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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
It's a long post, I very much appreciate anyone reading it and giving advice or criticism!
Every time I take pup on walk training outside, half of me die physically, emotionally and spiritually. Background, I live in an apt, puppy is 5 months old and pee-pad trained at home; he is also a big puppy at 45 lbs. So taking him out is mainly for training to walk on a leash. I've tried training him in the hallway he is doing so well, probably due to the lack of distractions around. He could do heel without a leash in the hallway. I use his food and fancy treats like chicken breasts and cheese (also ever since I got him, I've been using all mealtime for training so he works hard for his kibbles too, and he knows all the regular commands).
However, when we go outside, it is so hard to get his attention (expected with people and other dogs walking by, smells, sounds, etc...) so a normal 15-minute walk I usually spend more than 1 hour with him. I always bring a lot of treats and food with me and I go out before he gets his food so the food is more motivating. Here is what I typically do (edit: I forgot to mention he is on a ~6ft loose leash when we are outside):
  • I try to get him to do zoomies in the hallway before walks to burn out some energy;
  • As soon as we get out of the building. I found a spot and let him sniff around/explore a bit within the range of the leash then I try to get his attention back to me with treats. We won't start walking till he gives me attention and/or does a sits/down command;
  • As we walk, if he pulls on the leash I stop and call him back. When he comes back, I give him a treat. If after a few minutes he still doesn't come back, I walk the opposite direction for a little bit, then change direction again if he pulls again;
  • If he continues pulling a lot, I will just stop/sit down at the closest convenient spot and try to/wait till I get his attention back to me or does a sit/down command before we start walking again;
  • I also stop if I see any dogs coming my way and keep him on a short leash and try to get his attention, award him if he does give me attentions;
  • I try to use food/treats to get him to walk in heel position but that normally doesn't work till later on in the walk (but I started noticing as soon as the treats in my hands are gone, he sprints out till I grab more treats - any advice with this behavior?);
  • Throughout the walk, in addition to treats, I also use praise or asserting voice to let him know if he is on the right track;
  • He gets to play with some other puppies walking by, but I feel like this one I'm not as strict. He still gets to play if there's tension on the leash but the other dog walks over. But if he actively pulls towards the dog, I'd pull him back and that's a no play.
Alright, now this is the part about me dying. So normally by the end of the walk, my patient is running out and past few days something always happens that eventually tips me over to frustrated/pissed-off mode. I also feel like if I don't have my angry voice, the puppy would keep pushing my boundaries till I get triggered no matter what I try (ps: I'm working on accepting anger because I used to think anger is bad and should be completely eliminated). So due to quarantine, we haven't gone out for a week (the days are actually so much better and easier if we don't go out); and here is my slippery slope of a weekend.
  • Thursday we went out for a walk for 1.5 hours, a lot of calling him back and repeating the same thing. He pooped twice and right after getting back he pooped on the carpet in the hallway (ugh! especially last time he did that I got in trouble with the building). So I put him in the bathroom and cleaned up the hallway (I always wash his paws in the bathroom after coming back then he gets a treat and staying in pen for a bit while drying up). Since I feel like my patient was running thin, I went to grab milk downstairs real quick/calm down before I wash his paws and put him back in pen.
  • Friday, we went out again. This time he was being extra hyper. So I spent 40 minutes training him in the hallway before going out; and took 2 breaks for myself to not get worked up, and I used my serious voice so he could walk ok before I decided we could go out. 5 minutes into our walk, he/I already got a random impulse control lesson by a fellow dog walker when he acted too hyper greeting the dude's dog (which I appreciate). So a few minutes later, I decided to make a stop where there's barely anyone so he calms down a bit. I was squatting down on his level with my phone in hand when a pup showed up. He launched right at the dog and 125 lbs me got dragged on my hands and knees right behind him. Just when I managed to stop the motion, he launched again, and I got dragged on my back. It scraped my hand and phone. Afterward, we sat in the park for a whiiiiile before finished the walk (I thought about just carrying him home but it was feasible). After getting back, I needed a second before cleaning him up. Once I was emotionally and spiritually back from exhaustion (15 minutes?) I bought in a peanut butter treat and cleaned him up. After he got into the pen, he got a few different treats and chew toys while I heat up something for myself to eat. He was whining so I took him to the bathroom. Within 10 minutes, I opened the pen 3 times to let him go to the bathroom, but he either doesn't come out, refused to be carried to the bathroom (and he is too heavy when he does corporate), or run the opposite direction. So I was pissed, decide to ignore his future whines and went to eat dinner. 2 minutes into my dinner, he pooped right there in the pen in front of me ?!
  • Saturday no walks and it was sunshine and rainbows
  • Today, I was planning on doing some painting. So I figured we can do a morning walk then he naps so I get some free time. The walk was aight, he was pulling a lot like usual. we came back after 1.5 hours. He was giving me a hard time getting back into the building (my building shutdown the regular door and only left the revolving door), and afterward, he kept walking around me so I kept getting tripped by the leash. In the elevator, I used my serious voice to tell him to site down. He sat right away and looked intimidated. After we got off the elevator, he doesn't want to come into the apt. So I left him in front of the door (with leash inside) for a hot second when I'm taking off the jacket. Then I told him to come in again, which he did. Then I took off the leash, told him to go out and come back in again, which he also did. So I put him in the bathroom and I took a quick an ice cream break before going giving him a bath. He wasn't eating his peanut butter treats in the shower. After I put him back in the pen he wasn't eating his new treats I put in, just keep whining. So I took him to the bathroom for potty. He didn't go and I put him back. He whines again, I took him out again but he wanted to play didn't go potty. So I was trying to put him back when he tripped over the water bowl and got water everywhere. At that point, I was like, "f*k" *angry voice; now he is behaving very well, ate his treats and sleeping in his pen safe and sound.
The thing is, normally he is a great pupper! He listens to all the commands at home and behaves very well. Only whenever we go on walks, everything is going wrong and nobody is happy. I also feel like, I'm sending him the wrong message now he is afraid to come home. I literally need ice cream and ugly cry sessions after walks. Sometimes, it feels like walking training isn't even worth it since he does so well when he isn't going outside. Anyone has the same experiences, advice, or comments? Am I doing anything wrong or is it the norm? Also, how do I stop the vicious cycle and not get to the point to be triggered every time (I feel like giving him timeout is making it worse. Also normally if he does something wrong and gets timeout he just behaves and takes a nap)? I'm fulling prepared to spend as much time and energy but I can't feel like I'm not on the right path. Again! Thanks to everyone who reads and replies in advance! :)
 

