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Inconsistent Leash-Pulling Monster! Help!


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Our greyhound girl is a terrible leash puller. I know this is a topic covered many times and I've read up a lot about it...but I'm still confused about the best way to handle it specific to our greyhound. The problem is she's very inconsistent — sometimes she's perfectly well-behaved on a leash but more often than not she's a terrible pulling monster and there seems to be no pattern whatsoever why/when she'll walk good or bad.

 

She has a very very high prey drive which I know is another issue entirely so I'm speaking about leash pulling when she's NOT spotted prey and is otherwise walking with no prey distractions. She pulls out of excitement from smelling something interesting, wanting to stop all the time, wanting to go for a car ride (even in stranger's cars), spotting people or children (she LOVES everybody), to look at any foreign object on the sidewalk, and sometimes when she sees other dogs. As an added bonus, she weighs more than half of what I do so when she wants to go in another direction it's sometimes physically impossible to stop her.

 

I know consistency is key with any sort of training. But we're getting frustrated at how to be consistent if we don't even know what we're doing wrong or right? She's very smart and otherwise reacts very well to commands/reprimands EXCEPT about leash pulling. So is this an alpha dog issue or just a stimuli-overload issue? And why then does she walk good one day, bad the next? Is there some pattern we're missing seeing or should we escalate this to formal obedience training/harness or gentle leader/etc? We've only had her about a year but we've made such positive progress with all her other issues. Stopping the leash pulling is the one thing we can't seem to get consistent, positive momentum with.

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Sounds like overstimulation. I would try out formal training as it sounds like you could do with some advice from a professional. I have found that training in a safe environment has really helped Mouse so far, she is tiny so her pulling is not so much of a physical problem for me but her reactive behaviours were certainly not socially acceptable. I think the training venue was a nice intermediate step between training at home and training out in the big wide world.

 

I am flat out against using gentle leaders on greyhounds because it puts pressure on the neck, which is not great in a grey, and if she forgets about it and tries to run she could injure herself.

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I have a puller too, and like your girl, he walks perfectly sometimes and pulls other times. The pulling starts when he's trying to get to something he wants (another dog, a smell, certain people). We made very good progress with obedience classes. There, we worked a lot on focus training ("look at me" and "look at that"). So now, when we encounter a distraction, I can usually get his focus back to me before he goes over-threshold. If there are no distractions present and the dog is pulling just to be in front, there's a different training regimen you can use. Give her a little slack on the leash, and whenever she starts pulling forward, either (1) stop dead in your tracks and don't move until the leash goes slack again, or (2) turn on your heels and walk in the other direction. When she comes back to the heel position, reward her ("good girl!" and treat) then continue on. Work on this first in a place with minimal distractions, like inside your house or yard. Then, gradually work up to more challenging situations. For awhile, you may look crazy to your neighbors, because you'll be stopping/turning A LOT. The other part about the training is consistency. If you do this training with every walk, every single time, the dog eventually learns that pulling doesn't reward her in any way.

 

I would recommend obedience class to anybody, even dogs that don't necessarily have any problems. The challenge for you may be finding a class without small dogs, as it will be quite difficult to maintain focus if she gets hyperfixated on a small dog. As for training tools, I also do not recommend head harnesses like Gentle Leader or Halti. They're only tools- they don't solve the root problem of focus and impulse control. If you feel like you have to use a training tool to give yourself more control, I like the WWW Freedom No-Pull Harness clipped in front. When we started obedience training, I worked Truman on a harness at first. For the first few classes, I leashed him on the harness. Then after that, he continued to wear the harness, but I leashed him on his martingale. Finally we removed the harness from the equation altogether. It's important to make sure you do a combination of training + training tool (which unfortunately, most people don't do).

 

 

The last thing that I did which seemed to help was to pre-exercise my boy before walks. He came to us at 15-weeks-old, so we went through all the typical puppy behaviors. But even at age 2, I found that walks don't cut it. He need much more exercise than other greyhounds. If your girl is the same way, try tossing her some toys around the yard first. Let her do some hard running first to get it out of her system.

 

 

Good luck!

Edited by a_daerr
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Sounds like overstimulation. I would try out formal training as it sounds like you could do with some advice from a professional. I have found that training in a safe environment has really helped Mouse so far, she is tiny so her pulling is not so much of a physical problem for me but her reactive behaviours were certainly not socially acceptable. I think the training venue was a nice intermediate step between training at home and training out in the big wide world.

