Page 1 of 1

"No-Pull" Training

Posted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 7:26 pm
by IliamnasQuest
To follow on from the collar discussion ..

The use of a special collar or harness is, in my estimation as a trainer, something that you use in order to set your dog up to give you the behaviors you want. When we're talking about a prong collar or head halter or no-pull harness, they're each designed to keep the dog from pulling. But that doesn't teach the dog not to pull - it only teaches the dog not to pull when wearing those particular items.

So the training of the behavior falls directly in our laps. We need to be very observant with our dogs. We need to see when they give us what we want. In this case, it would be when they don't pull (which the collar/harness sets them up for). We have to take that opportunity to mark the behavior and reward it.

By "mark the behavior" I mean that you need to have a particular sound or word that specifically tells the dog "at this very moment in time, you are doing what I want you to do" and the dog pays attention to that because the marker is ALWAYS followed by a reward. You can use a clicker to mark the behavior or you can use a word or sound. If you use a word, it MUST be something that you don't use at other times .. it has to be unique to the training only. In my case, I use "YES!!" but it's said in a very happy enthusiastic tone, specifically used for training. I draw out the "SSS" sound too. It's not at all like I say "yes" in normal conversation. And every time - without exception - that I say "YES!!" I follow it with a treat or some other reward. It's extremely important that the dog always knows that the reward marker is followed by a reward. If you stop doing this, the reward marker loses its power.

So what I do in training is I first never let the dog pull me. Anytime you walk out of your door and your dog is at the end of the leash ahead of you, leash tight, then you are essentially teaching the dog that pulling is okay. Is it then fair to the dog that you punish him another time for pulling? No, I don't think so. If we humans can't be aware of when the pulling is happening except for when it inconveniences us, then how are we to expect that the dog will understand when the pulling is okay and when it isn't? So - first rule - never let the dog pull.

If I go out the door with Khana and she goes to the end of the leash, I give her a warning .. "easy!" .. and if she starts to pull, I stop my forward motion. She doesn't get to go where she wants to go if she's pulling. It really doesn't take long for most dogs to understand this.

The difficulty comes when you are in an area with a lot of high-level distractions (other dogs, people, squirrels, moose, etc.). Then it really helps if you have something on that keeps the dog from pulling. But that means you also have to be alert to those non-pulling times so you can mark and reinforce that behavior, especially if they voluntarily come to you and give you attention.

It really helps if you do attention training prior to loose leash walking (or in conjunction with it). You can see the steps for attention training on my website ( This gives the dog a default behavior - looking at your face. It's really handy to have this ingrained into your dog for all levels and types of training. I refresh the attention training on all my dogs periodically so that it remains a strong behavior.

Another tip on teaching loose leash walking is to first practice in an area with little or no distractions (like in your house). Then gradually add in more distractions. I work my young dogs in store parking lots. I start off way out in the parking lot and over a period of days or weeks gradually move in until I can walk right outside the door of the store without my dog pulling. This really is effective. And I go to dog training classes for the exposure to other dogs and training for "no pull" around dogs. That's usually the toughest situation as my dogs tend to be very social.

Be consistent, persistent, kind and fair in your training and your dogs will respond!

Melanie and the gang in Alaska

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 2:58 pm
by chowfrnd88
:lol: Melanie, it's so funny for me sitting here in MD to read "other dogs, people, squirrels, moose, etc." as high level distractions!! I'm looking over at Special and I know he's be in heaven if a moose was also a distraction here!! That put such a huge smile on my face. :D

I've been doing exactly what you suggested in loose leash training (both stopping when he pulls, and rewarding when he's walking calmly) and you know what... Special can walk for a very long time right beside us not pulling (even before we switched to the harness), but the second we praise and reward, he looks back at us over his shoulder like "oh no, was I being good again?!!!" :shock: Then he stops wlaking nicely and dashes out ahead. The longer we wait to reward, the longer he stays with us. Do you think that he feels that since he got the reward, the task is over? Or is he baiting us for more reward?

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 3:22 pm
by willowchow
Willow does the same thing! As soon as I say, "good job, Willow" or something like that she looks back, smiles and picks up her pace. It's like she thinks that the praise marks when she can stop behaving, if that makes sense.

