Please help me with my lovely Donkey Dog.
June 10, 2016 11:22 PM   Subscribe

The latest of my series of newbie dog questions. The good news from the last question is that after boarding (which went wonderfully) she now walks with her dog walker-- at least most of the time. The bad news is that while walking with me she has started to refuse to go home. Here is a picture of her going crumpledog at the intersection to my building. How do I get her to stop this? It is making me crazy and late for work.

I do have a trainer, and the training classes are going very well. Huggy is a very fast learner and in low distraction environments she zooms through her exercises. Next week we're moving the exercises outdoors.

For the last two weeks in at least one walk out of 5, she decides she doesn't want to go home. What she wants is usually very clear. For instance-- she wants to go back to a pub where we had hung out the night before (even if it is breakfast time) or she wants to go look under cars for cats. When I don't comply, she refuses to go home. When I say refuses, I mean literally. Plops down and won't look me in the eye and won't move. Sometimes in the middle of the road.

Her treats (carrots!) motivate her to a certain point, but the trainer has said not to use treats to persuade her to walk since that rewards her for bad behaviour. But pulling is useless and mean (I've only had to pull to get her out of the way of cars) and I really don't know what else to do. Oddly enough, her human weeping with frustration is not proving to be her biggest motivator either.

Sometimes I use a stern tone and say "now it's enough" and she complies, but sometimes it's clear she hears the tone and won't move.

Today I felt like a monster dog owner since she wouldn't get up from the sidewalk. It was pouring rain and we were both soaking wet and I was literally begging her to go home like a crazy person. Some woman scolded me nastily for "not letting her go home when she's tired". I nearly burst into tears. We're getting famous in the neighborhood, and not in a good way.

Any suggestions at all? I don't want to get frustrate with her, but I will admit that today I was really frustrated with her.

Sorry for the repeated dog questions and thanks-- the advice has been really good so far.
posted by frumiousb to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
You're categorising her behaviour as "refusal", with connotations of stubbornness and disobedience. You feel like she wants you to "comply" with her desires. That's not what's really going on! What you've got there is a dog who thinks that her environment is more awesome, reinforcing, and interesting than you. (And going by the picture, I see a dog who is just plain tired out and wants a rest).

Instead of cajoling and begging her to move, try making yourself really! fun! and! exciting! Here girl, wow, look at this toy! Let's play tug! Ooh, I feel like jogging for a bit! Weee! Ok stop! Now sit. Lie down. Goooood girl. Have a treat! Ok, let's go! Let's go, let's go!

Keep a variety of treats on you: carrots if that's what she likes, but also commercial treats or bits of chicken or whatever she'll be interested in. And have a few surprise toys stashed on your person. You want to keep her guessing what awesome thing you're gonna bring out next. The idea isn't to bribe her or persuade her to move, but rather to keep her engagement with you high so she wants to go with you.

Take some time to sit down with her at certain points on your walk so you can both have a drink of water, play with a toy, have some treats, do some commands. This should get her more engaged with you and more willing to co-operate. If she is just tired on the route home, this might make her walks less energy-draining too. (Pupper does look like she could lose some weight, which would help with energy levels. Don't know if you're addressing that already).

Try and keep an eye on her body language so you can start upping your engagement with her before she crumples. It'd also be good to switch up your walks so you're not always taking the same route home. Dogs are smart and know when the fun's about to stop. With my dog, if she stops 20 feet away and refuses to move because she knows it's hometime I start running about like a crazy person so she thinks I'm interesting and fun and will come over to join in.

Another idea: Are you walking her and then taking her home and then going straight out to work? If so she might associate the end of walkies with being left home alone, so you could try changing your routine so you walk and then go home and do something fun like clicker training or giving her her breakfast or some kongs, whatever she enjoys. Think about how long she's left for, too. If it's a long time, would doggy day care be an option?

Here's an awesome book specifically about training "stubborn" dogs. And some more with general positive training basics. Good luck!
posted by mymbleth at 1:09 AM on June 11, 2016 [14 favorites]

How much have you been training her to heel in different environments? Heel is the first step to breaking the crumpledog habit. Keep trying. You have to give her a reason to not keep repeating this behavior. I'm a big proponent of replacing bad behavior with good, so try really reinforcing and praising for heeling, with better treats if possible.

