Leash training Lab puppy ideas wanted
November 16, 2006 8:34 AM   Subscribe

We got a 12 week old lab that loves to go for a walk, but she just pulls on her leash ( has a standard nylon collar ) and it sounds like is choking her. How have you personally trained your dog? What can I do to make her walk by my side without strangling her all the time. Professional training is an option but this seems her only setback.... Thanks!
posted by FLHunter3006 to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Get a harness -- a quick look at your local pet store will turn up numerous options that specifically work on pulling by redirecting the force with which the dog is pulling. Some go around the head/nose (but are not muzzles) while others go around the chest. Not all harnesses are meant to work against tugging, so read the packages and ask a salesperson for help.

Also: When the dog tugs, stop. Don't move forward. Nothing happens -- no attention, no fun walk -- until she stops. Another thing to try, especially in the back yard, is to run in the opposite direction of your dog. Make it a game for her to keep up with you, not the other way around.
posted by handful of rain at 8:43 AM on November 16, 2006

Think about taking her to obedience school anyways -- not only will you get her to heel, but it's good to get her socialized with other puppies and people. Plus half of training a dog is training yourself, so it's always in the dog's best interest to make sure you're doing things the right way.
posted by sonofslim at 8:44 AM on November 16, 2006

A good basic obedience class will cover teaching your dog to heel, among other things. Many areas have puppy-oriented classes as well, which can help with socialization. Take an obedience course- it's well worth the time and effort (which isn't much, really.)

In the meantime, though, whenever any dog I'm walking pulls on the leash I come to a complete stop and make him sit. It can be slow going at first, but it teaches the dog that pulling at the leash won't get him there any faster.
posted by ambrosia at 8:44 AM on November 16, 2006

Harness like these

When the dog pulls it brings their head down. Nothing painful and they learn really quick not to pull on their lead.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:46 AM on November 16, 2006

ps -- wanted to add, my 18-month-old standard poodle was a miserable walker until we got a good harness for him. It does take a couple of extra seconds to put on, but it's well worth it in that we can now take leisurely strolls around the neighborhood and not have to struggle with each passing person/car/biker/dog/squirrel. For us, it has addressed mostly the symptoms of the problem rather than actually turned him into a solid heeler, but that will come with additional training work and with him growing older.
posted by handful of rain at 8:48 AM on November 16, 2006

You can buy "no-pull" harnesses at most pet stores. They don't hurt the dogs, but do make it uncomfortable for them to pull.

The ASPCA has a page on leash manners here, with suggestions of different types of collars/harnesses.

Personally, my dog only weighs 20 lbs, so I don't really pay much attention when he pulls. My ex had a staffordshire mix that could pull me, so he got her one of those collars where the leash attaches to the side of her head, so when she pulled it forced her head to one side and she stopped. He stopped using it because people thought it was a muzzle and that she was vicious.
posted by amarynth at 8:50 AM on November 16, 2006

Look into a "gentle leader"

I highly support previous mentions of obedience school.
posted by allelopath at 8:51 AM on November 16, 2006

Another datapoint in favor of the Gentle Leader and obedience class. Our shepherd mix was getting unwalkable before we got her on the leader, and it only took a couple of days for her to get used to it. Obedience class helped to take off more of the rough edges.
posted by COBRA! at 8:53 AM on November 16, 2006

Best answer: I agree on the headcollar / haltie / gentle leader.

Be consistent. I found the best thing to do with my Ridgeback puppy was to give her a verbal cue that I was going to be turning in a particular direction, and if she wasn't watching me, she'd get walked into and hit with my knees or unpleasantly yanked in the direction I wanted to go in. This led her to start walking right at my knee or a half step behind me instead of in front of me. If she started pulling at another dog or some people or a car, I heaved on the leash and she did a 180... which solved that behaviour pretty quickly.

If there's particular stimulus that your pup pulls at (i.e. a car), make them sit while that stimulus is there. So when you're walking and you see a car coming towards you, you should tell your dog to SIT and make sure that they keep sitting until the stimulus is past.

The other thing is that when you're walking, if you have a rambunctious puppy, the dog should know that it's *WORKING* at that time and that it needs to follow your orders. Define play time and working time, and stick to it.

My best friend and ex-gf is a brilliant dog trainer, and all of this comes from her advice and demonstrations.
posted by SpecialK at 8:56 AM on November 16, 2006

A harness may work, but also consider training your dog. This takes awhile (depending on how smart your dog is) but it works:

Every time the dog pulls on the leash you should immediately stop walking and give the leash a sharp tug to let the do know something is up. If the dog turns its head to look at you, say no. Wait a second or to for the dog to stop pulling and then start walking again. Rinse and repeat, reward good behaviour.
posted by maxpower at 8:57 AM on November 16, 2006

I have a four year old lab. If I could change one thing about the way we handled her training it would be to have thought her not to pull on the leash before she was big enough to pull me over with her.