I just wanted to also say that I did teach her to walk without pulling just simply by stopping when she pulled. And, it did work nicely.

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 7:01 pm
by TiVo's Mom
Melanie, thanks that was excellent and really helpful. I also had to laugh when I read your list of example of high level distractions. A moose really would be a distraction here in NW Indiana but TiVo pulling would be the least of my worries if that happened! I'm excited when I see a chipmunk. I was also wondering, when training a six month old chow how frequently and for what length of time do you recommend the training sessions be. I want them to be fun for him so thought perhaps it would be better to do shorter sessions, say 10 to 15 minutes?

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 9:08 pm
by IliamnasQuest
It's common for the praise or reward to mark the end of the behavior - we usually set our dogs up for that. If you think about how a sit is often taught: the dog sits and we say "good!" or whatever our marker is and then we give the treat and play with the dog. We do the same thing with other commands. Once we give the treat or praise or whatever the reward is, we end the behavior.

So it's not surprising when the dogs think that the praise means they are free to do what they want. There are ways to deal with this. You can use "keep going" words. I say these in a very smooth flowing tone and I draw out the words. "Gooooood ... that's what I like ... eeeeeasy .. " all said in a relatively low, very calm voice. My reward marker, on the other hand, is a happy enthusiastic "YES!!!" and that results in a reward (usually a treat) and then if I want them to resume the behavior I have to give another command or cue.

So when you're walking on a loose leash and you give praise that results in the dog pulling again, you should really take a look at what you're saying and how you can change it to be "keep-going" words instead of a reward marker. And when you do give your reward marker, follow it immediately with the reward and then set the dog up to understand that they're to walk on a loose leash again.

While WE understand that we'd like them to keep the leash loose all of the time, the reality is that almost all of us allow them to pull at times and so the dog really doesn't know when it's allowed to pull and not allowed. Unless you're so consistent that you never let your dog move forward with a tight leash, you are definitely giving some mixed signals (and I mess up too, so I'm including myself in that!). Because I know that on occasion we end up with a tight leash and I don't stop like I should, I have put the no-pull behavior on cue and I have to use that cue ("easy" or "don't pull") when we head out. If I give a reward, then I have to say the no-pull cue again so that the dog knows we're still doing it. Otherwise they will think that the behavior has ended.

Clear as mud, hmmm? *LOL*

I had to throw the "moose" in there - knew that most of you would find that funny! I'm waiting to see if Tracy (up north of me) notices that. She'll understand what I'm talking about. The moose are so common here. I actually was able to get Khana out for some on-leash training with a moose in the yard the other day. It was a nice calm young moose who has come to visit several times, and she grazed while Khana and I walked about 50 feet away. I gave lots of praise for ignoring it and she did really well.

We all have to take advantage of the distractions we can find!

Melanie and the gang in Alaska

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:13 pm
by willowchow
Thank you Melanie. It makes sense that when she hears "good" she thinks she's all done. I'm going to use something else. And, yes, I do sometimes let the leash tighten for a minute or two and then I'll say something like, "that's enough, walk nice." Thanks!!

Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 4:43 am
by chris
I have been using your style of training and tips from your web site too Melonie. I have to admit though, I have not been consistant, My bad...Call me lazy...but Im working on that. Trying to get into a rutine. (sp?) If it isn't raining I try and walk Steel for 2-3 miles in the early morning. But.. it has been raining.. or just to darn muggy and hot.

OH, question. I have a problem with Steel darting out the door every time someone comes over. AND, there is one paticular boy that he does NOT LIKE. (maybe he senses that the kid is going to be trouble later in life or something.. and the boy is very hyper) anyway, Steel showed his teeth at him, I only saw this because I was walking in the door after the boy. Steel has never done that before. And, he warned the boy with a silent snap of the jaws in the air. They boy didnt seem to care and walked wright past him into the house. Steel leaves him alone once he is inside, but its kaos at the door. Any suggestions?

Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 1:10 pm
by Victory
Steel may very well sense something not right in the boy. It's a fact that chows don't like people who are on drugs, alcohol or are somewhat disturbed. Or are afraid and trying to hide it. Firesong lunged at some guy while we were on our walk a week ago, the guy just smiled and said, "pretty dogs" I have no idea what he was on, but it had to be something, she's little but still!

Anyway, I teach my furred companions, (I say that because it counts for the cats I've had too), to sit stay when I go to the door, and a good 3-4 feet from the door too. I also teach them "back" if they are at the door already, (like laying against it) when someone knocks or I want to leave. When I go to open the door for any reason, if they are there I tell the "back" and they move away, I repeat it until they are where I want them, then I tell them to sit and stay. When whoever comes in, or I return then they get their reward.

And we go out for walks they have to sit to get their leashes on and then we leave.

It's all in teaching them what you want them to do and encourageing that behavior like Melanie says.

It's harder when they are wound up, right not Firesong is so wound up she's almost impossible. She's just got too much energy for the slow pace that Darkwind is confined to right now. Add that to the hot and humid weather and it's not good for her to run outside anyway. I might take her into the hallway tonight and let her her toys. We have to remember that pent up energy will make them abandon all training as well.

Sorry I'm kind of rambling because I'm stuck at work...over half my team is out this week, so I'm stuck.

Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 4:56 pm
by chris
well, I guess... or I better try to get him to stay.. at the back end of the foyer when I go to answer the door.. I will say "back" and hopefully, when I am coming in the door if I say that he will go to the "disignated spot?"....

Im sure this is going to take a while.

ps. my thoughts are with you victory. :-)

Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 5:50 pm
by 3blackchows
I have never experienced anything like I have w/ Gorman. I never had a issue training the previous chows & Onyx & Irish have done wonderful; Gorman does not have any attention span whatsoever. He is food driven so that is a bonus; however I take him to area without distractions
because if he hears the others or sees the cat, it's over,
lord help me if it's a fly or bug. It took me 3 weeks to get him to learn to sit. He does ok w/ stay, he freaks anytime the leash is nearby. Vet said put the leash on him for a few minutes & each day let it stay on him longer & he'll get used to it. Well that didn't work, because the cat saw it as a toy as did Irish. I went to pet store & got a short lead, I think it's like 3 feet, that didn't work either. Gorman will let me put a harness on him & then I put the extract a lead (or whatever that rope burning joy of a thing is called) & he does ok. Any advise?

Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 10:54 pm
by IliamnasQuest
Chris -

There are a couple of things you can do. You can work on teaching Steel to stay back from the door, but it needs to be a structured training ritual and not just hoping he'll stay back. What might work best is to take a small throw rug and teach him to go to his rug. You'll have to start by taking him to his rug, having him sit or down on it and then praising and giving the treat. Put a cue word on it "to your rug" or something similar, and gradually start working a bit farther from the rug. Don't go far at first - a foot away, until he's consistent in going to it from that distance, and then gradually farther.

Then you have an actual command he's been taught to use at the door. Have the rug somewhere nearby so he can go to it and yet still watch the door, and then set him up by having someone knock at the door (or ring the bell) so you can send him to his rug. You may have to help him at first because he will be very distracted by the knock. But if you are persistent and do it over and over it will eventually work.

Training when the dog is hungry is always better.

As far as the grumbling or snapping goes - I wouldn't just let that happen. He evidently doesn't like the boy for some reason but he shouldn't have the right to act bad when you (the ALPHA) said it was okay for the kid to come in. What I usually do is say something like "Knock it off!" and then distract the dog onto something else. It would be best if this kid didn't come into your house unless you were right there to deal with Steel, though. If Steel is already snapping jaws at him, it's likely it could escalate to an actual bite. And I'm sure you'd like to avoid that.

You may also need to raise your expectations for Steel and take away some privileges so that he accepts your leadership more. This makes simple corrections like "knock it off" much more effective.

Melanie and the gang

Posted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 4:35 am
by chris
K.. I'll will go shopping for a RUG this weekend. (need to get paid ;-) ) and will start that ASAP. Thanks for the advice Melanie. Your the best.

Posted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 7:06 am
by chowfrnd88
Thanks Melanie! I will work on the "keep going" words with Special. :D