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Chocolate labrador HELP

(23 Posts)
ElsieMc Sun 20-Apr-14 17:22:49

My daughter has had her choc lab for around seven months. He is a big dog, strong willed and terrible for pulling on the lead. I took him out today and I simply could not hold him. Before I go further, we have had a choc lab bitch for ten years and she is absolutely fine, went to dog training and is sweet natured.

I do not know if it is because he is a male, but this is a whole different ball game. She has tried a variety of leads, training etc and has even had the breeder round to see him, take him out etc. He suggested a rope choke type lead and using a whistle for recall etc. This lead snapped the second time used.

He walks well off the lead and has a pleasant nature but even my six foot plus son in law is struggling with him. He is fed the raw food diet and is well exercised.

Can anyone suggest where she is going wrong this time?

daisydotandgertie Sun 20-Apr-14 17:55:40

He needs to learn a whole new way of walking on the lead.

Unfortunately, for a dog, pulling is a self reinforcing behaviour. They pull and get where they want to go which = top result for the dog. He needs to unlearn the habit which is going to take time and ideally training.

What sort of training has she done so far? How does she try and stop him pulling? Where, roughly in the country does she live and what is his breeding? Working or show?

SpicyPear Sun 20-Apr-14 17:55:58

What training method has she been using to tackle the pulling, other than the rope slip lead? It's hard to know what is going wrong without knowing what she has been doing.

ender Sun 20-Apr-14 18:09:14

Kikopup's video on loose leash walking worked great for our lab. He always pulled a bit but got really bad when he was about 9 months old.
It took 4 months, such a relief to finally be able to go for relaxing lead walks. We did a couple of short lead training sessions a day and took him in the car to places for off lead exercise. You just have to keep at it and never let him get anywhere by pulling. There's no quick fix.

lainiekazan Sun 20-Apr-14 18:27:03

The kikopup woman has a miniscule dog!

I thought I had trained my dog not to pull, doing all the approved training techniques. Now he has started to pull really terribly, pulling me over, dislocating my shoulder and making going for walks a misery. Ignores food. If I try to change direction, he lies on the ground and won't move until he feels like it.

I have gone back to walking him round the garden - clicking and treating - and he is absolutely fine. One step outside the front gate and he turns into a horrible delinquent. If there is a solution I'm desperate to hear it.

Lettucesnow Sun 20-Apr-14 18:48:56

A figure of eight lead would be my choice. Stopping or changing direction as soon as he thinks he can walk in front. Stand tall, relax your arm and leave it low as often as you can. Patience and reward quickly with small sausage or chicken pieces for correct behaviour.

ElsieMc Sun 20-Apr-14 19:05:48

Thankyou for your responses. She has applied the basic training to heel with commands she learned for our lab bitch at dog training classes. It has worked to a degree as he will sit on command, lie and stay on command and has good re-call off lead. She has not used clicker training and the breeder suggested use of a whistle. Interestingly, when he took him out he walked well with him.

We are in the NW, the breeder is reputable and does not have too many litters. I think the problem (and I could be wrong) is that he has moved from breeding "show" type labs to working labradors. Could this be the problem?

He is very strong on retrieving and will become obsessed with retrieving sticks. On a long walk last weekend I removed one from him and stood on it and he actually managed to lift my weight he is so strong.
Because he is good off lead, she is giving in and allowing this so his bad behaviour is rewarded.

Lainiekazan - you have summed him up - I am sorry to hear this. Our dog hurt my daughter's back today. I have underplayed how bad he is.

I hope this sheds more light on the situation.

daisydotandgertie Sun 20-Apr-14 19:40:14

I'm not clear what you mean when you say is the breeder changing type of labrador the problem?

ender Sun 20-Apr-14 19:40:43

lainiekazan - is your dog a lab? They're impossible to shift if they don't want to move. Mine used to do the lying on the ground trick when he didn't fancy the direction we were going in. Used to drive me mad, at first I'd bribe him with cheese but then he started walking just a couple of steps then refuse to move again till he had more cheese angry.
In the end I stopped all treats and just stood there ignoring him, looking at my phone etc. We were there for 20 mins, people walking past saying 'Poor dog, he's tired" etc. Eventually he got bored and stood up to walk. There were a few shorter lie downs after that then he stopped doing it.

madwomanbackintheattic Sun 20-Apr-14 19:53:27

Lol, Elsie - I have both types of lab, and the 'show' lab is the puller. grin our 'working' lab is totally lame...

