The “perfect” walk?

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The “perfect” walk?

Postby DrewBear » Sun Jan 19, 2014 11:15 am

My puppy completed his vaccination series last week and is now able to go for walks. This morning I prepared high-value treats with the intent to keep his attention on me as walk leader. But once we went out the gate, he was focused solely on new scents. I could lure him with a treat, but then it was back to tracking new scents.

I know this is early in the walk training period and I shouldn’t expect a puppy to follow along perfectly on Day one. I’m wondering how many of you even tried to train for the “perfect” walk. You know, the one in all the videos where the dog is in perfect heel as the human walks uninterrupted? Is that even a reasonable goal for a Chow?

What’s so wrong about letting the dog lead and explore? One of the jobs Chows were bred for is hunter, so why not let them do that? They get both physical and mental exercise. Even though I might not get a brisk uninterrupted walk, I still get a walk. This was how I walked my first Chow. I let him explore, but when I tugged a bit on the leash he knew to follow me. Although I was undeniably pack leader, I also gave him some freedom. Is that really so bad?
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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Rory's Dad » Mon Jan 20, 2014 7:15 pm

Not so bad. And it really is about your tolerance level. If you were a 90 lb senior citizen, then a pull behavior would obviously be unacceptable. At a trim 200 lbs with some muscle, it might not be so bad.

A lot of that depends on the dog. My male is a puller. My female is not, she's actually a bit of a lagger. We have to encourage her to keep up.

Really odd, but also something to think about...different collar types. A standard collar on Rory is useless for controlling him. Only slightly better with a chest harness. He will still pull until he is on his rear hinds only. If I put a slip collar (show lead) on him, he doesnt pull at all.

Treat motivation may also work. In our house, a small flavored bit works well for basic comman reinforcement (sit, stay, etc). Outside, it requires an upgraded treat (any cheese for Amber, only Amercian Cheese for Rory). Amber is 100% when baited, Rory is about 50%. Again, once that slip lead goes on, he reacts differently, but she doesn't differentiate quite as much and is more about the treat rather than the situation.

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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby DrewBear » Thu Jan 23, 2014 9:33 am

Although I could physically handle a puller (even an adult), I prefer to train him to be more aware & mindful of the human on the other end of the leash. Eventually other family members will also be walking him. I’ve already bought an easy-walk harness with the leash attachment ring on the front. That presumably will discourage pulling if I haven't succeeded in training him away from that in the next few weeks with a simple collar.

Good point about the need for high-value treats. Fortunately my pup is food motivated, so I have high hopes that I will be able to condition him to pay attention to my lead. Eventually, of course, the reward will be more freedom to explore instead of food treats.

I just read an excerpt from a Cesar Millan book where he makes the case that the human should ALWAYS control the walk. He suggests a period of structured/intentional walking (no sniffing or exploring) followed by a shorter period when you allow exploration. The dog needs to know that you lead the pack; he doesn’t get to decide when it’s time to sniff or walk.

Although I understand the logic behind this, I’m still inclined to allow my Chow more freedom to lead. I think he’ll be smart enough to know when it’s time to obey/follow and when I’ve given him the lead. Right now everything is new to the puppy: scents, sights, sounds, bikes, cars, people talking loudly to themselves, etc. I let him take it all in at his own pace. But at street crossings I make him sit and watch me for approval to cross. We cross together. Occasionally I’ll also start jogging for a stretch and insist that he follow at my side. The other 95% of the time I let him go ahead or lag behind to look, smell, listen, whatever he wants. I’ll wait a suitable amount of time before telling him it’s time to move on.
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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Cocoa » Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:36 am

Sounds like you have a pretty good handle on things. I used the easy walk harness with Cocoa for quite awhile although, now that she is well past the puppy stage, most of the time she is just on a regular collar and leash. The exception to this when there is snow on the ground and it is slippery out, then the easy walk comes back out. The whole heel thing is not that important to me, as long as she isn't pulling I don't really care if she wants to wander and sniff a bit.

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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Laura » Thu Jan 23, 2014 5:29 pm

Walks around here are solely for Shug and Chloe's enjoyment so they are allowed to sniff and explore. This doesn't mean that I let them drag me around, it just means I'm not concerned with heeling and marching by my side like little soldiers. I use a harness on both of them because they outweigh me together and it feels more secure.
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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby DrewBear » Thu Jan 23, 2014 11:51 pm

Cocoa wrote:The whole heel thing is not that important to me, as long as she isn't pulling I don't really care if she wants to wander and sniff a bit.

Laura wrote:Walks around here are solely for Shug and Chloe's enjoyment so they are allowed to sniff and explore. This doesn't mean that I let them drag me around, it just means I'm not concerned with heeling and marching by my side like little soldiers.

