You know those dogs that pull hard, all the time no matter what lead or technique is used to train her to slow down. Meet my sister, Gypsy. She has actually pulled my mum off her feet landing down on the payment with a thump. The lead goes flying out of mum’s hand and only then does Gypsy stop, turns around to look at why mum isn’t playing pull anymore. Mum has tried all kinds of harnesses and even tried a choke chain really scared her but not Gypsy. Mum found this video and tried following the trainer’s advice for training a dog not to pull on a lead. She took us out for a walk. Every time Gypsy would Continue reading →
Although the reason for pulling and what rules you must teach is the same for all dogs, some dogs are more of a challenge. My own GSP was one of those “super crazy pullers”. The thing to keep in mind is that law of learning applies to all dogs: Dogs Do What Works. In other words, whatever behavior the dog does that results in getting what he wants, even just a tiny bit of it, will be repeated. The more value the dog sees in the desired outcome, the stronger the behavior, even over-riding any equipment that might cause discomfort.
So for training not to pull, the answer is two-fold. First, use equipment that will mechanically and humanely reduce the force of pulling. I prefer something that controls the head like the Halti for strong pullers. Actually a few years ago I switched over to a Newtrix head halter for my dog because he seemed to be more comfortable in it. The mechanics of how it works is different from the Halti. You can find an explanation here: http://www.newtrix.ca/index.cfm?page=ourProducts It’s a little confusing at first learning how to put it on, but once you practice and follow the directions carefully, it’s not hard.
The second and more important point is to recognize how you are inadvertently reinforcing your dog for pulling. If you take even a single step forward while your dog pulls, he learns that pulling works. Going forward to explore the environment is the most powerful reinforcer there is. It was sure more powerful to my GSP than grilled steak when we were outside.
In training not to pull, the key is to teach your dog that the fastest and ONLY way to move forward is to turn toward you to make the leash loosen so that he feels absolutely no tension whatsoever on his collar, halter or harness. Then and only then will you allow him to continue forward. As soon as the leash tightens again stop and plant your feet so he is unable to take another step forward. This rule has to be black and white, not fuzzy where sometimes pulling works and sometimes it doesn’t. You will have to suspend your walks to really entrench this new rule into your dog’s brain. (Think about how hard it can be for us humans to break a bad habit.)
I used a clicker to mark (click) the precise moment my dog turned toward me to loosen the leash. Then I said “Let’s Go” and took a few fast steps forward until the leash tightened again. (Be very careful if using a Halti or Gentle Leader that can turn the dog’s head. Don’t let the head whip around if the dog suddenly hits the end of the leash. Use a short leash and soften the impact to prevent injury to the neck. It’s another reason why I like the Newtrix design better.) I like using a clicker because it is a much clearer form of communication. It means only one thing and the click sound is like nothing else. Black and white! This training takes a lot of discipline on the part of the human because the slightest inconsistency will impede progress. If pulling works occasionally, the dog becomes a gambler because the payoff is huge!
I highly recommend having someone take a video of you walking your dog so you can observe how you might be reinforcing pulling. Even extending your arm slightly after you stop walking so your dog can stretch his neck forward an inch can be enough to keep the pulling habit strong.
1. Stop focusing on correcting or punishing bad behavior. Saying “No!” or squirting your dog with water might relieve your frustration but it can maintain or worsen your dog’s bad behavior. Corrections are deceiving. They momentarily suppress unwanted behavior so it seems to have worked. But if your dog does it again, it didn’t work at all! If you correct your dog often, you can diminish his willingness to listen and cooperate.
We just received the following letter from one of our readers. This is not the first on the subject on potty training an older dog so I decided to post it.
Hello German Shorthaired Pointer Greatdog GSP, hope you can help us with a potty training issue we have encountered with our newly rescued German Wirehaired Pointer. We rescued an 18 month neutered male German wirehaired pointer 10 days ago and we have been following your website with interest, as it has been very helpful in settling our new dog down. I have attached a doc which explains the help we are looking for in helping our new adolescent dog potty outside. We would be very grateful if you could perhaps give us some pointers as to how we could best approach potty training an older dog as what we have been doing doesn’t seem to be working.