Also, if you haven't tried a halti-collar, try that.

Anecdata: My pup used to pull me around like a crazy person on walks and after a few excursions with a halti collar he now trots along (several paces in front of me, granted -- he's a herding dog and walking next to me means he is Not Scouting the Way for the Herd and this is Not Ok with him, so we have compromised on this) with no trouble. He instinctively checks back with me any time he gets too far ahead, and will stop and sit if I say "wait" so I can tie my shoe or look at something.

Maybe I am not establishing my alpha-ness enough or whatever, and Cesar Chavez would probably laugh at me, but my dog is happy on walks now, and so am I.
posted by ananci at 1:43 AM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had some trouble with this, too, early on. I started giving my dog a high-value treat as soon as we returned home, so she always knows she gets a yummy nom after the walk: motivation to not put up a fight about returning!

Also, consider what is happening after you both return. It sounds like in the morning, you guys go for a walk, then you go to work? Does she do the same thing with evening walks? Maybe she just doesn't want you to leave, so this is her way of disrupting that routine. No end of walk, no fumiousb leaving! Easy! This is going to be a bit harder to handle, since you do have to go to work. If a return-treat alone doesn't do the trick you might need start a bit earlier, or return a bit sooner and build in some time before you leave, in which you just play and cuddle with her a bit, so it's not walk --> home --> fumiousb leaves.

Another option aside from the treat is that if you feed her in the am before walking (and she's enthusiastic about her food), start feeding after walking instead. And again, just sort of try to view what is happening once you both return from a walk ... is there anything negative that goes on right then? Like, I don't know, wiping off paws and she doesn't care for that too much? Or just that you have to ignore her a bit to do your own stuff, shower or whatever? Because for her, it's maybe something like "fun thing, fun thing, fun thing, return home, boom -- no more fun things."
posted by taz at 3:22 AM on June 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

Yep I'd try some sort of really fun thing happening after walks. Name this reward and use the name when you give it to her. For example, "Huggy, here's your KONG, yum!! Good dogs get a KONG, Huggy. Good dogs get a KONG!" Then when you're getting close to home encourage her by saying, " let's go get your KONG Huggy, good dog!" Also if you can budget extra time to cover an episode of "down dog" into your walks, try just standing with her for a few minuets when she flops down. Try not to worry about what passersby think. Breathe and stay relaxed. No tugging, no cajoling, just stand and wait a bit. Then give her some scratches and pats and love, again, not asking her to get up yet. Finally after you've been there for a bit, ask her to get up and move on. That may work better than immediate stress and cajoling. Also for high value treats I am a big proponent of hot dogs cut into little Itty peices. Good luck. Huggy is a good dog and you are a wonderful, lovely person. You guys will work it out, I know you will!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:30 AM on June 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

The advice about changing up your routine is excellent (something really awesome right after the walk, end of walk =/= owner leaving for the day, etc.) Also Huggy might really just be tired and sore. She's a wee bit pudgy and that's hard on a dog's joints. I'd try changing up the routine first and if that makes no difference try shortening the morning walk by just a few minutes or, if it's appropriate, reducing the speed/intensity of the walk but maintaining the duration. (Everyone walks their dogs differently--when I walk my parents' dog it's more of a slow ramble through a really interesting and smelly field, but when my dad walks him it's like he's going for the gold at Olympic racewalking.)

Also, screw those judgy jackasses for trying to make you feel bad. You've rescued a lovely friend and you're obviously a very conscientious new pet owner. You should be proud of yourself for working so hard to make Huggy's life a happy and healthy one.
posted by xyzzy at 7:03 AM on June 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Don't worry about the neighborhood. For every random weirdo who berates you, there are definitely three people who know that dogs have a habit of doing this on walks.
posted by praemunire at 9:02 AM on June 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

I always feed the dog when we get home, otherwise she refuses to leave the dog park.
posted by fshgrl at 10:07 AM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

People here are spot on with the advice about shifting up your routine and increasing her engagement so that she wants to go along with you. However, as a last resort, have you tried just picking her up and setting her back on her feet? It's less mean than dragging her up by the neck, and harder to refuse.