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"As we walk, if he pulls on the leash I stop and call him back. When he comes back, I give him a treat. "

"He gets to play with some other puppies walking by, but I feel like this one I'm not as strict. He still gets to play if there's tension on the leash but the other dog walks over "

These two situations will cause pulling to persist. It sounds like you are doing a lot of other things well, like bringing high value treats, stopping for a longer period if your puppy gets very stimulated, not letting him say hi to a dog if he's pulling towards it, etc. But think about this like a slot machine - if your dog gets reinforced AT ALL for pulling, even if 80% of the time you are rewarding loose leash walking and stopping when he pulls, that other 20% will cause him to keep pulling at times to see if it pays off.

The two biggest things I'd recommend are:
1. Getting a harness that allows front clipping and let front-clip be 'leisure mode'. Let him pull when you clip him like that. But continue to do 15+ minutes loose leash training on top of that. You can even do a mix each walk. For example, let's say my dog is wearing a collar and a harness on a 30 minute walk to the park. I can clip him on the collar and do 5 min of training, then clip him to the front of the harness and let him pull the rest of the way to the park (but the front clip will reduce the strength of the pulling for you). After my dog plays in the park I can clip to the collar and train on the way home.

2. Lower your expectations for your puppy's walking habits. He's only 5 months old and a strict at-your-side heel is not very fun for most dogs. When you are training, it doesn't mean you need to let him walk all over the place. But give him a wider area to be correct, so to speak. Also, a lot of adolescent puppies are not very interested in strictly walking. They are teething and hormones are kicking in, so they are much more interested in sniffing, biting things, romping, etc. So if you want to work on heeling type walking, do shorter reps and expect more when your puppy gets older. For now, it's okay to spend most of your outside time playing and working on short spurts of loose leash training.

