This post is part of a series wherein struggling pet owners submit pleas for help to the expertise of blogland. Everyone’s experiences are unique. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. What you think common sense may be revolutionary for someone else. You never know what may resonate and keep another animal out of a shelter. My hope is that together we can help good pet people feel a little less alone.
A few days ago I received an email from the writer of the very first question submitted to this blog. Kayla* and her feisty rescue dog, Poppy, are doing much better since May but are sill having some major issues with loose-leash walking. It’s such a common problem and one I am sure many of you are working with as well.
Here is her most recent letter:
I am not sure if we are allowed to ask for advice twice but I am stuck and desperate for advice about my walking situation. My dog, Pearl, seems very similar to Shiva and watching all the progress you have made with her is always encouraging (although I wish I could transplant you to the States to help me in person!). We have made A LOT of progress with Pearl calming down and not being a bouncy ball on four paws. My biggest biggest issue right now is walking. Aside from leash reactivity issues, Pearl is a puller. She lunges at other dogs, squirrels, rabbits, but she pulls the whole time we walk.
We have tried pinch collars, gentle leaders, easy walk harnesses, we have tried “be a tree” techniques and clicker and treat techniques. She ignores praise, she ignores corrections, because OMG the outside is just SO INTERESTING. We have tried turning and going the other way anytime she starts to pull, but we end up walking in circles forever. She is a high energy dog and we NEED to go for long walks every day, usually three times a day, to “take the edge off.” She jumps over the fence in our yard (another training issue we are working on) and we’ve stopped going to our local dog park for a variety of reasons, so walks are really her main source of exercise for the time being.
I am happy to try techniques that build loose leash walking in the house or one step at a time (she does well in the house since there isn’t so much going on), but I still need to find a way to keep taking longer walks in the meantime, if that makes sense. And I don’t care much if she heels, I am fine letting her sniff and zig zag around, as long as she doesn’t pull. I feel like I should start with loose leash walking and progress to heeling, although if that is the wrong way to think about it feel free to correct me!
P.S. The only place we can go for agility classes where we live teaches using pinch collars/e-collars. Is that usual? They seem very positive as far as the rest of their training philosophy, focusing on praise rather than correction and trying to make it fun for the dog, etc. We really want to do agility and think she would love it, but I am hesitant (especially as when we used a pinch collar in the past its rubbed her neck and caused red marks- although she doesn’t seem to mind or react to it really at all, which is why it wasn’t effective). She is NOT a fearful dog or anything, just a high energy dog with a high prey drive (I think).
If you have any recommendations for Kayla, please share them below. The more resources, the better! Words of encouragement or commiseration are also very welcome.
*Names have been changed
If you have a question you would like answered, fill out the contact form and I will post it up as soon as I can. All submissions will remain anonymous.