I'm sure there are plenty of dogs out there who will respond quickly to the "be a tree" method--when the dog pulls, stand still until she looks at you and gives you some slack, then go forward again until the dog learns that she can only go forward when she gives you a slack leash.
But a dog like Fozzie needs something more intensive. So I was glad to see that the APDT has a free webinar on Loose Leash Walking--which I believe is available to everyone here, even if you don't have an APDT membership. This webinar is offered by Gail Fisher, and goes through the steps of a nice, relationship-centered way to help a dog learn to walk calmly on the leash.
|Lamar, always concerned with keeping his flock together, walks on a nice loose leash and checks in frequently|
- Choose an alert sound like This way! or a smoochy noise. Use this sound to let your dog know you're going to start working.
- Make your alert sound, and when your dog looks at you, mark (click or say "yes!") and toss a treat on the floor. When dog looks up at you, click and toss again. Repeat 5-6 times in place.
- Then walk backward, continuing to mark and reward for the dog looking at you.
- Once dog is walking along with you and getting into this game, pivot, turning away from your dog, so you're facing in the same direction.
- After you turn, mark & reward first step going in same direction. Walk with your dog a few steps, marking and rewarding for each step she stays in loose leash position.
- To turn, make smoochy noise to signal first then turn. Say Lets go to let dog know you're going.
Important points: you're not luring the dog into position, and you're not rewarding just for attention. You are marking and rewarding moments where the leash is loose, even if the dog is not looking at you.
|Florian always gets Loose Leash Lamar, while I get pulled along by Fiendish Fozzie|
- As your dog starts to pull, but before he gets to the end of the leash, make your alert sound (smoochy noise)
- Walk backward to reconnect, as at the beginning
- Mark, then reward only with verbal praise--no treats. Treats are only for forward walking
- Turn and walk forward, then click & treat for a loose leash!
But what about for dogs who, like Fozzie, are so stressed out, anxious, or excited on walks that they lose interest in treats?
This is why I found the end of the video, which talks about the Lost Opportunity marker, so interesting. The steps outlined are exactly the method I discovered and outlined here as the only thing that really works for Fozzie, once he gets a bit excited: Using a No Reward Marker like "whoops!" when he pulls out ahead toward a trigger, then immediately turning and walking in the other direction until he gets more calm. Turning back toward trigger if he can handle it, but turning away while saying "whoops!" if the leash goes tight again. When he can handle it, allowing him to approach all the way to the thing he wants.
This method is putting the Premack Principle to work for you: giving the dog something he wants (to approach the object of his fascination, whether another dog or a good-smelling bush) in exchange for giving you something you want (calm behavior and a loose leash). Whoever Premack is, he is a godsend to those of us with dogs who--for whatever reason--are not food-motivated.
The rest of the video tells you how to build the behavior by gradually increasing the time between rewards, introducing turns, training in new locations, and adding distractions. It also includes the good advice that if you don't have time to train on a walk, use equipment, like a head collar or no-pull harness, that will keep your dog from pulling and practicing the behavior.
Check out the video for a really thorough explanation of these great methods. I'd love to know what works for you.