Thursday, October 20, 2011

obedience training sessions lessons: part 3

here are some photos from one of our walks when we went out to practice the heel/loose-leash walking lesson (previously discussed here). i was going to wait for a time when i could go out with joey and get some video, since desmond has gotten worse with the leash reactivity--particularly with those damn untrained, unexercised dogs down the block--but if i keep waiting for that to happen, i'll be in a retirement home before i write this post.

so, we practiced like the trainer told us: put on the choke chain; go out and let him do his business first; put him in a down-stay for up to five minutes; release him; put him in a sit; then start your walk and correct (with a leash-jerk) anytime he's walking in a way you don't like.

desmond in his down-stay on the stoop

he basically whined and stared in the direction of the neighbors' dogs the whole time

after release, in a quick sit before starting the walk

and we're off

the white house on the left with the shrub in front is where the other dogs live

and they've been spotted...

desmond's attempt to pull joey across the street

around this time, he was easy to hold onto/control, but he's gotten much stronger

joey stopped to try and get desmond to sit once we were past the house, but desmond didn't care
we're getting further away and desmond's still looking back to the dogs

finally getting to our corner and he's starting to calm down

one last look back at the dogs, of course
you can see that even in these photos, desmond isn't relaxed at the start of the walk (before the dogs made him nuts). i'm not sure if it was the training, in general, that was upsetting him or the association of the choke chain. either way, it's not like this method was even working for us in the heel/no-pulling area (never mind the leash reactivity thing!).

we soon switched to the very simple, only-patience-required method of refusing to move forward whenever desmond started to pull. tension on the leash = we stand here until there's no more tension on the leash.

whenever that wasn't working because he was too obsessed with who-knows-what, we'd use the other method of simply turning around and going the other way (and back and forth, if needed) until the pulling stopped.

this switch was accompanied by the retirement of the choke chain and the return of the easy walk harness. the harness alone does absolutely nothing to quell desmond's need for speed, but i am convinced that through my always using it when we took our morning walks--which were half running energy off and half loose-leash training--he started to realize that walking with the harness on means it's time for business. on the mornings when i'd be too lazy to switch from his collar to the harness, he'd pull like mad.

not magic, but definitely a huge help

even with the harness and the new training, he was still having trouble. that's when i started involving treats. many many many treats.

if he pulled, i stopped. when he backed up, i praised and treated him and then held another treat in my left hand (while also holding the leash--we do still use the leash-holding method taught to us by the trainer) to make desmond want to stay nearby as we continued walking. if he stayed, i treated him. i treated him even if his version of staying at my side was jamming his wet nose into my fist and trying to steal the treat. i didn't care. i just wanted to convince him that my side was the most happening place to be. (i did not attempt to use or teach an actual heel command at this time.)

he eventually figured out that he'd get a treat if he backed off a tight leash but couldn't quite get the idea of staying at my side or backing all the way up to return to my side. that's when i taught him "heel" (as in, get your butt back over here, all the way, at my side) by luring him back with treats.

from there, i started giving him treats along the walk fairly often, as long as he was heeling. this helped, for sure, but he's still got some work to do.

these days, he almost immediately backs up if we've stopped due to his pulling, and if he doesn't, you can say, "heel" and he usually responds pretty well. sometimes he's too involved with whatever's going on in the world and ignores me; other times, he's "over" the treats i happen to have with me. i definitely need to get him something extra super yummy so we can become masters at this.

achieving the loose-leash walk/heel is surely not the same accomplishment as overcoming leash reactivity, but any improvement is a big deal for desmond. i'm proud of what i've seen so far, and i have faith in his ability to replace poor behaviors with well-mannered ones.
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