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Is pulling on the lead linked to aggression?

(16 Posts)
Amaxapax Wed 16-Oct-13 19:47:56

I've had my dog for nearly a month now. He's a two year old GSD/border collie cross from Dogs Trust. In the house he is perfect and I adore him. Out of the house, however, is another story. He is dog aggressive, which I knew when I got him, but he also wants to chase after squirrels and cats. He pulls pretty consistently when on the lead, but it gets much worse when (I assume) he can smell that another animal has been there recently and he'd like to follow its tracks and chase after it. The dog aggression can make walks challenging to begin with, but I can deal with that by avoiding other dogs. I can't avoid the smells of other animals, and the pulling is making walking very unpleasant.

I've tried a Halti, but he doesn't like anything on his nose and can pull it off. I've watched loose lead training videos and worked on those techniques, but there is no improvement. He'll walk with me for a few steps, and then he's off again. I have been using a clicker and treating with cheese, which he adores, but it just doesn't seem to be outweigh his love of sniffing. This afternoon we had an especially bad time. He pulled like crazy, tried to go after a cat and then barked and lunged at two dogs that were probably fifty feet away and totally uninterested in him. Is there something I'm missing? Will I only be able to stop the pulling once the aggression improves? And does anyone have a recommendation for a good behaviourist in the Staffordshire area?

Dirtybadger Thu 17-Oct-13 17:17:17

Firstly I'd say don't lose faith after only a month.
The training really needs to take place short and sweet to start with and build up duration. You need to be patient so it's best to save the training for when you have the mental stamina.
I've had my dog for 2 months now. We are working on the same as you. She has a high prey drive and is a bit of a crazy bossy boots with other dogs.

She has a harness and fixed lead for her normal walks. She pulled to start with but is getting better. I do reinforce her walking on a loose lead but that isn't what the walks are for. They're fun walks for sniffing mixed up with a run around on her long line in quieter fields.

She has a different harness for her llw training. It's a front attaching harness so she can't pull into it (which triggers opposition reflex).

Eventually once we've built up her training walks to longer in duration with a lower ratio of reinforcement she will just wear that harness out. She reacts better to dogs on it and I generally have better control. She didn't need to be desensitised to it (unlike she would need to be for anything on her face) and it doesn't get in the way of her expressing how she feels (like something on her face might) to other dogs.

She will still wear her 'normal' harness when she's on her long line and jogging and such but for walks she will wear her 'training' harness (I only call it that because at the mo she only wears it during training for her walking). She walks pretty well on her other harness now anyway so she's obviously figured out 'we do sensible walking' but she is better on her other harness. I think once she starts pulling on her normal one she finds it difficult to self correct (because of the reflex). I am also sure that when she's really pulling the sensation in that harness peps her up when around stimulating stuff. if you're using a normal flat collar I think the same will apply but even more do. Plus the increased discomfort of strangling themselves.

Hope that makes sense! Written on an iPad so may be some spelling mistakes....

Owllady Thu 17-Oct-13 17:29:44

The border collie rescue trust is in Staffordshire, have you tried ringing them for advice on training and possible behaviourists?

Lead walking is one of those things you need to just be consistent with tbh. Stop starting/changing direction etc

the tracking/scenting out is a typical BC trait, as is chasing. If he likes chasing, have you got him used to fetching a ball? does he calm when carrying the ball in his mouth? I find the watch command works for distraction, along with hot dog sausages blush

Amaxapax Thu 17-Oct-13 21:35:31

Thank you both so much for responding.

Dirtybadger, those tips are hugely helpful. I've been worrying because he needs his proper walks but I feel like I'm reinforcing all his bad habits because I can't do an hour and a half a day of walking back and forth on the same path. Having two different harnesses seems brilliant for differentiating between the purposes of the walks, so I'm definitely going to do that.

Owllady, I didn't realise the border collie rescue was in Staffordshire. I will get in touch with him. He likes playing fetch, but only intermittently in the garden or the house. Outside there are, again, too many distractions. The outside can't even compete with cheese, which is saying something.

To be honest, he looks so much like a German Shepherd that sometimes I forget about the collie behaviours, so I must be more aware of how that affects him.

I love him to pieces and feel sad when I get frustrated with him, but I dread our walks now. Fortunately, the second we get back in the house he is the sweetest and most loveable dog, so it doesn't take long for him to redeem himself.

Dirtybadger Thu 17-Oct-13 21:41:12

It does sound like whilst llw will be a long term aim you will struggle until either his anxiety or over stimulation are addressed outside? You might get good llw in the house and garden and struggle as soon as you get outside. Although if he is on a flat collar then a harness may help a little bit as he will be much more comfortable and the adrenaline might stop flowing quite so much. Check out the APBC/APDT/PPG sites to see if anyone nearly could help, maybe?

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Thu 17-Oct-13 21:42:30

What has your trainer said about all this?

Amaxapax Thu 17-Oct-13 22:45:22

He is on a shoulder harness rather than a collar, but it feels like that gives him even more power to pull. I wouldn't use the flat collar, though, because I'd be concerned about him straining his neck, particularly when he lunges.