 

I am flat out against using gentle leaders on greyhounds because it puts pressure on the neck, which is not great in a grey, and if she forgets about it and tries to run she could injure herself.

 

 

... I would recommend obedience class to anybody, even dogs that don't necessarily have any problems. The challenge for you may be finding a class without small dogs, as it will be quite difficult to maintain focus if she gets hyperfixated on a small dog. As for training tools, I also do not recommend head harnesses like Gentle Leader or Halti. They're only tools- they don't solve the root problem of focus and impulse control. ...

 

 

Thanks to both of you for the advice. She definitely isn't looking/focusing on us when we walk and it sounds like obidience classes could really help with that. I'll avoid the Halti as suggested but check out harness options. Although she has a high prey drive, luckily she gets along well with small dogs (at least at the dog park) so hopefully it shouldn't be too much a challenge finding an obedience class we can go to.

 

We've tried the stop-in-your-tracks technique a little before but will try to be more consistent with it knowing now that the technique has worked for others! Thanks again.

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We also include a short training brochure with the Freedom harness (2 Hounds Design is the manufacturer of the Freedom harness) that will give you some starting points to start working with your girl and I am happy to work with you as well.

 

I will tell you the number 1 piece of advice we give is the stop walking and turn in the other direction when she pulls, reward her when she is walking with a loose leash.

 

You can see the harness at http://www.2houndsdesign.com/Freedom-No-Pull-Harness/

2 Hounds Design Martingale Collars | 2 Hounds Design Facebook Page

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I will tell you the number 1 piece of advice we give is the stop walking and turn in the other direction when she pulls, reward her when she is walking with a loose leash.

 

 

 

This is the one thing that seems to be working with Payton's pulling.

61bd4941-fc71-4135-88ca-2d22dbd4b59a_zps

Payton, The Greyhound (Palm City Pelton) and Toby, The Lab
Annabella and Julietta, The Cats
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The behavior isn't getting better because she's constantly getting reinforced for doing it. Behaviors that are reinforced increase, plain and simple. :) She pulls because she wants to get to something, a person, a dog, a smell and if you don't either stop before she gets to it or turn around, then she's automatically being reinforced. The best part is that behaviors that are reinforced intermittently, meaning some, but not all of the time, actually become more durable, or harder to eliminate. So if you only prevent her from being reinforced some of the time, you're making your job ultimately harder. The best solution - never let her get reinforced for pulling, reward her generously for walking with a loose leash.

 

Another consideration, exercise. I know, you think I'm crazy right? Walking IS exercise, that's the whole point, right? The problem is that walks often aren't a sufficient outlet for a dog's energy needs, they need to stretch their legs and run at least several times a week. Try exercising her before you walk her and see how much her behavior changes (some of this may already be in play and that's why some days she pulls a lot more than others). If you have a fenced yard, take her out a play fetch, or get her amped up so she runs a few hard laps. If you don't have a safe fenced area, you can use a long line attached to a regular harness for safety. Only walk her once you've done this.

 

I think a basic good manners class is also a good idea so you have some help with this, plus mental stimulation from training is another good way to tire her out some. In the meantime, you can use a no-pull harness to make your life a bit easier on walks. It's not a solution, it's a tool while you work on the training, and a much better option than a gentle leader or halti.

Edited by NeylasMom

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Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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A question: Is she on a short leash when you walk? It's nice to let out the leash, but I seldom do it because I don't feel as if I have as much control as I like. Though 90% of the time Annie walks well to very well, she is never given all 6 feet of the leash because if she does decide to check out what's in that pile of leaves and pulls hard, I have no leverage to keep her safe. She usually has 2 feet and if she starts pulling, the leash is shortened around my hand so she has no extra leash.

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Guest grey_dreams

I've also used the stop-dead-in-your-tracks technique with success for three dogs that were vigorous pullers. They have to come back to me and orient right at my side next to my knee before we start walking again. I might use treats in the very beginning, but once they get the concept of reorienting, I use "walking again" as the reward. It has worked wonderfully for us. When he first came home, walking Zhivaya was like putting a tow line on a whale and trying to walk him while he was flapping and lunging in all directions, or running circles around my legs so the leash was wrapped around me. He is also extremely fearful and nervous. He learned the reorientation step very quickly. Took a lot longer to figure out not to pull at all. But after a few months he was walking beautifully. Zuki learned loose-leash walking in a few weeks, Zariel took about two months. Zhivaya has been the biggest project.