We tried the gentle leader with our dog but it didn't work for us. She still pulled and we would get home from walks and her muzzle would be rubbed raw where the leader had been. Ouch!

We also tried the no pull harness but, no luck there; it didn't even slow her down.

Finally we found this pinch collar that isn't scary. It is made by Triple Crown. Link here
It isn't one of the scary metal ones and it is the only thing that has helped with our lab. I would encourage you to use the collar in combination with a professional trainer.
Good luck!
posted by kantgirl at 9:01 AM on November 16, 2006

My vote is *against* pinch collars if you can at all avoid it. The plastic ones are much harsher than the metal ones, believe it or not.
posted by SpecialK at 9:07 AM on November 16, 2006

Third or fourth or eighth in favour of general obedience classes (though to be frank for various reasons we never followed that advice with our dogs).

Also the harness we've had the best experience with is the Lupi harness. If you do a search on Google you will find some negative comments, but I assure you that the comments I have seen are way off base and clearly written by people that have no experience with the device.

There are two benefits - it stops dogs from pulling (and does so without tightening too much); and it is tough to escape from it.

One of our dogs was constantly pulling out of her nylon collar, which is very dangerous for a hound with a high chase drive. She had also maneuvered out of standard body harnesses as well. The Lupi made that impossible for her, and stopped her from pulling so much that she made choking sounds.

The other benefit in some areas (and for some of the people you'll encounter) is that it doesn't resemble a muzzle, so they won't give you those ridiculous "oh what kind of monster keeps a vicious dog in public" BS.
posted by mikel at 9:08 AM on November 16, 2006

Obedience classes are great, especially at this age. And there are a lot of puppy classes, as mentioned above, that do basic work and leave time for supervised socialization. They're good for her and for you, especially if you're a first-time dog owner, and NOW is the time to do it, while she's young, forming behavior patterns, and isn't pulling you down the street yet.

If you want a training idea to try at home, on your own, keep a handful of very small, very tastey (soft and smelly) treats. Diced hot dog is great for this. Another idea is peanut butter on the end of a wooden spoon. Walk with the dog, and feed her treats every step or two. ONLY give treats in the appropriate heeling position. If she's food motivated, she'll quickly start walking in the correct place to score treats. Give lots of praise and use target words when she hits the mark. It'll help.
posted by handful of rain at 9:14 AM on November 16, 2006

Second the pinch collar and training. We use a scary-looking metal one. A pinch collar is not cruel if it is used correctly. (ie, a quick snap correction on the leash as soon as the dog goes astray) We were trained to use ours in obedience class; it may not be something you want to try independently.

My dog only wears the pinch collar on leashed walks. I don't have to correct him any more as he naturally avoids pulling. He pulls whenever we try to walk him on his nylon collar, though. The physical/psychological cue of the pinch collar is quite helpful.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:15 AM on November 16, 2006

We ended up going with a harness because it was pretty much impossible to get her attention during walking because she isn't particularly motivated by food (and we didn't want to starve her for 2 days), and pretty much anything on the street is too distracting. Now that we've worked through some of her other issues and she's mellowed a bit, we need to revisit that.

We started with a head harness, and it mostly worked she still stayed at the end of her leash. Then, after a year, we tried an "easy walk harness" with the leash attached at the chest. It worked so much better, we thought there was something wrong with our dog because she totally dropped back and almost never explored the end of her leash any more. We realized that the face harness made her anxious, which made her pull.

I agree with the others suggesting obedience class. It's not just for problem dogs (or problem owners).
posted by Good Brain at 9:22 AM on November 16, 2006

I think most of the other answers are ignoring the fact that this is a 12 week old puppy, not an older dog that has been pulling on walks for a long time. You don't need a pinch collar! Puppies necks are still pretty fragile, "a quick snap correction" isn't appropriate.

