't really much of a puller. Try different things and see what works for you and your dog.
posted by shoesietart at 8:01 PM on December 8, 2011

I have a pointer as well who used to be a terrible puller, but she's really a great walker now. Her only issue is freezing to point at squirrels when walking, but not running. We bike together, and she's gotten so good at not lunging, even in squirrel territory, that at this point I totally trust her to power the bike at a decent clip without hurting me.

I tried a Halti/gentle leader but it really was just not happening with her- she dragged her face on the ground, pawed at it incessantly, and just would. not. move. with the Halti on. After about a month of this, I gave up. The owner of the pointer rescue that I got her from told me that bird dogs depend so much on their face/snout that the Halti is much more uncomfortable to them than it is to most dogs.

I did train her with a pinch collar at the recommendation of the shelter, but now I use only a chest harness. Essentially, what I do is similar to what Cesar Millan does- once pulling starts, pair a brief but firm tug and a SSSS noise. You must do this every time he so much as steps in the wrong direction. You really have to have the right mindset (calm, dominant, and not frustrated) for this to work. The pinch collar is nice when starting out here, because the sensation really gets their attention, and it trains them to recognize the SSSS sound as a correction.

If your dog starts going crazy for one reason or another, stop walking, and calmly ask him to do whatever command he does most consistently (for mine, it's sit). Once you have his attention, start running through some other basic commands (shake, lie down, high five), until he's calmed down. Pointers tend to be more oriented to sight than sound, so this would be a good place to start using some hand signals rather than voice commands (or worse, yelling).

Essentially, because she's so hard-headed, my philosophy is that she has to know that she is never, ever allowed to do anything on walks that is not guided directly by me. For this reason, I never, ever let my dog have sniff, wander, or pee breaks (so I respectfully disagree with shoesietart). She experiences the world plenty by hanging out in the backyard- walks are mental exercise in self-control as well as a physical exercise. When I've lived places without yards, I would take her to a particular block to sniff and pee, wearing just a belt collar, and then put on her chest harness and go somewhere else for the actual "working" walk.
posted by quiet coyote at 8:41 PM on December 8, 2011

Nthing the Gentle Leader. The Easy-Walk Harness works well too. We've had success with both, used in conjunction with training, and we have two very large dogs who used to like to pull when walking. Just be sure you put them on correctly. If you have any doubts, ask someone at your pet store to help you fit the item to your dog.
posted by Boogiechild at 9:01 PM on December 8, 2011

You have two problems: one is that pointers gonna look for things to point to and two is that your dog is a lot faster than you. My dog is fast too and she's horrible to run with because I run too slow for her and she ends up either dragging me or skippy'd'hopping along and being annoyed at my slowness. The best solution is to bike or ski with her, which is faster and she can run and jog alone. Otherwise pinch collar. I also don't have her heel ever, instead she walks or runs in front of me, not pulling on the leash but directly in front of me on a 6'+ leash. You have to work on them staying straight with other dogs but in the long run this method works better on crowded trails and it seems to make the dogs much happier to be out in front than at heel. Easier to sniff or something. It's also a hell of a lot easier for me to notice her about to lose concentration than if she's by my side.

Remember that Pointers are bred specifically to cast for scent and to run hard so any kind of slow unidirectional motion is just going to be mildly tedious by nature. You can train them to do it but make sure he gets fun sniffy time too.
posted by fshgrl at 10:23 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I run with my dog, and I agree with both the heel command and the gentle leader suggestions. Your dog knowing that a. you have a pocket full of liver treats, and b. he gets one whenever he heels for a decent period of time, will work wonders.

I also want to expand a bit on what fshgrl said. The speed at which you run is not really a run for a pointer (I'm sure you've noticed this.) My dog can run like crazy at the dog park for hours, but when she runs with me, it's not fast enough to amuse her and its not slow enough for her to get interested in sniffing things. As a result, she's pretty good for about half an hour, and then she gets bored and annoyed at me and decides leash tug-of-war would be much more fun than running. As a result, I pretty much just dont run long distances with her. The runs we go on together are usually a compromise. We run on leash for half an hour and arrive at someplace she can go off leash and act like a dog for a while. Another solution that worked where we used to live was trail running in parks where dogs were allowed off leash. I could have a nice long run in the woods and she could run around at her own pace getting a little call of the wild experience.
posted by rockindata at 7:03 AM on December 9, 2011

Mine attacks my ankles when she gets bored, which is another reason I don't have her heel. Trail running with her loose does work, although she will still occasionally come out of nowhere and tackle me.

