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Thread: At My Wits End with My American Staffy

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    Default At My Wits End with My American Staffy

    My three-and-a-half year old Amstaff came into our family six months before our first child, which unfortunately meant she didn't get 100% of the training she required as a puppy. True to her breed however, she knows many commands just by picking up on our reactions and is extremely affectionate and intelligent. She is social amongst other pets in our extended family and has taken well (after an initial fight resulting in a big vet bill.. a story for another time) to a new American Bulldog puppy.

    She is fairly dominant with the pup who now outweighs her by at least 15kg and we are keeping an eye on that development. The problem I have doesn't affect her at all until she is on a lead. I know I'm not the first person with this problem but damn, that dog is obsessed with pulling! I have tried every thing I know- specialized leads and muzzles, treats, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement - it doesn't matter! She is unable to join us at the dog park because once you put a lead on her she is a different dog. It's as if she's fascinated with the idea of pulling me over. If I stop walking, she happily stops pulling and wags her tail looking at me.

    I don't know what else to do. We don't really have the finances for a professional trainer, but I have lost confidence in my abilities to help her. As it stands, her only exercise outside of our yard these days is when I let her drag me around the block a few times a week. It's frustrating. Can anyone help?

  2. #2

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    Loose lead walking CAN be taught now but it will take a lot of patience on your part.

    Sounds like she has been rewarded for pulling (ie: she pulls and you let her go where she wants to see what she wants, smell what she wants etc) plus you have used punishments which can damage your relationship with your dog and cause her to want to keep distance between you when walking.

    First off you need to be patient and willing to stand and wait, you need to be willing to not make it out of the driveway for the first few days/weeks. You need to be willing to not walk with a destination in mind.

    Do you use clicker training. If not please get a clicker and read up on how to use it correctly because you will need it for this method to work.

    The minute your dog pulls you stop, then wait for her to turn around facing you and sit, as soon as she sits click and reinforce (ie give her a treat) wait a little bit longer give her a couple more treats, then start walking again, as soon as she pulls repeat. If she goes to move from the sit before you are ready to walk then wait for her to sit and face you again.

    When you are walking if she is walking next to you reward her with treats. To start off with your reward rate will have to be VERY high, as in almost constant treats but eventually as she gets the idea you can cut back on the amount of treats.

    If she is pulling toward something in particular ie: another dog, a person, a bird etc etc then use a marker work such as "too bad" and then turn and walk in the other direction. Never ever let her reach something she is pulling towards, by doing so you are rewarding her for pulling and that means it has been reinforced and will be repeated.

    I would also be rewarding her for following you around at home etc.

    If you are worried about the amount of food she is getting with all the extra treats, instead of feeding breaky and dinner from a bowl, cut it up and put it in a treat pouch and use it on your walks instead, this won't hurt her and will help to create a better relationship as well.

    Edit to Add: If you are getting frustrated then that is when you should turn around and go home. You really need to have a positive attitude and not be stressed or frustrated because that will pass through to her.
    And no matter where you are going with her never let her pull.
    I would also suggest you get a training belt so that you are not holding the lead with your hands, it can make a huge difference.

    I know it seems like a lot but it works My 12 month old dog walks like a little legend because I implemented this the day she came home.
    Last edited by Keira & Phoenix; 10-20-2011 at 01:35 PM.

  3. #3
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    I've actually never heard of the clicker until I googled it just now. I have roughly tried this method without the clicker but haven't given it much time in the past. I'll try again, this time with more patience! And give a clicker a go as well. Thanks for the advice!

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by chevybris View Post
    I've actually never heard of the clicker until I googled it just now. I have roughly tried this method without the clicker but haven't given it much time in the past. I'll try again, this time with more patience! And give a clicker a go as well. Thanks for the advice!
    No problem.

    Clickers are fantastic tools, if you haven't tried it with a clicker it would be safe to assume that is most of the reason it didn't work.

    Definitely put this plan into action but it will take dedication and patience.

    Let us know how you go

  5. #5
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    to be honest I think that method will take way too long to work as you are rewarding the dog sitting rather than walking nicely. I have a siberian husky, the most notorious lead pullers in dog history and I only used half the method mentioned above.

    my dog stepped out in front of me and I simply turned 180 degrees and walked the other way. every single time she stepped out in front I turned and walked the other way.

    because your dog is older I would be adding in a verbal correction as well just to let the dog know that pulling is no longer wanted. i.e I usually just say "no" and turn and walk away. I start off quite mild as if to say, "ahh not quite try again" but depending on the determination of the puller I up the verbal correction.

