Hector’s frantic pulling on walks seemed hard to imagine when meeting him in the house.
He’s a sweet and sensitive dog, apart from what they say is excessive jumping up at people who come to the house. He wasn’t too bad with me because I kept him calm.
Hector’s lack of self-control both when people come into the house and the frantic pulling on walks are due to much the same things. Over-arousal and I, believe, some anxiety too. As he now gets no exercise he must have an excess of energy and no outlet for other stresses.
If the visiting people can be persuaded to act differently, so will Hector.
No more walks due to frantic pulling
The main problem with Hector’s life is walks – or lack of walks.
His walks had become a total nightmare, both for Hector and for his humans. To try to stop the frantic pulling they use a Halti. Between straining, frantic pulling, panting and gasping, he desperately tries to scrape the thing off on the ground.
They used to walk him on the same circuit. He shot out of the front door and the frantic pulling began. Then he pulled all the way, like he was on a mission, until they got back home again. He would not stop even once for a sniff.
The man who did most of the walking, became increasingly frustrated and angry.
Walks had become a battle.
One can imagine how Hector might react if he spied another dog! Added to lunging he would rear up on his back legs, making a choking sound. The man would struggle to hold him.
Going back to the beginning.
Because Hector doesn’t get walks anyway, they can strip things back to the beginning. He has nothing to lose.
Even standing at the open front door will be a bonus.
Walks will be broken down into small stages. They will keep working on each little step until it is mastered before going on to the next.
The Halti won’t be needed. They will get a comfortable harness that attaches both front and top – a Perfect Fit. They will ditch the flexilead and use a double-ended training lead, at least six feet long.
Hector will be introduced to two new concepts on walks – freedom and choice.
Work will start with his simply wearing the harness around the house – not associating it with a walk at all. Next, when he’s calm, the lead can be popped on with no fuss.
They will stand at the closed door. Hector won’t walk calmly on a loose lead if he can’t even stand still on a loose lead!
A relaxed leash?
Steps to loose lead walking, no more frantic pulling, will move on to simply standing by the open front door and doing nothing. They will hang on and wait for the lead to slacken just a moment (as it will eventually) – then CLICK and feed something small and special.
(Some people tell me they bought a clicker but it doesn’t work. A clicker is nothing in itself. It’s how the clicker is used).
So Hector will now be learning that standing still, by the open front door on a loose lead is rewarding.
Next they can step outside and he can find that standing on the garden path on a loose lead is rewarding.
Opposite the house is a small grass area. They can then go and work the same magic there.
This could possibly take weeks but the more short sessions they can fit in the better. Currently anything outside the house is over-stimulating due to lack of acclimatisation. Because Hector sees so few now, people and dogs are a major event.
Gradually they can walk a little way – but no more straight lines. No more predictable A to B. Hector will now start to enjoy his walk. It’s about information – smells and sounds. It should be about the journey, not the destination.
Hector will no longer expect to ‘get somewhere’. Frantic pulling will be unnecessary. If they use encouragement, both dog and humans will begin to enjoy the walk for its own sake.
They can follow Hector sometimes – so long as the lead is slack. He can choose where he goes.
A special bonus will be going somewhere open and popping a long line on the back of the harness. Some freedom!
With loose lead walking under way and without the over-excitement and anxiety, they can work on what to do when he spots another dog. Very likely, due to his improved mental state, he will be less reactive.
They should make some really good progress if they take their time and are sufficiently patient.