How can I get my dog to walk?
November 3, 2017 8:53 AM   Subscribe

My 8 year shiba inu dog hates walking in the neighborhood. Are the any tricks or specific products I can use to get him to walk?

We've had our shiba inu dog since 7 months old. He has always been "difficult" on walks. But not pulling...he just doesn't like to walk. He'll sit down. He'll turn around and go the other way. As far as medical issues...he does have bad allergies which bother his paws. But I don't think it's a medical thing. He has no problem playing fetch inside. If we take him to the park(his favorite place) he always walks there but it's not near by so we can't go everyday. Here's the main problem...he will only go to the bathroom on walks. He won't go in our backyard. So has must walk so he can go to the bathroom. I did some training with him about a year ago which we basically were recommended to use a choke chain. And for a while it worked great. One quick pull and he would immediately start walking. But now he won't even walk with the chain and it's choking him which I don't have the heart to keep doing. I'm not a fan of treat training but I've tried it. Works a bit and then not so much.

Are there any special products I can use that might get him to walk? I'm also open to any suggestions as far techniques that can encourage him to walk. This is an extremely frustrating situation.
posted by ljs30 to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
Have you tried a gentle leader? To some people it reads as 'muzzle' but it's more of a dog bridle, and way safer and chill than a choker. Our dog was pretty hard to take on walks (and probably still is, but we haven't tried without the gentle leader in a long time). Once in a while our dog will stop, or want to go check something out that he's not supposed to, and a gentle, gentle tug will realign him with the walk. It just changes the dogs focus.

It might not work, but it's a minimal investment.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:02 AM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

What else motivates your dog? Can you bribe him with petting or toys? Alternately, what kind of leash are you using? One of my dogs was scared of his leash because it was long and dangled behind him. We got a retractable leash and it's much better. if he has paw allergies, maybe you can try some booties? Also, have you tried just cheering him on and being really jolly and proud when he walks on the leash? e.g., Praising him for walking? Finally, is it possible to break up the walk into little pieces and rewarding him, ether with praise, treats, or a fun destination?
posted by stillmoving at 9:03 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I wonder if the choke chain might have turned an aversion to walks into a neck avoidance. Basically a false association that walks are what are leading to the choke chain feeling, and honestly a true association that if they just resist long enough, the pulling will stop, plus they don't have to walk.

I would switch to a harness just to pre-empt that concern. I would also think about trying out some booties in case sidewalks/asphalt are indeed irritating their paws. Then try some of the training tips for adult dogs in this post by the AKC. I have found this technique to be surprisingly effective for a resistant dog: "Surprise her a little by turning and walking in the direction she’s backing toward"
posted by muddgirl at 9:04 AM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Treat training works a bit but then not so much because you have to become a slot machine rather than a vending machine. First you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you've got the good stuff, then you mete that good stuff out at an increasingly random (and prolonged) interval. Same principal applies to any kind of reward you want to use. I know shibas are independent and may not be food motivated, but whatever your pupper's currency is, be the slot machine, not the vending machine.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:27 AM on November 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

A trick I learned in obedience class was to dip the end of a stick in peanut butter and hold it just in front of and above your dog when going for walks, occasionally lowering it for a lick when they're doing a good job.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 9:32 AM on November 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

If not walking is a reward to your dog, & you just want the dog to walk to poop. Turn to go home the second it's done it's business while at the same time heaping lots of praise upon it. You will train your dog to poop fast & you'll both get what you want.
posted by wwax at 9:53 AM on November 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

You need to go back to basics and find a force-free trainer. The second a trainer asks you to use aversive methods (choking, shocking, hitting, alpha rolling), leave, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. If zoo animals many times larger than your dog can be safely and effectively trained with positive reinforcement, a domestic dog is a snap!

Shibas are very independent dogs, so look for a trainer with some experience in training this breed or others like it. This is not border collie training. This is training for a dog who is not wholly committed to doing what someone else wants as opposed to what they feel like, and it required sensitive handling.

Advice aside from training? Use no more aversives ever. Clicker-train him at home (watch Victoria Stilwell/Zak George videos on YouTube), make sure he’s primed to respond with high value treats, and then take him on short walks using a comfortable harness (I like Ruffwear for durability) and 6’ leash. Click when he walks forward with you and treat. Click and treat. Reward him for moving forward with you and be consistent. Use vocal reminders and lots of praise. The clicker is the marker for the behaviour; the treat is the reward from the marker. If he pulls, stop until the leash is loose again. Click and reward. Be consistent!

I would not start with a Gentle Leader. They can work on dogs who are bad pullers, but they are often very aversive for dogs and yours is not a puller; he’s an “I don’t wanna”, and he needs to learn the fundamentals before you get into extra equipment (if needed).
posted by Nyx at 10:09 AM on November 3, 2017 [14 favorites]

As an addition: once he’s walking well you can consider fading the lure (discontinuing treats), but honestly, why? An animal that is usually rewarded with high value rewards will still perform the behaviour asked for if you don’t have any, because you don’t show the treats before asking for behaviour. The dog doesn’t know whether or not there will be a reward but usually there is, so they continue to be motivated to perform. You can reward with petting and verbal cues if you happen not to carry treats.

But behaviours can be stronger if your dog thinks there’s a pretty good chance of delicious food.
posted by Nyx at 10:13 AM on November 3, 2017

We have an older, stubborn shiba mix and she can seem very particular about substrates. You can’t go to the park, but are there walking routes nearby with something other than pavement? Maybe he would like leash walking over some dirt or narrow patches of grass.
posted by Drosera at 11:00 AM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would also try a shoulder harness (it goes on like a vest) so there's nothing around his neck. The Gentle Leaders do work for some, but my dog was terrified of it.
posted by ananci at 4:54 PM on November 3, 2017

Mine went through a phase of not wanting to walk. The thing that worked well for us was throwing small treats on the ground, in the direction that we were going. So the action of moving forward was made a fun little chase. It worked a lot better than trying to lure her with a treat in the hand, broke the habit of stopping and made her really want to move forward. Might help for you?
posted by tardigrade at 11:30 AM on November 6, 2017

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