The dog we adopted, Breac, is an AKC registered neutered male German Wirehaired Pointer, age 18 months old. He was born, Aug 2015 and at age 4months, our new dog was purchased from the breeder and brought home to live indoors with a family with three kids (age 9, 12, 18) and their two dogs. The dog has always been “a handful” and needs daily exercise. Family fed him 5 cups quality dogfood daily. Dog let himself out of the house into the family’s 18 acre property on a regular basis as the door handles pulled down when he stood on them. He is VERY prey driven.Continue reading →
Play Biting A young puppy plays with his littermates by wrestling and nipping. If he nips too hard, his siblings will yelp and walk away. If the puppy nips Mom too hard, she will either get up and leave or correct him. Thus a puppy starts learning that his behavior affects others. Spending time with mom, littermates and other friendly dogs at a young age is vitally important. Puppies that have learned to inhibit their bite strength early in life might be less likely to cause injury with their teeth as adults. Although no one can guarantee an animal’s behavior, it is wise to be proactive. It is very difficult if not impossible to teach an adolescent dog to reliably have a “soft mouth” during Continue reading →
For thousands of years, dogs have been selectively bred to be in tune with our emotions, actions, and words. Because they are like us in so many ways, it is easy to mistakenly attribute human motivations and feelings (like jealousy, spite, and guilt) to their actions. That is called anthropomorphizing, and every dog owner I have come across does it to some extent, including me. Our dogs are beloved family members, as attested by the number of dog toys that I see in clients’ homes and the fact that many of us share our beds with our dogs. I envy pet owners who live in places where dogs are welcome almost anywhere (like Germany, as described by my brother-in-law who was stationed there).
The love we share with our furry kids makes it especially difficult to watch them grow old and feeble. Several years ago I went through this heart-wrenching process for the 5th time with my Labrador Retriever Rosie who died at the age of 14. Now my German Shorthaired Pointer Chase is approaching his 8th birthday in 2 weeks. Where has the time gone? Although he is just entering his golden years, I can’t help but lament how unfair it is that dogs don’t live as long as humans.
I remember the days when Chase’s non-stop energy had me wishing he would get older and settle down. But in the past year, I have noticed definite changes in his behavior that makes me a little sad, such as:
Increased sensitivity to distant fireworks and thunder. I had made it a point to desensitize him to those noises from puppyhood well into adulthood. Last summer, he showed more fear than usual on the 4th of July and during storms. So our routine when it happens is we run upstairs together with a Thundershirt™ and a bag of beef jerky or cheese. We camp out together in my walk-in closet and he enjoys a relaxing massage. He eventually falls asleep.
Increased sensitivity to cold. With the current cold spell here, I send Chase outside wearing 2 coats and booties. He stays out longer and seems friskier when wearing his silly outfit
Sleeping a lot more. He doesn’t follow me around the house as much as he used to because he is just too comfortable being a couch potato. Maybe his bones are getting creaky like mine. I give him joint supplements with his meals and watch for signs of arthritis. So far, so good.
Occasionally being “clingy”. Sometimes when I am brushing my teeth, he sits next to me, leaning his full weight against my legs. If I don’t brace myself, I lose my balance. This is a fairly recent development. At first I thought he was afraid. But now I think it is his way of telling me he needs to go out. He used to dance around in front of me when he needed to pee, but now he thinks that’s immature (I’m anthropomorphizing, of course).
Older dogs often need to be protected from rambunctious youngsters. When Minnie (my 8 month old rescued mix) and Chase play together, I watch closely for signs that Chase has had enough so I can intervene on his behalf. I really should have gotten a second pup 4 years ago when Chase was more playful.
Aging produces changes in the brain and body that can affect behavior. For example, a dog’s refusal to obey previously well-executed commands may actually be due to discomfort or cognitive changes, not stubbornness. Of course, it could also just be due to insufficient training. Sometimes issues that were not serious enough to be noticed or promptly addressed when the dog was younger can get exacerbated later in life. It is best to investigate further rather than jump to conclusions.
Consult with your veterinarian if you notice behaviors that are out of character for your dog. More serious age-related behavioral changes to watch for in senior dogs include separation anxiety, noise phobia, aggression, house soiling, pacing, changes in sleep patterns and disorientation (like getting stuck in corners or behind furniture). Those are common signs of Canine Cognitive Disorder, similar to Alzheimer’s disease in people.
From what I have read, the average life expectancy of the German Shorthaired Pointer is 12 to 14 years. Longer than some breeds and shorter than others, but nevertheless way too short. The older my Chase gets, the more grateful I am for every moment that we spend together.
Indoor accidents are an inevitable part of raising a puppy or rescuing a dog. I am currently going through this with my own puppy, and it is not fun. But this too will pass (pun unintended). When owners ask me about house-training issues, the following questions and complaints are the most common:
I take my dog outside every hour, and he still goes to the bathroom inside. Taking a puppy outside every hour on the hour is a common recommendation. Unfortunately, your pup has not read the manual. Even our own body doesn’t behave like clockwork. Puppies often don’t Continue reading →
TEN TOP ITEMS YOU NEED BEFORE YOU BRING HOME YOUR NEW PUPPY
There are necessary items that you must have at home before you bring home a puppy or a new adult dog for that matter. Life would have been difficult when I brought Simba home if I had not been prepared. Simba, like my children when they were babies, was a very active puppy. I was glad that a friend gave me ideas of what I would need ahead of time because Continue reading →