Here is a pretty good article about teaching your puppy loose leash walking. If you don't have or don't want to buy a clicker, you could use the same training plan and substitute "good girl" for the clicks.
posted by Sirius at 9:30 AM on November 16, 2006

In case you have an extending leash -- get rid of it. Extending leashes are a wonderful way to train a dog to pull.
posted by anadem at 9:50 AM on November 16, 2006

Here is an article by Karen Pryor on teaching your puppy to walk on a loose leash that also looks good.
posted by Sirius at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2006

Response by poster: Great tips! Thanks for all the help.
posted by FLHunter3006 at 10:59 AM on November 16, 2006

Everyone who has recommended obedience training is right on the mark. I grew up with a lab, and that mildly-annoying pulling at 12 weeks quickly turned into a dangerous, frustrating situation as the dog got older. By the time your dog is full grown, she will be able to beat you in a leash tug-of-war game easily. Proper leash training now will save your shoulders, your hands, your sanity, and maybe even your dog's life if she has a tendency to go running after squirrels without first looking for cars.

Most importantly, you want walking her to be fun for both of you. If it's a constant struggle, you'll start dreading the walks, maybe even putting them off. With less attention and exercise, your dog's behavior around the house will probably get worse. Having a poorly-behaved dog is no fun. Seriously, just do the training now to get good habits started early.
posted by vytae at 11:14 AM on November 16, 2006

3rd, 4th, 5th, nth the harness bit. My chihuahua/pekinese pulled at her collar all the damn time and would make that gagging-hacking sound. I bought her a harness and she stopped pulling on the leash.

As for the pulling thing... I just stopped giving Viv attention when she pulls on her leash. When she stops, I wait a few seconds, say thanks and continue walking. I also do "one minute" which works - I just hold up one finger to her and say "one minute" and she backs down. It took her a while to get it, but now she's a pro.
posted by damnjezebel at 11:30 AM on November 16, 2006

I have a jack russell mix - oy vey. The best thing that works for us is a good old Dog Whisperer - Cesar Millan - trick. Use a short, regular leash. Get rid of those extend-a-leash things. They're terrible.

Tell Dog to sit by your side. Lean down and adjust the collar (any kind) and move it up high until it's just below the ears - if you watch any dog shows, you'll see this is how the dog handlers use the leash. Shorten the leash until it's just slack - not too lose, not too tight - but keeps the collar high on the neck. Start walking! Make sure to keep an eye on the collar while training. If it starts to slide down again, adjust accordingly.

Make sure your arm is relaxed. Cesar Millan talks about transferring the "energy" from owner to dog. At first I thought it was a load of poo poo, but am amazed to see that he's right. If I'm stressed and take the dog out while I'm in a bad mood, he acts worse. Now I take a minute before the walk to settle myself and our walks are much easier and more pleasurable, thus longer - good for both of us.

This method forces the dog to stop sniffing every tree and leaf on the group and keeps his head up and alert, paying attention to you. After a few minutes, he'll get used to it. It is the only trick / behavior modification that seems to work with or any size dog for that matter (I've tested it on German shepherds and big labs, as well as tiny chihuahuas). Good luck!
posted by HeyAllie at 12:37 PM on November 16, 2006

Oh, another note .. when you go to cross a street on leash, it's a worthy endeavor to make your dog sit before you cross. Eventually, you can train that into waiting to cross a street until it's clear when off leash too.
posted by SpecialK at 3:08 PM on November 16, 2006

Also, take long walks and work on the training when the dog is not entirely full of pent-up energy.
posted by theora55 at 3:15 PM on November 16, 2006

specialK: sorry to derail, but Is there anything special that one who owns a ridgeback should know? Sory again, but I think you nailed the OQ above anyway.
posted by snsranch at 3:21 PM on November 16, 2006

The halter that goes around the dogs muzzle is great, it transfers the leash connection point from the dog's neck to the front of it's head. If it pulls too hard, it tightens up a bit and pulls the head around, rather than having a good bracing position.

It's also good if your dog is sniffing at something, you pull gently on the leash and the dog's nose is pulled away, as is their attention most times.
posted by tomble at 6:04 PM on November 16, 2006

Doggy school is a great idea, too, don't discount it. First, it's loads of fun (roomful of puppies!), your dog gets good socialising practise with dogs and people, and exposure to all kinds of other puppies (there were dogs from about 3 pounds to 80 pounds in our class). The basics are covered, including heel, sit, stay, drop it, come. Cost us a measely $50.00 through the local community centre.

You'll get a lot more out of it than just 'heeling'.
posted by Savannah at 7:28 PM on November 16, 2006

I second the gentle leader idea. It's the only way I can walk with my 90lb husky without him walking me.

We first had him on a harness, but the trainer at his obedience class advised against it, which makes sense. The harness distributes pressure more comfortably than a regular collar, which means he's more prone to pulling with a harness since it's not uncomfortable when he pulls hard like it is with a collar.
posted by nakedsushi at 5:14 PM on November 17, 2006

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