Five-and-a-half-month-old Harry leash wrestles; he tugs and bites it. It’s in one set of circumstances only. At the end of his walk, when they they get to the entrance of the park, Harry goes into some sort of frenzy. Flying about nipping, he attacks the lead and tugs at it as he swings about, growling.
Recent change in behaviour
Always excitable and a jumper, he has only started this ‘wild’ behaviour where he wrestles the lead in the last couple of weeks. The lady is actually scared. Harry suddenly changes character. She feels like he’s attacking her.
In this same couple of weeks Harry has gone off his food. They have noticed too that he’s touch-sensitive, disliking them stroking his back.
Another recent development is his new unwillingness to have his collar put on before a walk. At about the same time as the problems escalated they had changed from a soft collar to a wider stiff, leather, buckled affair.
Harry charges to the end of the lead and suddenly jerks to a stop. Lunging on a collar can cause injury to the neck.
These things may all be unconnected, but with any change in behaviour it’s essential to have the vet thoroughly check him over. Possibly inspect his back or neck for pain?
Ease off a bit
The whole family have worked really hard with their beautiful Golden Labrador pup. Each is extremely conscientious. It’s not often that I would say people are working too hard! With Harry I feel the time has come to take the pressure off him a little. To ease off. Not to worry so much about ‘training’ and to relax a bit.
Training, surely, means having an animal (or person – or even a plant) do something that doesn’t come naturally. While training is great, at his age perhaps Harvey needs a higher ratio of the things that do come naturally.
Walking down the road to the park is all about getting the excited pup to walk to heel without pulling. When they get to the park, they fill the time largely with recall practice and training exercises.
I suspect, from all my questions, that Harry associates the lead with something about pavement walking that upsets him. This would explain why he leash wrestles only at this particular time. With the pulling and the discomfort on his neck from his new, stiff collar and their efforts to get him to walk to heel, he doesn’t enjoy pavement walks. One jerk can cause a lot of damage
Avoiding the leash wrestles
I had suggested for now they drive Harry to the park in the car. Although they still have to lift him in (this usually jumping dog won’t jump in!) it works – no leash wrestles when they put him back on lead near to the car at the end of the walk.
This backs up my theory that dislike of the pavement walk home is the most likely cause of his frenzied behaviour, erupting into the leash wrestles, ragging the lead and flying at them, nipping.
They will take every opportunity now to avoid stirring him up unnecessarily whilst adding calmer enrichment to his life. They will give him opportunities to redirect his need to shake and rag onto acceptable things rather than leash wrestle.
The man works from home, which is hard! Harry gets bored quickly and then jumps at him, mouthing.
So, the first component of our plan is, whilst reducing pressure on him, to initiate very regular activities that involve his nose and his brain – while he’s calm. At the moment all his ‘fun’ comes as a result of the very behaviour they don’t want.
Love pavement walks on lead
Secondly is ‘love pavement walks’. They now have a comfortable harness. They will do loose lead walking in short 10-minutes sessions initially, getting Harry to really enjoy his pavement walks, making them relaxed fun. Another thing that will help Harry to enjoy his short lead walks is if they have the leash as long as is safe and let him choose himself where he goes – within reason
A happy dog, wandering, mooching and sniffing won’t become so aroused to need leash wrestles or to jump about.
These pavement walks will initially be a separate exercise from his outings to the park.
Walks in the park
Walks in the park should be for absorbing the environment – more of a mooch. He’s not six months old yet and an hour and a half is too long when filled with recall training. They will forget about the training for now, unless they need to call him back – and let him sniff and explore.
When it’s time to put his lead on at the end of the walk, they can give him a favourite soft toy to carry and shake if necessary.
Thirdly, they will work on his refusal to get into the car as another separate issue. We have a plan for that.
The ‘jigsaw’ of bits will eventually add together.
Like a child, Harry needs freedom to enjoy his puppy-hood. They shouldn’t worry about relaxing on the training a bit – they will catch up!