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CONTROLLING PULLING, LUNGING, CHASING, & JUMPING UP

Why do dogs tend to pull, chase and forge ahead?

Dogs tend to pull ahead and lunge forward for a number of reasons. Dogs that are particularly exploratory, playful, or investigative will pull their owners down the street as they investigate their environment or are attracted to appealing stimuli (e.g. children, other dogs). As you pull backwards in an attempt to restrain your dog, it resists further by pulling forward even harder, since most dogs tend to pull against pressure. Dogs that are aggressive to certain stimuli (e.g. children, other dogs), and those that have the urge to chase or heel (e.g. joggers, cyclists) are likely to pull ahead in an attempt to chase. In addition, dogs that are restricted or restrained by a lead may be more likely to exhibit defensive aggression and lunge at the passing stimulus in an attempt to repel it. Those dogs that are fearful and as a result are reluctant to leave home may pull and forge ahead on their way back home.

How can pulling and forging ahead be controlled?

It is a shame when owners are unable to engage in the simple joy of walking their dog due to extreme pulling on the lead. The dog should be taught through obedience training, lures and rewards to respond to the 'heel' command. Training should begin in an environment where success can be ensured. Using suitable control, such as a lead and collar, or lead and head collar, and highly motivating rewards, the dog should first be taught to walk at the owner's side. During the first few training sessions distractions should be avoided so that the rewards keep the dog's interest and attention. If the dog begins to pull ahead, pulling backwards on the lead and a neck collar, will lead to resistance from the dog, and cause it to lunge forward more intensely. It is best to take 1-2 steps at a time and keep your dog in the correct position, rather than trying to accomplish a long walk. As the dog learns where to be in relation to the owner, you can gradually walk a few more steps. Set the dog up to succeed. This can often be accomplished using a food reward held at thigh level to keep the dog's nose in position. If the dog does start to pull you should let it walk to the extent of the lead and then stand still. As soon as the dog realizes that you are not following and turns round to look where you are you should start to walk backwards (still facing the same direction). As the dog turns to face you, you should encourage it to return to you by calling its name and offering food treats. Once the dog is back by your side and only then you can begin to proceed in a forward direction again. If the dog then starts to pull again the process should be repeated.

The head collar is one of the best means of gaining immediate control. It is discussed in detail in the our handout on behavior products and on excitable, disobedient and unruly dogs. When the dog is wearing a head collar a pull on the leash will cause your dog's head to turn toward you. By pulling upwards and forward, the dog will pull backwards into a sit. Once the dog is in position you should quickly release tension and reward the dog.

In order to teach the dog to walk by your side, it is generally most successful if the dog is first taught to follow. First, teach the dog to follow you in doors. The dog should sit and stay and then you should open the front door. If the dog begins to run out pull up and forward on the lead attached to a head collar so that the dog returns to the sit, and then release tension. Walk slowly forward so that you are between the dog and the door, slowly lengthening the lead while the dog remains in place, but leaving no more than an inch or two of slack. Provided the dog does not forge ahead, step through the door and then allow the dog to follow up to (but not past) you. Proceed out of the door and down the garden with the dog following. Any time the dog begins to forge past, the lead can be pulled up and forward so that the dog backs up, and released immediately when the dog is in place. Although the dog could be made to sit each time it pulls forward, the aim is for the dog to back up just far enough that it remains at your side. The tension on the lead is then released and the dog is encouraged to walk forward. In short, pulling leads to tension, while walking at your side earns release (i.e. a slack leash).

If the dog "puts on the brakes" and will not follow, there may be a tendency to pull ahead, but, as mentioned, dogs tend to resist by pulling in the opposite direction. To get the dog up and following, loosen the slack on the lead and encourage the dog verbally or with food prompts to follow. Once the dog is successfully walking to heel in the back garden with no distractions, you can proceed to the front garden and the street while there are still no distractions. With practice, good rewards and the use of the head collar, the dog can then gradually be walked in the presence of stimuli that might otherwise cause lunging and pulling, such as other dogs, cyclists, or children playing.

Another solution is to use a "no pull harness". These devices fit around the dog's body and around the forelegs so that when the dog pulls ahead the forelegs and body can be controlled. Although these harnesses do not provide the level of control afforded by the head collar they require little or no training in order to use them and they do provide control of pulling.

My dog chases and I am worried he will get hurt. What can I do?

Chasing and running after prey, nipping at heels and herding are normal dog behaviours. These behaviours are more strongly motivated in some breeds of dogs than others. In addition, some dogs may be motivated to chase intruders (people, other dogs) from their property and, when the intruders leave, the behavior may appear to the dog to have been successful. This usually results in the dog continuing in the "chase" behaviours. In order to control chase behaviours, it is necessary to train the dog to do something different. Shouting "no" and punishing the dog will not stop a behavior that has a strong motivation, and may even INCREASE the problem.

