Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dog Headcollars - why we are trying one out

Cybi is an odd little dog. When we are training in a "formal" environment like Good Citizens class or at obedience he is incredibly switched on, focused and driven to get things right. An absolute pleasure to work with, in other words. Outside of the classroom, not to put too fine a point on it, he's an absolute pain in the butt.

He applies his collie laser focus and then will not be swayed from his course. It's making walking him fairly miserable - I made a big effort to take him out without Daisy to practice walking on the lead, but he just pulls and pulls and won't be distracted from pulling by the bribe of treats, or a toy waved in front of his nose, which instantly blows the theories from training class out of the window because they rely on the dog being willing to work for a reward from the handler.
The only thing that makes him stop pulling is letting go of the lead completely (I assume because it takes away his safety net - he knows he can pull because he knows where I am due to pressure from the lead, and once that's gone he has to pay more attention) but obviously that isn't workable as a long term solution, or even a short term solution on roads, given he's had to be trained out of car chasing and still occasionally tries to indulge if a particularly noisy one passes us.

I have even tried taking literally one step at a time, and stopping each and every time he pulled ahead of me. It took us 40 minutes to get to the end of our street and by the end of it he was agitated, stressed and spinning on the spot with frustration, and I was about ready to rehome him. I'm joking, but only just.

With normal dogs, taking one step and stopping when they pull quickly teaches them that until they come back to their designated place (by my side) they don't get to go on a nice walk, with the extra bonus of being rewarded with treats for walking in position. With Cybi, all that happens is we stop, and he pauses where he is, at the full extent of the lead, facing away from me, and poised to take his next step. And I wait for him to realise that he is out of place, and come back to me, and he waits for me to take another step so we can keep moving forward. And I wait, and he waits, and I wait and he waits, without ever moving position. I can wave a high value treat or a toy in front of him and shout his name til I'm blue in the face, it doesn't get his attention. Even physically guiding him from where he is standing back to the correct position by my side doesn't dilute his focus on being out in front, so when I take my very next step he'll be back out at pulling at the full extent of the lead. Which is how it can take 40 minutes to travel 100 metres. when every step involves stopping, waiting, and then physically adjusting his position from in front of me to next to me.

Anyway, having tried him on a harness, to no effect (except having even less control of his pulling) I'm at my wits' end on how to get him to respond to me when we are out walking on lead, so I'm going to give walking on a headcollar a go. My thinking is that if I can turn his head when he pulls, he will have to be deflected from his chosen path, which gives me the opportunity to get his attention without yelling or pulling on the lead. I'm currently taking a good look at the range that's out there, in an attempt to get the right one for the job. I hadn't realised there were so many options until I needed one!

See the rundown of the options here: http://www.thetailoftwocollies.co.uk/2014/11/doggy-headcollars-reviewed.html

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