 

You have to be very diligent and stop every single time they start to pull, and don't start walking again until they reorient at your side. You can slowly extend the reorienting step to require them to calmly wait at your side a few seconds (or longer) before you start walking again.

 

We often get comments from people on the trail who stop and say how beautifully the dogs walk :)

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How long has this dog been with you? If she is just new it just may be a matter of time until she realizes that she will ultimately get to everything and will be in less of a rush. She sounds like a fabulous dog just excited to engage with the world.

 

My Grey is allowed to pull when he feels so inclined but granted it is a rare occurance for him. He is very sensitive to the leash and responds to the slightest pressure but sometimes he is in a hurry so why not let him dictate pace. Usually I just deal with it by moving faster, I'll run if I have to - ridiculous I know and not for everybody but hey, no more pulling problem.

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Thank you everybody for the advice! We'll make a concerted effort on stopping when she pulls and walking at the side. Yes, sometimes we do give her a long leash, so that may be part of the problem. She's SO powerful and unresponsive to the leash that it'll be a challenge but I'm encouraged that this is a good method that's worked for other vigorous pullers.

 

KickReturn - We've had her nine months, so she knows by now that she'll get to see everything and walk the whole neighborhood, but not long enough that she's caught on to the rules.

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9 months, sounds like she certainly is a committed puller. The only other thing I would add is to echo NeylasMom's comment. It sounds like you have a very eager high energy girl there. Some Greyhounds do fit the stereotype of lazy but many are not. What happens if you take her on a major hike/adventure? Maybe drive to a forested area and spend a couple of hours wandering. Does she change? And as noted it would be interesting to see if some high intensity off leash running changes things.

 

Good luck, still sounds like a terrific dog.

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Guest grey_dreams

I was reminded this morning about one of the great benefits of the reorienting method. Even when I stop to enjoy the beauty of the fall colors, or drink in the beauty of a clear blue sky, the dogs immediately come and stand right next to me and calmly wait until I am ready to start walking again.

 

Also wanted to mention another step that I forgot to write yesterday. They usually learn "reorient" pretty quickly. It takes a little longer for them to understand not to pull at all. But once they get that, I also extend the requirement that they walk with a loose leash, and not ever get out far enough that there will be tension in the leash. So for that, once their hind leg gets in front of my knee, I stop dead and require them to reorient. Soon after that they learn not to put any tension on the leash, and that earns the reward of an uninterrupted walk (without stopping, reorienting, and waiting a few seconds to continue walking).

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Dodge was a horrible puller. I started using the Gentle Leader and the pulling stopped within the next two walks. I kept it on for next two weeks and he has outgrown the pulling habit. I occasionally have to put it on as a reminder, but not very often.

 

Mom to Melly and Dani

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Red, Chica, Ford and Dodge.

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Thank you everybody for the advice! We'll make a concerted effort on stopping when she pulls and walking at the side. Yes, sometimes we do give her a long leash, so that may be part of the problem. She's SO powerful and unresponsive to the leash that it'll be a challenge but I'm encouraged that this is a good method that's worked for other vigorous pullers.

There's nothing wrong with giving a long leash, she just needs to learn to keep the leash loose. We do shorten up leashes and pick up the pace as a signal of sorts that we're going to walk briskly rather than stopping often, but I also give them breaks, especially at the beginning and end of the walk but also throughout as a reward for good behavior so they can sniff, mark, in Skye's case roll around in the grass, lol, etc. What fun would walks be if the dogs never got the chance to sniff and explore? Again, walks are really for the mental stimulation as much as the exercise so letting them sniff (think of it as them checking Facebook, dogs have amazing noses and are getting so much info on what's happening in the neighborhood these days, which dogs are around and how they're feeling, if a lot of squirrels are out and about, etc.) will let them use their brains a bit and aid in tiring them out.

 

Again, the main thing is that pulling isn't rewarded. The one thing to keep in mind is that if you wait until she's at the end of the leash to stop yourself, she's going to pull. So you need to have a line that if the dog crosses you stop, like grey_dreams suggested. If the dog is a serious puller and/or quick, I actually stop the minute the front of his body starts to get ahead of me. That way, by the time he gets to teh end of the leash, I am completely stopped and able to brace myself so that he's not able to pull me forward. If you don't and you are still in motion as she gets to the end of hte leash, she's likely going to succeed in moving forward a few more steps before you can stop yourself.

