Training Not To Pull

trusting paws

by Naomi Heck, M.Ed., CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

Although the reason for pulling and what rules you must teach is the same for all dogs, some dogs are more of a challenge. My own GSP was one of those “super crazy pullers”. The thing to keep in mind is that law of learning applies to all dogs: Dogs Do What Works. In other words, whatever behavior the dog does that results in getting what he wants, even just a tiny bit of it, will be repeated. The more value the dog sees in the desired outcome, the stronger the behavior, even over-riding any equipment that might cause discomfort.

So for training not to pull, the answer is two-fold. First, use equipment that will mechanically and humanely reduce the force of pulling. I prefer something that controls the head like the Halti for strong pullers. Actually a few years ago I switched over to a Newtrix head halter for my dog because he seemed to be more comfortable in it. The mechanics of how it works is different from the Halti. You can find an explanation here: http://www.newtrix.ca/index.cfm?page=ourProducts It’s a little confusing at first learning how to put it on, but once you practice and follow the directions carefully, it’s not hard.

The second and more important point is to recognize how you are inadvertently reinforcing your dog for pulling. If you take even a single step forward while your dog pulls, he learns that pulling works. Going forward to explore the environment is the most powerful reinforcer there is. It was sure more powerful to my GSP than grilled steak when we were outside.

In training not to pull, the key is to teach your dog that the fastest and ONLY way to move forward is to turn toward you to make the leash loosen so that he feels absolutely no tension whatsoever on his collar, halter or harness. Then and only then will you allow him to continue forward. As soon as the leash tightens again stop and plant your feet so he is unable to take another step forward. This rule has to be black and white, not fuzzy where sometimes pulling works and sometimes it doesn’t. You will have to suspend your walks to really entrench this new rule into your dog’s brain. (Think about how hard it can be for us humans to break a bad habit.)

I used a clicker to mark (click) the precise moment my dog turned toward me to loosen the leash. Then I said “Let’s Go” and took a few fast steps forward until the leash tightened again. (Be very careful if using a Halti or Gentle Leader that can turn the dog’s head. Don’t let the head whip around if the dog suddenly hits the end of the leash. Use a short leash and soften the impact to prevent injury to the neck. It’s another reason why I like the Newtrix design better.) I like using a clicker because it is a much clearer form of communication. It means only one thing and the click sound is like nothing else. Black and white! This training takes a lot of discipline on the part of the human because the slightest inconsistency will impede progress. If pulling works occasionally, the dog becomes a gambler because the payoff is huge!

I highly recommend having someone take a video of you walking your dog so you can observe how you might be reinforcing pulling. Even extending your arm slightly after you stop walking so your dog can stretch his neck forward an inch can be enough to keep the pulling habit strong.

My German Shorthair Pointer Brings Me A Gift

My German Shorthair Pointer Brings Me A Gift

A noise in the middle of the night awakens me from a deep sleep.  Simba, my first German Shorthair Pointer, is still asleep with her heard on the pillow next to me.  I feel around for Gypsy, the other German Shorthair Pointer, on the bed and couldn’t find her. I sat up wondering where she went and then remembered that I noticed during our afternoon that her stomach was a little off.  A few minutes after putting my head back down on my pillow, I heard her coming up the steps.  She jumps on the bed and comes over to me to nudge me on the shoulder so that I raise the covers up as she slides in.  Both Simba and Gypsy start snoring and are sound asleep. Me on the other hand, could not get back to sleep.  I tossed and turned for about 20 minutes when my foot came in contact with Gypsy’s cold wet nose.  I moved my foot around wondering why her nose felt so slimy and squishy.  The more contact I made the more I thought it just didn’t feel right.  I tear the covers off the bed and there it was lying next to my foot.  A dead toad stretched out on its back!  I was on my feet so fast that my head spun as I yelled, “EWE! EWE! EWE!” for about 20 minutes.  I couldn’t get myself to pick up his poor little dead body but knew that I had to.  I knew that once I did pick it up, I would have to get rid of it as soon as possible in order not to vomit.  Running down a flight of stairs and across the living room was not an option.  The only other option was sending it to fishy heaven via the toilet.  The rest of the night, I laid in bed wondering if I would have to explain the toad in the trap to a plumber.  Why does everything seem so much worse at night.  By morning all was back to normal, including the toilet.  Gypsy being a German Shorthair Pointer will continue to hunt and bring me gooey gifts.  I just hope it’s not in the middle of the night and under my covers.