Def down to personality, not 'type'.

We like the ezy-dog harnesses and leads. They don't cure the problem, but they make it easier to hold the dog whilst you are using other training methods (the slightly elasticised lead means it absorbs some of the force so that you can brace, stop and get the dog back under control. We had good success with just stopping as soon as the dog pulled. And restarting. ANd then immediately stopping if they pull. It takes hours to start with, but is effective in the longer term.

I am lolling at ender's dog. I love labs, they are so funny.

Both mine are stick obsessed. One is also ball-obsessed.

ElsieMc Sun 20-Apr-14 20:08:36

Thanks everyone. Madwoman, I thought a working type might mean it was more determined to retrieve! Clearly not.... Will pass on the ezy-dog harness info on as this would be a start.

daisydotandgertie Sun 20-Apr-14 20:27:20

OK - I have a number of thoughts.

There are very, very few truly working chocolate labradors - and those that are truly working are highly sought after - leading to very long waiting lists and quite high prices. I guess it is more likely your daughter's chocolate is showbred (ties in with him being a big dog, working types are usually less heavy) with an injection of working ability from somewhere.

There is absolutely no chance that his breeding - whatever it is - is responsible for his pulling.

Your daughter is responsible for it - entirely, unfortunately. She is letting him get away with a behaviour - and for him, every time he pulls, he is reinforcing to himself how well it works. In the dog's head, the behaviour is working. Every time. He is pulling and getting where he wants to go. So he'll keep on doing it.

My first step would be to stop putting him on a lead to go anywhere. Drive to a walk. Break the cycle of pulling hard = lovely long running about walk. Dogs make links really, really quickly.

Start some intensive training - it matters not at all what lead you use, and harnesses, in my view just make it more comfortable to pull. It's no coincidence that harnesses are used by sledge dogs and horses. Spend 10 minutes, every day square bashing on the lead. Use treats as a lure to keep him at heel - and use the work heel as a positive instruction, not as a bollocking. Train somewhere neutral - if it's away from home, drive there, and don't use the place you take him for a walk.

Also don't hype it up before you go. Matter of fact, and not a single clue before you go. Not a 'come on then'', or a particular coat or lead, nothing. Start afresh and separate it entirely from the walk. Completely.

And most importantly of all, don't allow him to pull. I always, always spin around, change direction - anything to surprise - at the first hint of a young dog pulling. The same applies to your daughter's nine month old.

It does sound as though his brain isn't well used - the stick obsession points to it. Labradors have active, sponge like brains and using them via training of some sort really helps with their behaviour.

basildonbond Sun 20-Apr-14 21:14:52

Are you sure he actually knows what the word 'heel'
means? Your daughter needs to make sure she's only saying 'heel' when he's actually doing it. I'm working on dpup's heel work at the moment and spend 'training walks' constantly saying 'heel, good heel, nice heel' ad infinitum with lots and lots of rewards. If I'm in a hurry and don't have time to concentrate really hard on this then I stick him in the car and we drive to the park so he can't practise pulling. Also make sure you go to different places and use different routes to get there.

Dpup is improving dramatically but it is hard work and you do have to concentrate on it

affafantoosh Sun 20-Apr-14 21:19:46

Two things:

Get a harness with a D-ring at the chest. Attach the lead to the D-ring. Dog can no longer pull.

Look at Sophia Yin's video series on loose leash walking.

TwelveLeggedWalk Sun 20-Apr-14 21:26:13

We use a gentle leader on our big dog. I have done shed loads of training with him, but he forgets himself/gets distracted/has days when he just wants to be a naughty wee fucker, and he is bloody strong. I also sometimes need of get somewhere, or be walking with the buggy, and so can't spend an hour stop/start/changing direction - although I've done plenty of that too. Gentle leader on means he has to walk nicely. Lead clipped straight to collar means he's going offload pretty much imminently or swimming. He knows the diffence.

mumofthemonsters808 Sun 20-Apr-14 21:31:54

Excellent advice from Daisydo, no gadget will solve this problem and unless you go right back to basics, this problem will just escalate as he grows bigger and stronger. Young Labradors require a lot of perseverance and determination on the owners part but you will get there. I also found that my Lab (when he was younger) knew who he could take the piss out off, he would pull me like a steam train but walk like a lamb for our dog walker. Your post rings many bells for me but we did manage to turn things around, it can be done.

tabulahrasa Sun 20-Apr-14 21:38:03

Actually 'gadgets' are useful when you're at the point of a dog being still need to put in the work, but if a headcollar or a front fastening harness will be the difference between managing or not, then they absolutely are worth using.