Excellent! 8)
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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Tippsy'smom » Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:18 pm

I never touch my purebred girl to walk in a heel possition. She was a puller (thought she was a sled dog) until she was about 10 y/o. Arthritis and old age slowed her down a bit.

My mix boy Jasper has never really been a puller (except in public, he's curious). He mostly walks behind me. I think it's a comfort thing for him. He's always had anxiety issues.

Dixie, my mix girl, has been taught to walk in a heel and focus on me. When she was a puppy, I initially didn't care if she did her own thing or not, but that changed when she started attempting to chase cars. I seriously thought she was gonna pull my arm out of it's socket. I started out trying to use the easy walk harness but it did nothing with her. She continued to pull with it in use. I then tried the "choke chain" and it worked as long as it was kept high on her neck, which was a pain. After that I tried the gentle leader head collar, which honestly worked, but it made her nervous and she became aggressive towards dogs bigger than her. From there I finally tried the prong collar (after being taught how to properly use it (and putting it on my own neck and yanking on it; didn't hurt). She tested it a few times, but that was the greatest training tool I could've invested in. Now, she walks in a heel with a regular harness on and we only use the prong when we go into public as a reminder.

My pom is another I've never even attempted to teach to heel.... He'd like to believe he's a sled dog. Haha!
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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Rory's Dad » Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:50 pm

i will agree with Cocoa, it sounds like you have a pretty good take on things and are heading in the right direction.

With respect to Caesar Milan, as far as i know he has only worked with one Chow...and it didnt fare that well. While his basic theories may be ok, and will work for many breeds, i think he attempts a bully method. And that will not work with Chows.

If you really want your dog at a heal position, and i know not everyone cares whether they are or not, work with a high level treat at your knee. Keep the dog looking back to you for the treat. Get the dog to focus on the potential treat rather than the next tree, shrub, or fire hydrant. Repeated training on the walk with a reward program will get him to focus on you (he should look back to you for clues on where to go, etc). Add in the verbal commands on when he needs to 'go' to teach him the difference between 'business' walks vs. excercise times.

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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby DrewBear » Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:36 am

Tippsy'smom wrote:...I finally tried the prong collar (after being taught how to properly use it...
I used one with my first Chow (it worked!), but am almost certain that we can avoid using it with this pup. It's uncertain how much is due to temperament or training, but this little guy just doesn't seem to pull nearly as much.

Rory's Dad wrote:With respect to Caesar Milan, as far as i know he has only worked with one Chow...and it didnt fare that well. While his basic theories may be ok, and will work for many breeds, i think he attempts a bully method. And that will not work with Chows.

If you really want your dog at a heel position, and i know not everyone cares whether they are or not, work with a high level treat at your knee. Keep the dog looking back to you for the treat. Get the dog to focus on the potential treat rather than the next tree, shrub, or fire hydrant. Repeated training on the walk with a reward program will get him to focus on you (he should look back to you for clues on where to go, etc). Add in the verbal commands on when he needs to 'go' to teach him the difference between 'business' walks vs. excercise times.
I agree some of Cesar's methods, including his ideas on walking, may not be applicable to Chows. I'm selectively picking certain aspects of training methods presented by a wide range of people & sources.

We just happened to start the heel training method you describe in puppy school yesterday. Although I won't be holding him at the heel position for long stretches, I do want him to have that ability when asked. I'm going to start bringing two bags of treats, one with something he can't resist.

Just as an aside, I bought beef liver, pan-fried it and cut into treat size bits. He likes it, but it doesn't grab his attention like some of the store bought stuff the trainers carry. I'm guessing the salt & sugar content in the commercially made treats is what steps up the desirability level. I may try seasoning the next batch of liver I fry.
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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Rory's Dad » Sun Jan 26, 2014 6:36 pm

My dogs love plain old American Cheese over any of the liver baits. Amber likes string cheese, but Rory could care less for that variety. Boiled chicken breast is also a house favorite.

It can take a bit of trial and error to find that ultimate motivator, but 99% of dogs will have one.

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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Ursa's daddy » Wed Feb 05, 2014 7:41 pm

Laura
I use a harness on both of them because they outweigh me together and it feels more secure.