 

The other thing to remember, tell the dog he's correct when he's not pulling, but reward (feed) for position. So if I click or tell the dog he's being good using some verbal marker and he starts to surge forward before I get the food to him, I hold the food back at nose level along the seam of my pants on the side of my leg on the side the dog is on. This will further reinforce that the place you want to be is next to me, not ahead of me.

Edited by NeylasMom

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Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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If you train with treats, you could try doing the "maintain location next to me" training in the house. I have been known to do that with our other dog, Allie, because she was as dedicated to pulling as your dog is (though she weighs ~40 lbs and doesn't have the power behind it). It can be used to make the location of "next to you" a great place to be (and always give treats from that side, even for other things, so it is always reinforced). I even feed her initial 8 kibble or so this way, by standing next to her bowl and giving the treats to the side that I'd like her to stay on more often before giving the green light to dive in.

 

I have been doing this with Allie in the house, no leash or anything (but she does know I have food and does know it's training time), and even when on walks she has spontaneously plopping in next to me and checking in with me. On walks I don't give treats (Monty wouldn't move from my side if I had food, and there'd be no pottying on his part), but I do acknowledge her with a "hi Allie, good girl" and then actually send her out front again (she has a "lead on" command, which I use when the path is too narrow for 3 of us or she's lagging behind). My husband hasn't done a bit of this, and has remarked that she's doing the same with him and has found it both interesting yet slightly frustrating (her leash is 7' and she ends up tangled in it if he's not careful).

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Guest Giselle

If the dog is to learn "right" and "wrong" behaviors, the consequences of the behavior have to be very clear. So, make "right" and "wrong" very clear. If pulling on the leash is wrong, you have to teach her that it is wrong. You have to be very explicit and teach her that loose-leash is right and that pulling is wrong. To do so, you need to set a couple clear, concrete criteria:

 

1) Exactly where do you want the dog to walk? Within 2 feet of your left side? Okay, stick with that, and stick to your guns!!! 2 feet - and that's it.

 

2) Go on a walk. When the dog takes even one step past 2 feet, immediately put your feet your together and stop abruptly. Dogs respond sensitively to our body language, and they understand abrupt body language changes more easily. So, whenever she surges past your 2 feet radius, immediately put your feet together and abruptly stop. Then, when she looks back at you or reorients in any way, reward her. In the beginning stages of learning, I also with Neylas Mom and suggest using food rewards because it is clearer and gets the message across better. Once she clearly understands that "right" is loose-leash and "wrong" is pulling (you'll notice because she'll reorient back to you almost immediately whenever you stop), you can reward with walking again. But, for the beginning, I like using food rewards because it helps the dog's learning.

 

3) Be consistent. As Neylas Mom already explained, every time the dog gets rewarded for pulling, it will pull again later.. and stronger. So, make "right" and "wrong" very clear by being consistent with your consequences. Right = loose leash = dog gets to walk and explore. Wrong = pulling = the walk comes to an abrupt stop. If you can stick to this, you'll see dramatic changes in her leash pulling within a few weeks.

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Guest maidmarcia

I've noticed that when my boyfriend walks my greyhound Licorice, he lets him pull A LOT. If he takes him on repeated walks, Licorice gets out of the habit of walking nicely. When I take him out, I can immediately tell if Matt has been letting him strain on the leash. My technique when he strains is either A. sharp tug to get his attention and say NO or B. stop walking and stand staring up at the sky and away from him. He comes back and kinda looks at me and then I start walking again. Another method is to stop walking and turn around, go in the other direction and force your dog to follow you. These are really simple little things that I think should help, although just because they work with Licorice doesn't mean they're fool proof :D Good luck!

Edited by maidmarcia
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You all are awesome! Thank you for all the info, its very helpful. Chai is already doing a bit better on pulling, it'll take some time, but now I feel like there's some hope for her to walk like all those other calm greyhounds we see around the neighborhood. ;)

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  • 2 months later...

I've had Chancey two weeks and she pulls like mad 'cos she is just so keen to see people, horses, other dogs and everything on our walks. I'm working on the stop and go the other way system with her but cannot interest her in even the smelliest bacon flavour treat to reward her for looking away from what interests her, her intensity is amazing. She is only a month off the track so everything is new for her, although I was told she was used to horses. Unfortunately I have nowhere to exercise her before we go out & the weather has been so bad (rain & gale force winds) that most walks are short and sweet with very little distance covered because we backtrack every few paces.

 

I have to walk my whippet at the same time so life is certainly interesting at the moment!