    Pulling is a behaviour problem. They pull to get places they want to go and they are usually focussed on that. The verbal correction I usually use is simply to get their focus off whatever they are looking at and then the turn around is you will NEVER get to where you want to go until you walk nicely.

    Don't be disheartened is took me 1 week to leave my driveway but only 6 months to get her reliably walking loosely on lead by my side.
    "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog." - Edward Hoagland

  6. #6
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    I like Kikopup's take on loose lead walking.

    How to train your dog not to pull- Loose Leash Walking - YouTube

    I got a front attach harness for my dog called a sensible.
    Softouch Concepts, Inc Homepage

    It (and other brands that clip on the front of the chest of the dog) gives you leverage on your dog so it can't pull as hard and when it does try - it gets rotated by its own effort back towards you and away from where it wants to go.

    Walk the amstaff on her own until you have this sorted. Starting with up and down your back yard (while the other dog or distractions are put away), then up and down your front drive/yard, then up and down the street out the front. And this will seem tedious but most dogs get it within a couple of days (which sure beats months and years of pulling), don't step forward while there is tension in the lead. Wait till the dog comes back to you then step...

    And my dog did the sit thing too but she figured out we weren't going anywhere until she came back to me...and then I'd step. I'd encourage that by saying her name and patting her when she came back. So I'd only step when she was next to me. The front attach harness gave me power and stopped her re-inforcement. She still wears it any place I think she will get excited but the stop, call and wait works for me.

    I would give her treats when she does the right thing, but in the situations where she would pull on walks - she's extremely freaked out and won't take any treats.

  7. #7

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    The method I have outlined if done correctly, with patience would only take 6 months.

    I think you missed the paragraph where i told her to reward highly for walking next to her. So we are rewarding for walking well, being with the person and focusing on the person when they stop walking.

    I also told her to mark the wrong behaviour if pulling towards something with a too bad.

    I think a combo of all 3 is more likely to have quicker results.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaz Tarja View Post
    to be honest I think that method will take way too long to work as you are rewarding the dog sitting rather than walking nicely. I have a siberian husky, the most notorious lead pullers in dog history and I only used half the method mentioned above.

    my dog stepped out in front of me and I simply turned 180 degrees and walked the other way. every single time she stepped out in front I turned and walked the other way.

    because your dog is older I would be adding in a verbal correction as well just to let the dog know that pulling is no longer wanted. i.e I usually just say "no" and turn and walk away. I start off quite mild as if to say, "ahh not quite try again" but depending on the determination of the puller I up the verbal correction.

    Pulling is a behaviour problem. They pull to get places they want to go and they are usually focussed on that. The verbal correction I usually use is simply to get their focus off whatever they are looking at and then the turn around is you will NEVER get to where you want to go until you walk nicely.

    Don't be disheartened is took me 1 week to leave my driveway but only 6 months to get her reliably walking loosely on lead by my side.
    Agreed,

    I used this method with my staffy with the aid of a halti originally because I'm not a particularly strong person and my shoulder was darn near dislocated. It works, but not overnight.

    I can now walk her on loose lead. In an empty park she will also heel without a lead. She has other little areas of improvement but heeling is not one of them .

    Some dogs are more stubborn than others.
    The COOLEST Rats and Mice are ICED

  9. #9
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    I haven't tried it, but I agree that the making her sit would not be strictly necessary and might even be confusing? Sorry K&P, it obviously worked for you, but I've seen other methods that I think would work just as well if not better.

    My dog was pretty good with the leash when I got her though, so I just had to do a bit of the "be the tree" method to perfect it. I did praise my dog a lot when she walked next to me too, though never used treats as it just seemed too much going on all at once and I figure that with any of the above mentioned methods, the walking itself is the reward.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beloz View Post
    I haven't tried it, but I agree that the making her sit would not be strictly necessary and might even be confusing? Sorry K&P, it obviously worked for you, but I've seen other methods that I think would work just as well if not better.

    My dog was pretty good with the leash when I got her though, so I just had to do a bit of the "be the tree" method to perfect it. I did praise my dog a lot when she walked next to me too, though never used treats as it just seemed too much going on all at once and I figure that with any of the above mentioned methods, the walking itself is the reward.
    This isnt something I have made up on my own this is the method taught to me and many others by behavioural dog trainers with over 15 years experience.

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