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How to address pulling on choke chain/slip lead?
MemberApril 7, 2021 at 4:51 PM
I wondered if anyone has any experience or ideas to share. My 14 month old generally walks fairly well on leash now. We started using a prong collar around the 6/7 month mark as we were having a lot of difficulties just going for walks and it was really frustrating. We live in an apartment so unfortunately no back yard. We’re also in an urban area with lots of distractions, so it has been challenging. We have to walk to get to places so we can train, and we encounter other dogs, people etc.
We introduced the prong collar under the guidance of a local trainer. Her method is different from the long line method Robert teaches, and if I could go back in time I would have tried the long line way, but I didn’t know about this site at the time. So we walked using quite a short hold on the leash on the prong collar. Eventually I wanted to stop using it as it seemed to me that on one hand it had become aversive to her, but on the other it seemed oddly ineffective at times – e.g. she would resist a lot of leash pressure if some smell really caught her attention.
anyway, we had more success recently switching to flat collar with low level e-collar pressure, but I also wanted to see how we would get on with the choke chain and corrections vs pressure.
So my question/issue (finally!) is: If you’re walking along and the leash is loose, and then the dog suddenly smells something and starts to pull on the choke chain, what do you do? I can step forward and release some pressure, but then of course she’s going to make progress to her goal – which I don’t want. But if I don’t relieve the pressure I am left with her choking herself trying to get to the distraction.. so I just try to get her attention back which can be really difficult if the distraction is super enticing. Today I had to walk myself down the leash and switch from the live ring to the dead ring so that at least she was then only pulling on the chain and it wasn’t getting tighter.
if anyone has any thoughts they will be appreciated.
MemberApril 7, 2021 at 8:26 PM
Hi Felix. Living in a downtown Metropolitan area I can relate. Your trainer likely had you using a shorter leash, ie: traffic lead, in crowded situations as you don’t want people getting tangled up in a lead if the dog gets farther away from you.
Regardless of collar choice, though I would submit the prong collar is a collar of choice for me but I also double rig my protection K9 with both a prong and a flat collar with an ecollar holder built in so I have what I need for any situation.
First – when you notice your dog is starting to fixate/stare at something – this is the time you take action. Once the dog is locked-on/engaged you will have the issues you are seeing. The very moment you notice the fixation as evidenced by the dog’s posture changes and intent staring, as the handler you already know what is about to happen – you need to interrupt that fixation and relieve the stress. You will turn to go away from the “target” and keep moving if you can. When the dog is in motion they are more easily able to release their stress and reset. Once dog’s composure is regained, turn back around and continue. The pop/correction to the collar need only be enough to signal you are going the other way. If you build in one more handler skill, that will be to not look back at the dog to see its reaction so as not to let them know you did that to them – instead they are left to wonder – wow – what happened, I better follow handler. You already know if they are at the other end of the leash they are coming with you.
By standing steadfast you are allowing the dog’s fixation to intensify and you may be contributing to the increase in intensity. By walking down the lead yourself the dog is still engaged and not able to adjust. By walking down the lead to a dog that is pulling away, you are letting him know the harder he pulls, you will eventually follow – which as you noted, is not what you want.
This is hard in crowded areas with lots of people. If you can practice in a park or somewhere where you can control the interactions as you develop your leash handling it will be easier for you to develop new skills to help your dog when they get fixated on something. As handlers, not only do we transmit messages and commands, we also communicate emotions to our dogs. Loose leash = handler is happy and not feeling stress. Tight leash = handler is feeling tense so dog heightens “awareness” because if you are tense, so he should be too. This compounds when you as the handler can sense/see the dog is getting fixated, you know what’s about to happen and you naturally want to tighten your hold and shorten the leash for control as a responsible owner, which also contributes in the communication to the dog and may actually intensify the undesirable behavior.
In lieu of a traffic lead, you could use an 8′ leather lead and tie 4-6 knots spaced out in the lead. This allows you to more easily have enough grip on the lead so it does not slip through your hands and you can hold the knots in varying places automatically adjusting the length of the lead to maintain the desired proximity of the dog without gripping the lead so tight to keep it from slipping.