Miss "England" Carol with Chancey - (Goosetree Chance) and whippet lurcher Nutmeg

R.I.P. Bluegrass Banjoman. 25.1.2004 - 25.5.2015 and Ch. Sleepyhollow Aida. 30.9.2000 - 10.1.2014.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lara had a lot of problems with pulling and statuing. I tried many of the suggestions on these boards with some success, but not as much success as I would have liked. Once my mom and I were walking her and she started pulling in a direction I wasn't going to go. I decided to just stop dead and wait for however long it took since I had someone to keep me company. Well, I finally gave up after about 20 minutes or so. I just don't have the patience for that. I also tried the gentle leader, and she absolutely hated it.

 

But the good news is that I finally found a solution that works! She wears a harness, so I hook two fingers under the part of the harness that goes over her back, and lift her front feet a tiny bit off the side walk. Then I'm able to turn her and walk in any direction, because the back feet have to follow. I only have to do this for a minute before I can tell she's not resisting and then I can let go. I've been doing this for about a month, and it's worked every time. In fact, I almost never need to do it anymore because she knows I'm going to do it, and gives up on pulling when I start leaning in for her harness. It seems so simple; I can't believe I didn't think of it earlier.

:balloonparty

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  • 10 months later...

This is an old thread, but I know people keep searching on statueing/freezing etc. on walks, so I wanted to adjust the advice I previously gave. In the long run, it did not work out! I went to grab Lara's harness once when she was statueing, and she growled at me! She must have been building up resentment about it, or perhaps it was hurting her. Anyway, I stopped grabbing the harness, and went back to trying other things. The bad thing though is that I decided to try nudging her with my knee, but she thought I was coming close to grab her harness and growled. *Sigh* I'm not blaming her because brute force was a bad way to go, and I'll have to win her trust back on that particular issue. Luckily, she hasn't generalized it at all, and I can touch her harness with no problem in the house before or after our walk and even on the walk when she isn't statuing.

 

So far what seems to be working best is general loose leash training to make sure she knows she is not in charge of the walk, and just getting her walking in any direction and then quickly turning the direction I want to go. It's rare that she will not go in any direction. This problem can be so frustrating though, and it seems like so many greyhounds do this. I would love to know what is going through her head when she is just standing there! Sometimes it seems to be nervousness about a sound, but frequently it's wanting to go a different direction than I'm willing to go, and occasionally it doesn't seem to be for any reason at all. She's such an angel at home, but even after two years, walks can sometimes be trying.

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Guest goofydog

Brie, tie a 50 lb weight around your waist. Just kidding and I have no advice other than that.

 

Toni

 

Our greyhound girl is a terrible leash puller. I know this is a topic covered many times and I've read up a lot about it...but I'm still confused about the best way to handle it specific to our greyhound. The problem is she's very inconsistent — sometimes she's perfectly well-behaved on a leash but more often than not she's a terrible pulling monster and there seems to be no pattern whatsoever why/when she'll walk good or bad.

 

She has a very very high prey drive which I know is another issue entirely so I'm speaking about leash pulling when she's NOT spotted prey and is otherwise walking with no prey distractions. She pulls out of excitement from smelling something interesting, wanting to stop all the time, wanting to go for a car ride (even in stranger's cars), spotting people or children (she LOVES everybody), to look at any foreign object on the sidewalk, and sometimes when she sees other dogs. As an added bonus, she weighs more than half of what I do so when she wants to go in another direction it's sometimes physically impossible to stop her.

 

I know consistency is key with any sort of training. But we're getting frustrated at how to be consistent if we don't even know what we're doing wrong or right? She's very smart and otherwise reacts very well to commands/reprimands EXCEPT about leash pulling. So is this an alpha dog issue or just a stimuli-overload issue? And why then does she walk good one day, bad the next? Is there some pattern we're missing seeing or should we escalate this to formal obedience training/harness or gentle leader/etc? We've only had her about a year but we've made such positive progress with all her other issues. Stopping the leash pulling is the one thing we can't seem to get consistent, positive momentum with.

 

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It's a training issue, IMHO.

 

When I was a kid, I could safely walk our four English Setters myself. Because they were all trained to walk at heel.

 

You need to be consistent with her, and not allow this. There are a lot of things you can try--pick one, and stick with it.

 

What helped me with my two Greyhounds (neither of which was any good on a leash at all) was to do the first half of our morning walk on MY terms, and then the second half at the local park and I let them sniff to their heart's content and decide where we go. That way they get both exercise of their body (and so do I) but they satisfy their doggy urges as well.


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