There are probably other things to work on. Like you mentioned your puppy forges ahead the moment treats are gone, which makes me wonder if you are inadvertently luring rather than rewarding. But these two tips should hopefully make your daily routine a lot easier.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
"As we walk, if he pulls on the leash I stop and call him back. When he comes back, I give him a treat. "

"He gets to play with some other puppies walking by, but I feel like this one I'm not as strict. He still gets to play if there's tension on the leash but the other dog walks over "

These two situations will cause pulling to persist. It sounds like you are doing a lot of other things well, like bringing high value treats, stopping for a longer period if your puppy gets very stimulated, not letting him say hi to a dog if he's pulling towards it, etc. But think about this like a slot machine - if your dog gets reinforced AT ALL for pulling, even if 80% of the time you are rewarding loose leash walking and stopping when he pulls, that other 20% will cause him to keep pulling at times to see if it pays off.

The two biggest things I'd recommend are:
1. Getting a harness that allows front clipping and let front-clip be 'leisure mode'. Let him pull when you clip him like that. But continue to do 15+ minutes loose leash training on top of that. You can even do a mix each walk. For example, let's say my dog is wearing a collar and a harness on a 30 minute walk to the park. I can clip him on the collar and do 5 min of training, then clip him to the front of the harness and let him pull the rest of the way to the park (but the front clip will reduce the strength of the pulling for you). After my dog plays in the park I can clip to the collar and train on the way home.

2. Lower your expectations for your puppy's walking habits. He's only 5 months old and a strict at-your-side heel is not very fun for most dogs. When you are training, it doesn't mean you need to let him walk all over the place. But give him a wider area to be correct, so to speak. Also, a lot of adolescent puppies are not very interested in strictly walking. They are teething and hormones are kicking in, so they are much more interested in sniffing, biting things, romping, etc. So if you want to work on heeling type walking, do shorter reps and expect more when your puppy gets older. For now, it's okay to spend most of your outside time playing and working on short spurts of loose leash training.

There are probably other things to work on. Like you mentioned your puppy forges ahead the moment treats are gone, which makes me wonder if you are inadvertently luring rather than rewarding. But these two tips should hopefully make your daily routine a lot easier.
Hi @Canyx! Thanks so much for the advice! Consistency is definitely the key, and I researched quite a bit about leashes/harnesses. It's totally overwhelming to pick a good one and your recommendation seems like a good solution. I do have a few follow up questions if you don't mind!
  • What's the difference between "loose leash" and "leisure mode"? Is "leisure mode" when he is ok to pull? (and the distinction for him to learn is that if the leash is clipped differently he is allowed to pull?) I wasn't super clear in my original post, but when we are outside when he is not on following the treats. He is on a loose leash (regular 6 ft leash, with a little knot so that he doesn't slip out of my hand); he gets to sniff around as long as there's no tension on the leash. If he pulls, I actually pull him back from the thing that he wants to smell. Sometimes once I get his attention back, if he could maintain a loose leash we will walk back to the thing that he smells. So he normally has the whole range of the sidewalk if he is not pulling forward. Unless when other dogs/people come by I stop and put him on a short leash in anticipation of him lunging forward and also just to make room for people to pass.
  • When he is on a loose leash and pulls, what is a good way to stop him from pulling? In my mind, I was thinking when he pulls, if I call him he walks back to me, I'm rewarding the giving me attention/walking back to me behavior.
  • Also, you made a good point there on luring vs rewarding! Do you think its a good idea to cut out luring first?
 

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My dog does not heel during walks. I don't care about a heel, I care about loose leash and no pulling.

I allow him to roam as he wishes on the leash as long as he doe not pull. The moment he pulls, I give two firm tugs on the leash to remind him. If no compliance, then I become a post. When he relaxes, I will give the "Back" command for him to return to my side. Once beside me, I will wait for a random length of time before continuing the walk.

I do not give a treat or a pet. He does receive verbal praise and to continue the walk. The walk is the reward.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
My dog does not heel during walks. I don't care about a heel, I care about loose leash and no pulling.

I allow him to roam as he wishes on the leash as long as he doe not pull. The moment he pulls, I give two firm tugs on the leash to remind him. If no compliance, then I become a post. When he relaxes, I will give the "Back" command for him to return to my side. Once beside me, I will wait for a random length of time before continuing the walk.

I do not give a treat or a pet. He does receive verbal praise and to continue the walk. The walk is the reward.
Thank you!! Yea, that's the goal there. He is on a loose leash when we are outside, but he gets too excited. If he is not pulling, he is in front of me 90% of the time still. Did you initially give him treats for learning the "back" command?
 

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No. Never gave treats during walks.

I always felt that treats would reinforce the pulling. The denial or interruption of the walk was the punishment.

