Is your Pup a "Puller"?
The following is a helpful excerpt from an article by Dr. Wayne L. Hunthausen, DVM entitled:
A Better Walk: Training Dogs Not To Lunge, Growl, and Pull on a Leash.
For the full article visit: http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/better-walk-training-dogs-not-lunge-growl-and-pull-leash?pageID=2
Reactivity on a leash is a common canine behavior problem and is often stressful for owners. It can be caused by a variety of underlying problems, including aggression, fear, unruliness, play-soliciting behavior, or inadequate training. The problem can usually be successfully treated if the owners have the commitment, tools, and correct information to get the job done.
The purpose of these exercises is to give owners more control over their dogs on walks and to replace lunging, barking, or aggressive or fearful behaviors with calm, quiet, and relaxed behaviors. Training at a distance beyond the response threshold is absolutely necessary. Dogs are less manageable and have difficulty learning when they are highly aroused.
Owners need to stay as relaxed as possible and think of these exercises as games to play with their dogs. If aggression is part of a dog's reactive behavior, the person walking the dog is responsible for others' safety and must ensure that leashes and halters are secure and that there is no opportunity for physical contact with other dogs or people.
Before the social conditioning process begins, the dog must be taught to dependably come, sit, stay, and heel on a leash. This training may require the help of a private trainer since these dogs usually do poorly in a class situation. It should be noted that throughout the entire training process, only positive reinforcement types of training techniques should be used.
Next, owners need to teach their dogs that they are in control. By setting boundaries, the owner will obtain better compliance and dependability from obedience cues. This can be accomplished by initiating a social structure or a nothing-in-life-is-free program.
As part of this program, the owner should request that the dog sit before getting anything it wants or needs, the dog should be ignored when it demands attention, and the dog should frequently be asked to stay before being allowed to follow owners around the home or yard or before going in or out of the home. During training, all commands should be given in an upbeat and relaxed tone of voice.
Reinforcers such as tasty treats given only during training followed a specific word or phrase (ie. "good dog") are great ways to encourage proper behavior.
Physical control. To maintain physical control of dogs during training, owners should keep their dogs on 4- to 6-ft leashes. Retractable leashes are unreliable and unwieldy and should not be used. Devices that cause discomfort such as pinch collars, shock collars, and choke collars should be avoided because owners want their dogs to develop positive associations with people or other dogs they react toward and avoid unpleasant associations.
Response threshold distances
There are two threshold distances of concern: orienting threshold distance and reactive threshold distance. Training takes place between the two threshold distances.
The orienting threshold distance is the distance at which the dog barely recognizes and begins to focus toward the trigger stimulus (e.g. dog, person, bike).
The reactive threshold distance is the distance at which the dog begins to exhibit the unwanted behaviors (e.g. barking, growling, lunging). This distance may vary depending on the stimulus.
Phase 1: Counterconditioning at a distance
Training should start in relatively quiet spots where trigger stimuli appear intermittently. Crowded areas should be avoided. Owners should be careful to keep their dogs beyond the reactive threshold distance.
When a dog orients toward a stimulus, the owner should immediately say the dog's name in an upbeat tone and present a treat at the same time. The owner should request the dog sit or stay for no more than two seconds, give the treat, and say, "good dog." The owner and dog should then continue slowly walking ahead. When the dog orients toward the stimulus again, the sequence should be repeated.
Before the stimulus crosses the second threshold distance (reactive threshold distance) and the dog becomes reactive, the owner should turn with the dog and walk in the opposite direction or down a side street.
Phase 2: Passing by across the street
Once the dog will consistently perform a relaxed sit or stay about 40 ft from the stimulus, the next step is to continue to walk straight ahead but across the street from the stimulus as the stimulus passes in the opposite direction. The owner should request the dog sit or stay for treats several times as he or she walks the dog in the direction of the stimulus. When about 40 ft from the stimulus, the owner should place a large treat in front the dog's nose, repeatedly say "heel" in an excited and upbeat tone, and briskly walk forward, keeping the dog oriented toward the food and its nose pointing straight ahead.
Phase 3: Sitting or staying beside the sidewalk
As the stimulus approaches directly toward the dog from the front, the dog is commanded to sit or stay at a position about 20 ft to the side of the sidewalk. A treat is held in front of the dog's nose until the stimulus passes, and then the dog is given the treat and released. Slowly and gradually, the dog moves closer to the sidewalk during subsequent passes.
No scolding. Punishment will typically increase a dog's arousal and reactivity. Owners should maintain safe control, be calm but firm, and try to keep the leash as loose as possible.
Exhibiting reactive behavior. If a dog exhibits a reactive behavior (lunging, barking, growling) during a walk, the owner should immediately turn and briskly walk or jog out of the situation.
Stranger petting. If a dog has a history of aggression or a strong fear response and someone asks to pet the dog during a walk, the owner should decline.
Territorial behavior. Allowing a dog to aggressively lunge, bark, or growl while standing at windows, fence lines, or on tie-downs in the yard will undo the training done on walks. Preventing or blocking access to window, doors, and fences can prevent this behavior. If this is not possible and the reactive behavior occurs, it should be interrupted. That can be done by having the owner use novel, loud noises that are appropriate for the dog's temperament (e.g. a shake can, a hiker's emergency whistle, an air horn) or by having the dog wear a citronella spray antibark collar. Shock collars should be avoided.
The duration of training required to resolve this type of problem depends on the pet's temperament, the duration of the problem, the severity of the problem, and the expertise and time dedicated by the owner. Training may take several weeks to many months. The owner needs to understand this and that patience is very important. Attempting to rush the dog through the treatment stages may actually delay progress and can be dangerous if aggression is involved.