Trying to get focussed. . .

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.

Here is one of many reviews out there on the Halti No-Pull Harness and Training Lead.

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!!


Healthy expectations = healthy relationship with your ?! YOU GOT THIS MY FRIEND ❤️ #dogmomstruggles #newpuppycheck #dogsarethebest

♬ Current joys Blondie – uHhH

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!

9 thoughts on “Trying to get focussed. . .

  1. Gillian, I really love that you choose this idea for your learning project. I have been on the constant struggle of wanting to get a puppy, but also knowing well how much commitment it requires and consistency which you have established very well in your post. I had never thought of how a different collar could impact the way the dogs would walk. I look forward to hearing more about this project as it progresses in hopes it can help me to invest more into the process. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I feel every bit of your frustrations and elations, Gillian! There is nothing more rewarding than having your pup respond to instruction. I think walking them separately was a super idea, and the more they go the better it will be. I have to ask, who among the dynamic pup duo is the leader?
    I watched many episodes of the Dog Whisperer years ago when we were trying to train our Yorkie to NOT bark when the doorbell rang or if there was a knock. As on the show, I arranged for our boys to repeatedly knock or ring the bell and each time we went through the process of blocking, redirecting, and rewarding. Well…it went well for awhile but as time goes on we couldn’t always be near the dog or the door every time someone arrived. Needless to say, eight years later and he still barks…my excuse? He’s a Yorkie!

    1. Hi Lynette! Great question! I think the leader is definitely more Duke, who is older. We were always worried about him passing on a few of his bad habits and that is definitley happening. Funny thing is Duke was never a barker but has become one since Gryff joined the family, passing that terrible trait on to Gryff. I think that has been his way to assert his power. Gryff is still such an impulsive puppy though and often just does what he wants. He certainly has followed Duke’s lead on how to react to people. While they usually don’t bark at people who come to the door, they are so excited that they pretty much attack them. Duke has always been that way. At first Gryff just watched him and now he does it x3. Duke feeds off this energy and has also amped it up. However, now that Duke is beginning to respond to ‘off’ in these moments and sitting to wait to be pet, Gryff is also picking up on this.
      I love the idea of repeatedly introducing pretend visitors though! I may give this a try!!

  3. Hey Gillian, great to hear progress is being made! I too have a large dog (100 lbs/5 years old,) and we had quite a few problems with him pulling when he was younger. Although it sounds like you may have found your solution with the Halti/Canada Pooch harnesses, but I thought I’d share a tip we got from our local pet store.

    If you ever find yourself with only a regular leash and no harness, you can tie your leash into a “half-hitch harness.” I can’t post an image within this comment, but here is a direct link of what it looks like:

    Essentially, the leash goes around the dogs torso, and then connects to their collar. It is a night and day difference when walking our dog. If you happen to try it out, let me know how it works!

  4. Loved reading about this. I have heard good things about that harness and was curious if all dogs seemed to respond well to it. Our dog also pulled no matter what we did. She is dominant and just gets so excited. She was fine with the choke collar cutting off a bit of air. She still just loved being out for a walk. We however, did not love that. We were recommend a prong collar. We were hesitant at first as we weren’t sure if it was too aggressive or mean. The prongs aren’t sharp or anything but still …we were hesitant. However, after one walk we were hooked. Our dog doesn’t pull at all. She enjoys the walk and stays right at our side. It was a game changer for us. The nice thing too is you can add lengths if you need to for when the dog grows. Not sure if you have tried one out but I recommend it if you are finding you need another option.

    1. Heh Jocelyn! Thank you for the suggestion. I will keep it in mind in case it’s needed.

      I just read through your last two blog posts on your major learning project and “WOW!” I loved seeing your progress as well as your willingness to just dive in. Major kudos to you! I can’t even imagine moving into a home requiring renos right now, let alone living through maternity leave with them constantly on the go. It sounds like you have learned some great things about how you can feel most confident and successful in taking any project on. I look forward to seeing what you get up to next!

      1. Thank you. It has been an interesting year but it was good and honestly flew by. Not sure if that is a good thing but it helped with the same ol same ol of a maternity leave during a pandemic. Thankfully most of the renos we were doing were on the outside of the house so it didn’t affect much of our day to day! I am looking forward to having this project done though. Doing my report cards there would have been perfect!

  5. Great post, Gillian. Sounds like you are doing some good research and applying that to your training. Dogs are wonderful. We have a Jack Russell named Mya. She loves her walks but when she encounters another dog she barks and growls like crazy. We have been working on baiting her with treats to get her attention on us and it seems to be improving her behaviour. Good luck with your project. Pictures of your pups please!

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