My thoughts on life

June 3, 2008 Pets

Walking Ludo

Ludo has gotten quite large, and being a highly excitable puppy with a strong herding instinct, he was a ‘puller’ on the leash from the very first walk we ever took. When he weighed 30 lbs and poor motor control, this wasn’t a big deal, except the human at the other end of the leash had to listen to the strangled sounds of a puppy choking himself. As he’s gotten older, he’s also started lunging at cars, bikers, other people walking, etc. The combination of pulling, lunging and being a big strong dog was making it nearly impossible to take walks with him, so we finally decided to train it out of him.

The first major step was to get a harness for walking. This means less choking, plus he can slip out of his collar. On top of that any tension on his neck makes him instinctively pull harder. We bought the harness to transport him more safely in the car, because we can restrict his movements without the risk of severe neck injury in the event we have to stop suddenly. Once I realized that as he pulls I can pull back and lift his front legs a bit off the ground, enough for him to lose traction, I decided walks will be in a harness from now on.

Second, Ethan and I watched a lot of training tips on TV (It’s Me Or The Dog, The Dog Whisperer), and read up online and in our dog training book. Having tips in hand we decided to skip walking on the sidewalks for now, until he gets better about leash walking and we have better control over lunging and take walks in the park.

Almost everything I read suggested that you turn a dog around when they’re pulling, teaching them that pulling in one direction doesn’t get them where they want to go. I tried this for about 20 minutes on a vacant stretch of path. We made it about 10 feet, back and forth, back and forth. Apparently, Ludo would just like to be moving, so that didn’t work.

Next I switched to stopping when he pulled. This led to an unpleasant session of Tug-o-War on the leash, but once Ludo calmed down, we were able to progress very, very slowly into more highly trafficked areas of the park. By the end of our 1 hour walk, we were able to go for stretches of several yards without pulling. He was still having a lot of trouble with lunging though.

On our second training walk, a few days later, he got back into the groove of not pulling much more quickly, and was able to walk past some people and bikers without lunging. Large groups, particularly fast bikers, and people with dogs, are still challenging.

Today, Ludo walked with Ethan holding the leash, and it seems ‘No Pulling!’ transfers pretty well from person to person. I’m hoping that soon we’ll both be able to walk him past obstacles/distractions without him turning into a frantic, leaping, barking lunatic, but it seems he is making very swift progress, so hopefully that day will come soon.