One thing to note about running in off leash dog areas is that you are going to get dogs running after you. If its a heavily used area you need to be totally cool with dogs chasing after you or not run there. Don't be That Guy running at the dog park and yelling at everyone.
posted by fshgrl at 12:10 PM on December 9, 2011

I have a pointer (Viszla) as well and have a lot of trouble getting her to walk nice on the lead but she is slowly getting it. One thing that I heard that has helped a lot was from a podcast my wife was listening to. They said to think of the lead not so much as a tool for walking the dog as much as for just safety. The pulling is very rewarding for the dog and in a reflexive way it is kind of rewarding for the human as well. This is important to remember with the halti type harnesses because although they act like power steering and help you change the dogs focus really easily, if the dog gets used to pulling using this kind of harness you are really in trouble if you go back to using a regular collar.

I am a bit supprised in all the prong collar suggestions. I wouldn't use one of these anyway but if you are running and the dog jolts toward something, that could really be very damaging! I would actually think a shock collar would be more humane.

Lots of research has given two main positive training methods for loose leash walking. Both of these have the goal of keeping your dog focused on you and your changes in direction 1) teach "heel" using treats. The leash is just there to make sure the dog doesn't get away and run in the road so this is even better inside or in a fenced yard while you just walk around and feed the dog treats. You can walk about feeding kibble if that is reward enough for your dog and keep changing directions etc. while luring the dog to your side. 2) My wife and I call this "with me" with the dog and it works better with our Vizsla since she is not at all food focused and would much rather be chasing chipmunks, leaves, shadows, whatever. Put the dog on a long lead, we use about 15-20'. Find a big open area and walk about. When the dog gets ahead to about the length of the lead, turn around and walk the opposite direction. Eventually, she will get that she needs to pay attention to you. As it gets better, you can shorten the leash and they should be right at your side and paying attention to your movements. I have seen a lot of people suggest using this method but just stopping and becoming like a tree until the dog looks back at you but my dog would just obsess over that airplane or bug or whatever until it gets dark so I guess that doesn't work for everybody.

Good luck!
posted by JayNolan at 1:34 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I agree with fshgrl that pointers are bred for a purpose and need that type of stimulation. I can attach our Vizsla to the bike and ride her for hours but she isn't tired unless she has some time for "working". I suggest maybe running to a safe spot to let the dog run amok and show you where the critters are for a bit. The dog might be a lot better if it is mentally tired.
posted by JayNolan at 1:38 PM on December 9, 2011

I once worked for a Doctor who did dog shows as a hobby. Her dogs were champion show dogs and she, herself, showed them in the ring. She said that her tried and true method for getting a dog to stick by your side, without treats or verbal commands. (she said the dogs "showed better" this way) Was the following (I have tried this and had a lot of success)-

When you are walking your dog, use a short lead at first, think six ft., every time your dog gets to the end of the lead and *just* starts to pull, very quickly change direction (i.e. cross the street, turn around, just make some random course correction). To make this work, you must walk fast. Also it helps to not look at the dog during direction changing. You just very firmly and confidently walk away. A little jerk (not too hard, be gentle) on the lead during the change helps if your dog is easily distracted. Her point was that this changed the focus of the dogs attention. The dog doesn't know where he/she is going next, so is therefore forced to pay attention to the owner. Eventually with enough practice, your dog just naturally stays next to you. I have found that if you don't practice this every few months, the dog will go back to his/her old ways.

Also, if you have an SO, make sure they are on board with not allowing the dog to pull. My SO has completely ruined one of our dogs by using a retractable lead and just letting her "do as she wants". So frustrating.

I witnessed her do this with a patient (dog) who had neck/back issues and would pull on his lead so hard that it was detrimental to his spinal health. She did this in office once a week for about six weeks in intervals of five to ten minutes, twice a day. By the end of this, he was SO much better at not pulling. With no reinforcement at home, and occasional reinforcement at the clinic (once a month for about five minutes) he was able to stay trained to pull less. He still pulled, but very gently.
posted by citizngkar at 5:29 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

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