You just lean down, wrap her in a big bear hug, stand her up, and then start walking. Don't show any annoyance or frustration, and do praise and treat her as soon as she starts moving again. If she crumples again, do it again. She needs to learn that crumpling never works.

Obviously this won't work if you're not physically able to do it (she looks like a good-sized dog) but I've had a lot of success with this technique in the past. It's much harder for the dog to resist than pulling, and once they're on their feet again they usually start walking. The trick is to make it seem like no big deal, so that the dog learns that going crumpledog is a hopeless ploy.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:16 AM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the answers, everyone. I'm beginning to see that much of my problem is that I can't really offer her a high value treat.

mymbleth, to answer your question, yes I am working on her weight. She was 30 kilo when I got her. She's down to 27, and she needs to get down to 22 kilos. Unfortunately, this is coupled with a severe bout of itchy dog which now seems unmistakably to be linked to meat. The vet cleared me to give her some veggies as snacks-- carrots, broccoli, cucumber, snow peas-- but otherwise she's on the anallergenic diet for a few more months until we can start to reintroduce unusual meats like salmon and venison. The anallergenic diet is also fattening, so I have to feed her much less to continue her weight loss (which makes me highly popular, I can assure you). She really likes carrots, but they aren't super motivating as a snack. I never feed her until after her walk, but even that's not enough most days.

I am now trying every possible way to get home without her noticing the route and we never go the same route each time, but she is extremely clever-- so if we are to the right of my apartment building, she will refuse all left turns. If we are below my apartment building towards the water, she won't turn up towards the mountain, etc. As much as I would like to believe it is linked to her not wanting me to leave, I don't think this is the case since it can happen on an evening walk as easily as a morning walk. She's normally walked at least 3 times a day, but 4 times most days.

I wonder if this is projecting too much child behaviour on the dog, but I'm thinking there is a relationship between how tired she is and when she starts to do this-- can a dog get cranky when she's overtired? It's as though she hasn't gotten some kind of energy she wanted from the walk, and starts pushing for it endlessly. One day I waited it out-- just let her walk as long as she wanted-- to see how long she would continue looking for cats under cars (!) and the answer was 95 minutes. Her normal walk (based on vet advice) is 30-45 minutes. After we got home, she was flatly exhausted the rest of the day.

She's also a very social dog. Her ideal evening or lunch involves sitting at a bar or an outdoor cafe and having many many people pet her. I've thought about getting a second dog eventually since she is so social, but honestly she's not nearly as interested in other dogs as she is in other people. And much as I love her, I am not getting remarried or a roommate to make her happy. But I wonder if it's just the exposure to people she craves?

I will try the thing with lifting her, and maybe consider a harness rather than a collar. I haven't tried to physically move her except when she is crumpledog in the middle of the road.

(Right now she's lying on my feet as I type this and mumbling happily to herself and impossible to believe she's ever anything except a darling.)
posted by frumiousb at 4:00 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Boy oh boy, she sounds like my dog. I just took some of the advice above and tried to make going forward more exciting than going backward or not moving at all. It did work. I was exhausted from it, but will be doing that again.

I have also found that if, instead of trying to pull her (she turns into a bucking bronco), I get behind her and push her with my legs she starts to move. I used to push her butt with my hands, but, really, don't do that in front of your neighbors, the laughter will be overwhelming. I just kind of scoot her along with my thighs. This seems to work and she gets all giggly and excited and happy to move forward. It makes no sense to me, but she's a hound, and I'll take what I can get.
posted by Vaike at 5:33 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just tried it too! It worked sort of, but enough I'll be doing it again.
posted by frumiousb at 6:07 PM on June 11, 2016

N'thing all the above advice and I'd add that you can try taking routes that go right past your apartment so that instead of going home, you can just go around for another lap. You can also occasionally go for a shorter walk, come home and give her a treat (high value but not high volume) and a bit of water and then head right back out for another walk. That way you're associating coming home with getting a treat, a drink, and not the end of the walk.

The exact association fades and what sticks is "going home=good".
posted by VTX at 6:25 PM on June 11, 2016

Vaike, the suggestion to scoot her with my thighs really works! She finds it shocking and offensive, but it doesn't hurt her and it's the most effective way to work with her to date. :)
posted by frumiousb at 9:05 PM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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