We don't have a trainer yet. I looked at the APBC website but it says dogs need to be referred by a vet, and my vet didn't seem particularly aware of any behaviourists they recommend / make referrals to. I contacted one woman from the APDT website, but she said she did more obedience than behaviour. I'll have a look at PPG. The Dogs Trust where I got him is about an hour away, so their trainer recommendations weren't very suitable for me. His trainer there said she didn't think the dog aggression would be trained out of him because he isn't responsive to food, but I disagree with that. I think he wasn't responsive there because of constantly high anxiety levels from being surrounded by other dogs all the time. He does respond more to food and now, when he sees a dog, will often stop and sit. I click and treat and we walk in the other direction. This works reasonably well, unless the other dog is running around off lead or appears suddenly or if he's already worked up from another encounter. He does seem to be slightly better if he's on a long lead, but I'm afraid of letting him off lead entirely in case he bolts after something. His recall isn't atrocious, but again, some smells are just too tempting.

My husband has been working away for quite a while, but should be home in the next week or two. We'd like to do the training together to ensure consistency.

Owllady Fri 18-Oct-13 17:03:35

I don't know where in Staffordshire you are? (I am from there originally myself!) but these look good here

You don't need the KC registered classes, you just need somewhere that use positive training techniques and then you need to just put in the time. It will help with socialising too. I feel horrible posting negatives, but anxiety can be a BC trait too. They need to have complete faith in you, otherwise they will take over (well alot of them) Going to a training class will give you both confidence in one another. Don't let him off the lead until you have trained hima bit better

FangsForBloodyNothing Sun 20-Oct-13 17:31:46

No and it will lessen as he gets older.My collie cross was terrible for this..I remember walking her one day when she was approx 6 months old and tears pouring down my face thinking 'I simply cant do this any more-its unbearable walking her'. Once she turned about 1 yr old it had disappeared almost completely.She is now 5 and so placid to walk.
Stick with it OP thlsmile.

TooBusyByHalf Sun 20-Oct-13 21:46:42

My pip is terrible at pulling whenever there's sight or scent of a squirrel cat or fox -which is most of the time - but not aggressive to other dogs at all , so I don't think the 2 are connected.

I find the constant loose lead training exhausting too - just hoping she's going to grow calmer with age hmm

Amaxapax Sun 20-Oct-13 23:12:20

It is exhausting, isn't it? After a long walk my shoulders and back hurt from all the pulling, and I feel myself getting frustrated with him, and then I feel guilty. I'm going to get the harness with the clip at the front, and we'll just keep working on it. He has managed to be hugely endearing this weekend, including demonstrating what appeared to be genuine concern as I lay on the sofa moaning pathetically as a result of an awful hangover. He also 'helped' me to build flat pack furniture. I know he's worth the effort.

MartyrStewart Sun 20-Oct-13 23:21:31

I have a nearly 3yo lab and an 18mo GSD. With the Lab I did everything by the book, loose lead training, stop and start, change direction tasty treats etc etc.

He always pulled like a freight train, nothing worked. We had a halti which he hated, a 'happy at heel' harness which worked for a bit then didn't stop him.

He wasn't dog aggressive, but like your dog he wanted to sniff and was reactive to dogs 50 feet away.(Although in his case, because he wanted to play)

In the last six months, despite us doing nothing differently, he has got to the point where my teeny 4yo DD can walk him on the lead. He's a dream.

I think what I'm saying is don't give up hope. They all have their issues, but they all grow up eventually.

Tulip26 Mon 21-Oct-13 20:31:48

My dog's behaviour has changed massively now he's on a different diet. What do you feed him on? Some dogs react massively to additives, mine has gone from hyperactive looney to sleepy lapdog in a matter of months.

Amaxapax Mon 21-Oct-13 21:19:11

He eats Wainwrights trays. He gets one and a half per day, because it's usually supplemented by a treat such as peanut butter and banana in his Kong. I think the food is a good choice for him. He really likes it and can be a bit picky about food. He's still ever so slightly underweight, so I'm reluctant to mess with a good thing.

I think that, at two, he is still very much a young dog, and that will definitely have an impact on his energy and attitude to walks. I agree, Martyr, that he's likely to chill out down the line. Although he pulled on the walk today, he also saw some dogs in the distance, looked to me for treats and then happily walked with me in the opposite direction, so some days show that there has been progress.

bugglesmummy Tue 22-Oct-13 12:49:32

I have the same problem with my dog pulling he isn't aggressive just wants to play but he's really strong so can make walks a nightmare. I also live in the Staffordshire area and have been given some details by my vet for behaviourists and dog trainers in the area.

I have not tried them yet as I am waiting for one of them to come back off holiday but they are supposed to be really good, although im not sure what the prices are but worth a try if it helps.

There is Sarah Heath 01244 377365 and Jan Hoole 01630 673080 these are the behaviourists I think these come out to you and there is also Craig Flint 01785 664805 think he is an ex police officer who now does one on one training with dogs, he is the one im waiting for as I think he is a bit cheaper.

Hope this helps!

madoldbird Wed 23-Oct-13 11:39:04

My 1 year working cocker tends to pull on the lead, simply because he is so enthusiastic about life! We have tried all the usual things. I normally walk him on the left of me, but due to a sore shoulder the other day, I had to swap him to the right, mid walk. Bizarrely, when I did this, he walked like an absolute angel! I have absolutely no idea why, maybe it was the sudden change that threw him, but it has continued to work since. Now of course I have no idea whether this just works with him, or if it has the same effect on other dogs, but I thought it worth mentioning in case it helos someone elsesmile .

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