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How-to-Stop-Unwanted-Behavior

trusting paws

by Naomi Heck, M.Ed., CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

How to Stop Unwanted Behavior

1. Stop focusing on correcting or punishing bad behavior. Saying “No!” or squirting your dog with water might relieve your frustration but it can maintain or worsen your dog’s bad behavior. Corrections are deceiving. They momentarily suppress unwanted behavior so it seems to have worked. But if your dog does it again, it didn’t work at all! If you correct your dog often, you can diminish his willingness to listen and cooperate.

2. Choose a behavior your dog can do that will replace Continue reading

Dogs Will Be Dogs

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Dogs Will Be Dogs – Gypsy in the morning watching sees me until she sees me peek.

Gypsy in the morning

GROCERY DAY!

GROCERY DAY!

Today is my favorite day of the week, groceries day!  I don’t understand why mom doesn’t get excited about groceries.  She leaves the house as if she has to go shovel cow manure.  I would not mind going to the grocery store every single day.  It’s just so exciting, there’s always a surprise hidden in one of the bags.  I can’t control my enthusiasm.  I jump up and down and run circles around her trying to see the surprise inside the bags.  I race her to the car as she goes back for more bags.  I like to help her bring the grocery bags by sticking my head inside the bag and guide her to the front door.  Oh boy, I smell a treat surprise!  I can’t quite locate it.  Where is it? Is it in this bag?  Or this one?  Why is mom not helping?  What?  She’s making a cup of coffee!  Not now!  We need to get the perishables in the fridge!  Maybe if I offer my ball and sit looking so cute she’ll help.  Yup, that did it.  This week’s surprise; sweet-potato jerky, yummy!

 

Definition Of A Dog

Dogs are the most amazing creatures on earth.  They are probably the only beings that love others more than themselves.   Dogs are pure innocence.  They are not capable of betrayal, jealousy, hate, meanness, or cruelty.  image of german shorthaired pointerThey are loyal without expecting anything in return.  A dog’s love and dedication is pure and comes without strings attached.  They love us the same whether we’re poor, rich, and smart, illiterate, popular, geeky; just plain human. We are the center of their worlds.  They look up to us; they follow us, trust us and protect us.  Dogs exemplify patience.  They wait for us to come home.  They wait for us to give them time or attention, they wait for us to feed them.  Dog’s put image of german shorthaired pointerup with our ever changing moods without complaint.  They love us when we’re happy, when we’re sad, angry or scared.  They are quick to forgive us and continue being our truest friend.   A dog will not reject you or turn its back on you because of peer pressure.  A dog will not bully or make fun of you.  Dogs live up to the definition of best friend.  These angels placed in our lives bring such happiness and joy.  They bring us friendship and companionship.  They are always willing to play and cuddle.  They listen, cherish, respect and love us unconditionally.  Dogs give our lives meaning.  image of german shorthaired pointerAlthough a dog’s life is so short compared to human life, they offer so much love and joy in such a short time.  It is as if they know that their time is limited.  They live every moment of their lives to the fullest.  Even when cuddled up napping in the middle of an afternoon, they radiate peacefulness, satisfaction and pleasure.  I ask myself, why put myself through such a loss.  I know that the relationship will be short-lived.  I know that the anguish of loosing my friend is inevitable.  I know I will be heartbroken.  Why do it?  Simba has made my rainbow complete by adding a few colors that I was missing.  Tears fill my eyes when I think that she has already lived through half her life.  I then remember what she has taught me. Live each moment as if they were limited.  Be true to yourself and others and live life by submerging yourself in it.  If I chose to spare myself the anguish of loosing such a companion I would be choosing to wipe out who I am today.  I would be wiping out the lessons I have learned from this innocent being.  I would be wiping out so many smiles that she has placed on my face.   I would be wiping out the laughter she has image of german shorthaired pointerbrought me.  I would be wiping out the love, peace, trust, friendship, loyalty, and joy that I received from our lives being intertwined.  Simba has made my life complete and meaningful.  I am not saying that life would not have been good if our paths had not crossed.  I am merely stating that I would not be the person I am today having missed all that she has offered me.  She has added colors to my rainbow.  She has made my rainbow complete.