First, let's talk about prevention of chasing behaviours. As soon as you see a young dog engaging in an inappropriate chase that is the time to start training. Start by teaching the dog to sit and stay. Then take time to teach a leave command. Once these basics have been accomplished you can begin to present the dog with the distraction that it would normally chase and by using the leave command you can redirect the dog toward you and reward it for an appropriate response. Remember, when off the lead the dog may revert to its old habits. Therefore, try to avoid those situations until you feel confident that the dog will behave and when you are ready to train your dog off the lead. Start by fixing a lead to the collar but letting it trail, rather than holding it. In this way the dog feels the weight of the lead but is not actually restrained. With time you can gradually cut the lead shorter and shorter until the dog is off lead altogether.

Once the dog has been engaging in chase behaviours for some time, it will be more difficult to stop the behavior The very fact that the object the dog chases runs, is reinforcement enough. A program of desensitization and counter-conditioning is needed to correct the problem. The process consists of teaching the dog to sit and stay for rewards while gradually introducing objects that it chases. It will be necessary to start with objects the dog is unlikely to chase and progress to more tempting items with time. If the problem is severe, a consultation with a professional trainer may be necessary. Control with a head collar and lead is often the most practical and most successful method of ensuring that the dog will sit and stay in the presence of the stimulus. The use of highly motivating rewards (favored food treats, favored toys) can also be used to lure the dog into a sit and can be given as a reward for staying.

My dog charges the door and jumps on people who enter my home. What can I do?

Another behavior that often causes problems for owners is door charging. Door charging is the behavior of the dog speeding to the door whenever anyone knocks or rings the bell. To deal with this problem start by teaching the dog to sit and stay for a food reward in the hall when there is no distraction from someone knocking at the door. Gradually phase out food treats when the behavior is learned and can be reliably repeated. Next you will need to practice dealing with the dog's response to the knock at the door by asking family members and friends to come to the house at prearranged times. Finally, when the dog has mastered the task with people he knows, you should practice with visitors, keeping the dog on a lead and making it sit and stay while the visitor knocks at the door and eventually comes in. A lead and head collar is an excellent way to control the dog during this process. By always insisting that your dog sits before it gets petted you can go a long way to eliminating jumping up behavior After all if the dog has always been able to gain your attention by jumping up to greet you, how can you expect it to understand that such behavior is no longer acceptable when visitors arrive? If door charging behavior is coupled with aggression, you should seek the immediate help of a behavior counselor.

How can I prevent my dog from jumping up on others and me?

For many dogs, jumping up on people is part of their greeting routine. Often, owners try to discourage this behavior using methods such as squeezing the front feet, stepping on the dog's toes, or kneeing the dog in the chest. Yet the behavior continues. If that is the case with your dog, then it is important to think about what might be motivating the dog to jump up and what form of reinforcement is causing the behavior to continue.

Usually the motivation for the jumping up behavior is to greet people. Many dogs like to greet "face to face", like they do with their canine counterparts. People, however, find this objectionable. Correction must not therefore be directed at punishing the behavior, but rather finding a means of teaching the dog an appropriate greeting posture. For most owners the most acceptable greeting posture is a sit/stay, which can be rewarded with food and attention. Once the dog has perfected this form of greeting with the owner and practiced it with family members, it is ready to try with visitors. Make the dog sit and stay while people come and hand the dog a treat. If the dog gets up, then put him back in the sit and try again. Often placing a "treat jar" by the front door with a bell on it will help. Once the dog associates the bell on the jar with a treat, and a treat with a sit/stay, the dog will be more likely to perform the task.

Another way to train this behavior is to set up visitors to come to your home at previously agreed times. As the first person comes to the door you should instruct your dog to sit and stay. Then, and only then, the visitors are let in. Your dog should be kept in a sit while the visitor enters and the person should give a treat to the dog as they pass and go to sit down. After 5 minutes, the visitor should leave by the back door, come to the front door and repeat the process. The second entry should be easier as your dog will have just seen the person and the element of excitement and novelty will be reduced. If you can repeat this 4-6 times for each visitor, the dog will have plenty of opportunity to learn the new task.

Once you understand the motivation, and have trained a new task, you need to be sure you have identified all the reinforcement for the behavior If the dog succeeds in getting any attention for the jumping behavior, then the dog will continue to jump. Attention may be petting, pushing away (which resembles play behavior), and even mild reprimands which can be paradoxically reinforcing for a dog who really wants attention. To change this behavior you need to remove ALL reinforcement. This means that you do not look, speak, touch or interact with the dog IN ANY WAY when it jumps on you.

To use punishment for jumping up, you need to be able to QUICKLY AND HUMANELY interrupt the behavior This is often done with some type of device that makes a loud noise. As soon as the dog hesitates, you need to give the dog an alternative command so that it can be rewarded for getting it right. For example as soon as the noise is sounded and the dog stops jumping you should say "SIT" and when the dog sits you should reward it with praise and food treats. Many dogs soon learn that to avoid the noise, they need to sit and they will do so to greet you. Once the behavior is established when interacting with you, it is time to introduce visitors who will continue to leave and reenter the house until the dog begins to sit for its reward without hesitating.

Some owners like to allow the dog to jump up on them at certain times and this is perfectly acceptable so long as the dog is never allowed to choose the time. Ideally you should teach your dog to jump up in response to a command such as "give me a hug" or "come up here". In this way, you have the behavior under verbal control and you can decide when the dog will be allowed to jump up.

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