Why could I not pick something like baking or crocheting?? This certainly would have helped me to see more concrete progress. No. I had to pick dog training! This is not a simple task, and I may not see the results I want, but I am trying to find the signs of progress.
Thanksgiving weekend was tough! With so much going on and two nights of the dogs being left home alone and locked up later than we’d like, we saw a few ‘behaviours’. More whining, more jumping and more stealing items from around the house. Over the last week, Gryff and Duke have had a few opportunities to greet people in our home. I twice tried having them greet people while on leash. While this was still completely chaotic, I found they settled more quickly. The last two days they have greeted people while not on a leash and it was TERRIBLE! Unless the person is willing to be firm, they just keep excitedly jumping around like maniacs …. jump on the person – jump on each other – spin in a circle – bite at brother’s ear – jump on the person again … (see the GIF below and multiply that energy by two) … Chaos!! Add the fact that my mom ALWAYS brings them a milkbone, and you have this energy now multiplied by ten!
However, my family members have been consistently putting their knee out and saying OFF or SIT when the pups do this. I don’t think I am dreaming when I say I am actually seeing improvement here. They are sitting more quickly, especially my older dog Duke, and happy to receive a “Good Boy” and a pet. When guests are willing to do this as well, it works. How though, do I get the pups to stop doing this altogether? I swear they know who they can take advantage of!
Through all of this, I find I have to remind myself to come back to the two areas I most wanted to improve. I wanted my dogs to greet people, including myself, without jumping all over them. I also wanted them to become better walkers who do not pull all over the place. As I have been doing my research, a big piece of this appears to be improving the dogs ability to attend to their human. This has meant walking around the house with them on a leash (separately) while carrying treats. Everytime I stop and they sit and look at me – CLICK – treat! Somedays I ask myself why I am doing this! Obviously I am looking for more than just their attention!
Well then I tried doing this in the yard rather than the house. The yard went fairly well so I moved to the front of the house. My youngest pup, Gryff, is so attentive to me and happily looks up. Six year old Duke on the other hand, seems almost unable to attend to me when we are on a walk or there are any distractions present. This is a bit frustrating. Even treats do not work to gain his attention in these situations. There are numerous resources out there reminding me that gaining the dog’s full attention is an important skill, and something I will need to continue to work on while simultaneously working on the two goal areas.
After watching numerous videos on how to get your dog to stop pulling, I realized that we may not have the right kind of leash or harness for our dogs. In using a harness, we have been using a top click which in fact kicks the pulling instinct in to play. When using a neck collar, I have resorted to a choke collar with Duke and still, he will NOT stop pulling! I decided it was time to look for a better option.
This weekend I purchased a Halti double ended lead and no pull training harness. The lead is pretty cool because it has so many options. You can use it with the no pull training harness to give more control by attaching to the dog in two places (chest and back). You can also wear it as a hands free leash or walk both dogs on the same lead. I was not 100% sure about the harness so I also purchased the Canada Pooch Everything Harness that has the chest clip as well. I actually really like both but am thinking I might return the Halti harness and get a second one of the Canada Pooch version. I like this one because there is an option to only attach to the chest ring. The Halti version requires that you be attached to the back, or the back and the chest together, however it will not work with the chest only, making it a bit high maintenance. At the same time, I love how easy the Halti one is to put on. They both have their pros and cons, making it a tough choice, but after using the Canada Pooch one, I really like the chest only connection.
So, I took both dogs for a walk on their own in the Canada Pooch harness, using the Halti lead. I found that Gryff struggled with the front clip and still wanted to pull. If I crossed this over him so the lead went across his chest then over his shoulder and back to the opposite side, he did better. However, they do say you should only try training with pups when they are tired so we will have to keep working on that one.
My walk with Duke was A-MA-ZING though! In fact, it may have been one of our best walks ever. I attached the lead to the chest clip and started off the walk with him close by my side. Whenever he tried to pull ahead of me, I would do a 90 degree turn. (I am certain I must look like a crazy person out there walking them right now). On this walk, he barely tried to pull at all! We encountered two dogs, a rabbit and a cat, and he did so well!! I put myself between him and the first dog as he was getting a bit worked up after just seeing the rabbit. When he would not settle and would not give me eye contact, I took him in the opposite direction. He did great! I still struggled to get any eye contact out of him but I also noticed just how jumpy he is to every sound. He seems very overstimulated on a walk and, as he is an anxious dog at times, I guess this makes sense. The truth is, if he is in sensory overload, I may never get the attention I am hoping for out of him. However, I must celebrate this small success. I actually enjoyed my walk with him and I think he did too! It has to feel better to not be constantly choking!!
So, progress is slow and certainly a bit up and down, but I think that is okay! My puppies are getting positive attention that they definitely love, and slowly learning what it is we want from them. This is not going to be perfect, but we are all learning!