Hope something here gives you some ideas of things to consider/try. As you continue moving about in crowded areas your dog will surely pick up on your signals though there will always be something that pops up but your experiences together will help. Be consistent. Be calm. Enjoy.
MemberApril 9, 2021 at 4:07 PM
Thanks Bill! This is helpful, much appreciated. Take your point entirely about standing still. I should say these days she is pretty good much of the time but still generally tries to take the lead. I have oscillated a bit back and forth with where I want her to be. I don’t really mind if she is ahead as long as she’s not pulling, and I note from Robert’s videos on focused heel that he doesn’t feel it’s fair to ask the dog to always be next to us unless they are doing that brief duration of focused heel, but then the flip side is it’s hard for her (or I guess any dog) to understand “you can be anywhere on the leash as long as you’re not pulling” and so it gets frustrating. Our other issue is her picking up stuff off the street (plant matter, twigs etc) and eating it, which I’ve been correcting for with the ecollar and it seems to be reducing.
MemberApril 10, 2021 at 9:44 AM
Hi @felixfinchgmail-com Glad you caught RC’s comments on “positioning” in the heel. As you have established a heel – and as you don’t necessarily need her in the tight position – this is the time you can make some adjustments. While we use many positions and commands with protection K9s which are not necessary in a companion situation – there are some things you may find helpful and actually stress relieving.
I would encourage you to stick with your heel command – heel means, heel. This is critical for safety and you can use it in so many ways to prevent issues. I note you are working on issues related to grazing while the dog is wandering about. Here’s where maintaining your tight heel is helpful – you are walking and you note up ahead some discarded food items that you know will be enticing to your dog. Call the dog to heel – the dog won’t be able to get to that food item – you’ve avoided the problem. When you don’t notice the item in advance and you note the dog’s interest – you can give your leave it but I would guess that may still be a little hit and miss. If you call her to heel – and she reliably complies – while the leave it may still be developing, the heel gets her next to you. Once in position – if the dog did/does have the item – with the close proximity to you – issue your leave it/drop it / phooey, whatever – like you mean it. It avoids you chasing after the dog to keep it safe which the dog may look at as a game (this is also why RC suggests you never play chase games with your dog where you chase the dog- you don’t want it to become a game.) Use your training technique/style to reinforce the out/leave it/ drop it / phooey.
Having an alternative “position/proximity limiter” to heel – you are able to define the area within which the dog is free to be. If you allow heel to be sloppy and “close is good enough”, you take away the safety of the heel, that safety is being in close proximity to you and generally focused on you. You have the dog’s attention (focus) now let it know what you do want it to do instead.
You are now ready for a new “gear” in your walks – this is easy to do because the leash will do all the work when needed and the dog will quickly make the association. Don’t use treats and rewards – just do it consistently and your dog will make the necessary associations. Opportunistic – your dog quickly learns what brings reward – as motion relieves stress – going in motion is fun and relaxing. You will note in various RC videos that he uses “let’s go”. The distinction here is critical and I bet exactly what you are looking for. Using let’s go, or some phrase you will consistently use, you are announcing/indicating you are going in “travel” mode. Travelling with you does not require the dog to maintain a proper heel. You are taking the sloppy heel and giving it a new name so you can preserve the proper heel when you need it or want it. You control the proximity with the length of the leash. You can make this as technically complicated as you like – but its not necessary in my experience. You simply say “Let’s go” and go. If something arises and you need close proximity – you already trained and reinforced your heel so you are set. A walk may look like this…. Heel – you get through hallways and groups of people – Let’s go – and the dog is free to position where it likes within the limitations of the length of the lead. This translates to off-leash when needed as well.
Regrettably, other than RC’s videos on leave it I am not able to offer any other tips as my K9 is conditioned to only eat what is scented to me.
Hope something helps – you are in a great place – maintain heel to mean heel and use your new gear and no one is frustrated. You have your safety mechanism built in with your tight heel and clarity when your dog is free to have more space. Regards.
MemberApril 13, 2021 at 11:49 AM
I worked on leash training in the house. I put toys and tuna scattered about, as soon as he looked like he was going to get focused on those things I said no, little leash tug, and reward after he passed it by. Now we walk past stinky dead things and squirrels and he ignores them. So proud of my Presa.
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