Booboostoo Mon 21-Apr-14 08:44:44

A couple of things:

1. The heel command is different from the walking on the lead command. Heel means stick your nose right next to my leg and stay there until I release you while I walk, stop, walk fast, etc. Walk on the lead means walk on a loose lead roughly next to me so that the lead is never tight. The Kikopup technique works wonders, I have never seen a dog that it has not worked on, but it is quite tough for the owners to apply it consistently. For those of you who find that the lead work goes out the window as soon as you step out the door, apply the Kikopup techinique for that first step. You may spend two weeks on your front doorstep but it is worth it, once the dog understands that you will apply the technique consistently come hell or high water they give into it.

2. Walking on the lead is not something you can use a whistle to teach. A whistle is a way of recalling a dog. It is a way of issuing commands, instead of saying "Dog come" you use the whistle and the dog returns. The dog has to be taught to return to the signal of the whistle, although for some dogs the whistle is a good way of attracting their attention and breaking them off from the scent they were following in the first place.

3. Is your DD attending any training classes from a qualified trainer? A positive rewards oriented trainer would be a good idea. A choke collar is not a way of stopping a dog pulling, it's a traning aid based on punishment, i.e. the dog pulls, you choke him, he learns not to pull. Personally I prefer positive reward methods as they work very well and see no need for things like choke collars, but if your DD wants to use one she needs to be trained on when to apply it and when to release it.

4. If you want to overcome the problem rather than solve it, try differnt types of walking aids, like nose halters or body harneses. Body harnesses whose lead attaches under the front legs tend to be very successful even with large dogs pulling.

ElsieMc Mon 21-Apr-14 08:50:57

Much thanks for helpful responses everyone. This gives us something to work on and I will meet with my daughter today.

ProudAsPunch92 Mon 21-Apr-14 18:16:58

Buy a Halti whilst in training. They are so good. They go around their nose so A) they don't pull your arm out of socket when they pull (you can pull them back with one finger literally) and B) they are kinder to the dog than constant pulling on their collar. They go around their nose like a head collar a horse would have.

My chocolate lab is a bitch but is built like a boy (she is a chunky "show type" and is massive! When teaching her to walk to heel we would give a short sharp tug of the lead and say heel. Big pulls on the lead aren'te effective, it has to be a short, sharp tug.

Also, the way to a lab's brain is definitely through their belly...

SpicyPear Mon 21-Apr-14 21:00:53

Booboo has given some very good advice. I don't actually think a command is the best approach to loose lead walking. You don't want to have to ask for it, the dog needs to learn that whenever they are on lead, the lead is loose.

For about two weeks when my youngest dog was small we didn't make it past the end of the garden gate on lead. The only way with a dedicated established puller is to make sure it never pays off for them. Simultaneously you can show them how you do want them to walk and what will work for them.

daisydotandgertie Tue 22-Apr-14 08:59:00

It's interesting - the difference between disciplines with dogs and our expectations. My dogs are working Gundogs - and trial a little too, so our interpretation of the heel command is different to Booboo's.

For me, heel applies whether on lead or off and in both cases it means walk to my left, about 2 feet from my leg.

Personally, I also train them to walk slightly ahead of me so I can actually see them - otherwise they are lost behind my boobs. In the work my dogs do, heel in the obedience/agility mould - where a dog is nose to leg would mean me falling over the dog and probably breaking bits on both them and me. They would fail heartily in the nose to leg heel - but for me, what they do is perfect.

Horses for courses, really but to me it's interesting!

Booboostoo Tue 22-Apr-14 17:22:42

Of course daisy I hadn't thought of that! I gave the OP the obedience definition of 'heel' which is the thing most people will get taught in addition to loose lead walking in a basic training class. My agility dog had a left and a right 'loose' heel command so she could approach obstacles from either way, as well as a 'tight' heel command on the left stuck to me for her obedience work, and we also spent ages when she was a puppy on the Kikopup no pulling on the lead technique to sort that one out!

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