I also recommend a harness. That is what I always use in public. When Ursa was little, she would back up when on a walk and slip out of a collar. She could not slip out of the harness. Currently I am fostering a dog. He is a 2yo chow Samoyed mix who I think was simply left tied out. He did not know how to properly walk on lead, would back out of a collar, and would pull. With the harness, he can pull, but cannot back out, and I can grab it like a piece of luggage and lift his front feed off the ground without causing any physical distress. That gives you a lot of control if you really need it. I also have a leash with a loop at the clip which keeps the dog right at my side. I talk a lot to the dogs when we walk. I think it is encouraging and comforting for them. It may be that I just really like to hear my own voice, but they seem to go along with it. Practice is also the key. And like most everyone else, I don't care if they heel or not. They can smell things and look around just as long as we go in the desired direction. I will stop if they pull, and I will stop and wait until they get their act together. I try to show that I am not happy if they don't want to go in the correct direction, but if they are doing right, I praise them.

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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Pinoy51 » Wed Feb 05, 2014 9:45 pm

Agree with Ursa's Daddy and most of the other posts.
I have now three pulling Chows. One aspect of the walk I have to take serious now, is to calm everyone down from the excitment that we will go for a walk. Otherwise the first five minutes are pure chaos with each dog pulling in a different direction.
I have everyone sit, even if it takes several minutes and then I start the walk ahead of them.
The first minutes are a natural walk only as they want to move, later in the walk we take sniff breaks as they like, but I give direction and tell when to start walking again.
All have harnesses, I just don't like the idea of choking and pulling in the neck area.
In terms of training Sally was never before in a harness and her initial problem wasn't pulling but freezing. She got scared and didn't want to move at all. The harness and gently pulling up the front legs got her out of the fear.
Now she is as eager to move ahead as the other two.
As everyone agrees Chows aren't meant to heel. But we can't let them rule the walk either. As usual with this guys "give and take" works best, don't waste your authority on the small stuff but put your foot down when it counts and praise when things are going fine. So far that practise has made us a a good team
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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Cindy J » Wed Feb 26, 2014 12:32 pm

I teach a heel position and and use it in very short increments. An actual heel with focus on me when walking is strenuous on their necks and rather tedious. But it is a nice command to incorporate when crossing the street. A short heel, then a release for "free" walking and exploring on the leash.

I do not allow pulling. A simple change of direction will have them moving better with me. (even if I get nowhere because we spend the first few sessions walking in big circles) :roll: As soon as one of the dogs begins to pull I change directions.

I like to let puppies explore more, but stop them short of pulling. Pulling at 3-4 months is not too bad, but once they put on some weight/muscle they could drag me right into the bayou while chasing a wild critter. :shock:
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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Ursa's daddy » Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:15 pm

I do not allow pulling. A simple change of direction will have them moving better with me. (even if I get nowhere because we spend the first few sessions walking in big circles) :roll: As soon as one of the dogs begins to pull I change directions.
That changing direction doesn't get you anywhere fast, but it is a great training method. I have used it on the dog I am fostering. I was told to put a handful of treats in my pocket and give them out if he would walk beside me. Unfortunately, Harvey lose all focus on me and is into the great wide world. A 90 degree turn in direction at least gets his attention. I got really frustrated with him, and we zigzag around the yard for maybe an hour. The next time my wife had him on lead, he was a lot better. We still have a lot of work to do, but as long as there is slack in the leash, I am not critical about how he walks.

I do have a question for Cindy J, what bayou are they going to drag you off into? I am over here in Gulfport, MS, and it doesn't sound like you could be too far away.

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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Cindy J » Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:13 am

Ursa's daddy wrote:I do have a question for Cindy J, what bayou are they going to drag you off into? I am over here in Gulfport, MS, and it doesn't sound like you could be too far away.


I am outside of Houston. We live far enough outside the city limits that they have not concreted the banks. It is great walking the banks and watching turtles and egrets. However the occasional coyote darting out of the tall grass will have all the dogs forgetting they ever had any training. The same goes for skunks... :shock:
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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby Ursa's daddy » Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:27 am

The egrets would get Ursa's attention and she would talk about ithem. Turtles would also get some attention. The whole point of the walk in the country is just to exercise the dogs and have them loosely follow on lead. They are pretty good and voice commands keep them more or less in line. I got two 20 ft training leads for them, and have found that I end up holding all but about 5 ft of it most of the time. I have a 6 ft leash with two loops, one is at the snap. I use it on my foster when I take all three out together. I have to keep him next to me so that he learns how to walk. He is learning.

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Re: The “perfect” walk?

Postby DrewBear » Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:13 am

Ursa's daddy wrote:I was told to put a handful of treats in my pocket and give them out if he would walk beside me. Unfortunately, Harvey lose all focus on me and is into the great wide world.

The treats (highest level possible for your particular dog) might work 99% of the time. But if a distraction (squirrel, another dog, bird, etc.) enters the scene...

I know that it's better to avoid using a retractable leash since it may teach a puppy to pull. I think my 19 week old pup has already learned the no-pull walk, so I'm going to start using a light weight retractable leash to try and teach "stop" when he starts to chase something.
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