Sometimes, my dog is in front or behind or left side or right side. I did train him not to cross in front of me. He always crosses behind me. The walk is the time for the dog to smell, potty, listen, explore.....Dog Facebook, Barker (dog version of Twitter)

BTW, if you're using one of those infernal extending leashes.......dump it. Begin using a fixed length leash. I suggest a 6 foot leather leash. This will give you control of the dog.
 

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No. Never gave treats during walks.

I always felt that treats would reinforce the pulling. The denial or interruption of the walk was the punishment.

Sometimes, my dog is in front or behind or left side or right side. I did train him not to cross in front of me. He always crosses behind me. The walk is the time for the dog to smell, potty, listen, explore.....Dog Facebook, Barker (dog version of Twitter)

BTW, if you're using one of those infernal extending leashes.......dump it. Begin using a fixed length leash. I suggest a 6 foot leather leash. This will give you control of the dog.
Thank you!! Yea, I feel like he is so excited. It started to look more like, "omg human, I was having so much fun but I guess if you REALLY want me to eat this treat I will come and eat it so I can keep exploring!" I will start practicing on ditching the treats and see where that goes.

Also, good note on the leash. I was using a fixed leash, but I made a knot to put over my wrist (it has a rigid leather hoop in the end) to free up hands for treats - Horrible decision, that why I got dragged?‍♀. I will need to find a different leash too!
 

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I'll try to answer your questions as best as I can. Loose leash walking (LLW) is very complex and it is really hard to advise on it without seeing it.

For tools, I recommend the Blue-9 balance harness or the Freedom Harness. The Freedom has a warranty that covers the harness even if it's chewed through. And the Balance offers more adjustments than any other harness. I have the Balance harness and it is the only harness I'll ever need for my dog's lifespan.

To clarify on "leisure mode", yes the dog is allowed to pull in that mode. For example, this morning I walked my dog with the Balance harness on, clipped to the front or back. He is allowed to sniff and pull me. HOWEVER, because front-clipping reduces pulling by design, it was not tiring for me at all and my dog did not strain himself. Note that not all dogs will suddenly walk nicely on a harness.

This afternoon, my partner walked my dog on his collar. When the leash is attached to my dog's collar, he is allowed to sniff but any pulling results in the walk stopping. These days, I can pretty much throw out the harness and walk my dog on the collar, because the training has caught up and my dog is generally not a puller on walks. But I have my habits! However, in the beginning stages of LLW training, I had treats and stopped 100% of the times my dog pulled, when he was clipped to the collar.

I don't pull my dog back from things he wants to smell. I stop before he pulls to get to the smell, if that makes any sense. My dog walks in front of me for almost all of the walk but being in front doesn't necessarily mean pulling. This is a 'know your dog' sort of thing and I recommend gently stopping the moment you notice your dog forge ahead, not when he is already pulling. If your dog pulls 6 inches forward and gets to smell the thing, it doesn't matter that you pull him back (and it is ineffective); pulling still got him to smell the thing.

Luring versus rewarding... I recommend continuing to use treats to reward moments of polite walking, but not luring or putting the treat in front of your dog's nose to get the behavior you want.

Hope this helps! Loose leash walking truly is a cascade of many cause and effect moments, it requires fast acting, and this is why it is hard.
 

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Canyx gave excellent advice, and I don't have much to add to that, but I would reiterate that you should lower your expectations of your 5 month old puppy. His brain is just...not all there, frankly. They simply don't have the mental capacity to walk like an adult dog who has a fully developed brain! They're going to be stupid, unpredictable, seem crazy, and just generally seem like they've spontaneously forgotten everything they've learned.

To teach my dog loose leash walking, I used the "be a tree" method. Whenever he pulled, I instantly stopped and waited for him to release the pressure. It took a really long time to really see progress, but once his brain caught up to what I was trying to teach him, it paid off.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'll try to answer your questions as best as I can. Loose leash walking (LLW) is very complex and it is really hard to advise on it without seeing it.

For tools, I recommend the Blue-9 balance harness or the Freedom Harness. The Freedom has a warranty that covers the harness even if it's chewed through. And the Balance offers more adjustments than any other harness. I have the Balance harness and it is the only harness I'll ever need for my dog's lifespan.

To clarify on "leisure mode", yes the dog is allowed to pull in that mode. For example, this morning I walked my dog with the Balance harness on, clipped to the front or back. He is allowed to sniff and pull me. HOWEVER, because front-clipping reduces pulling by design, it was not tiring for me at all and my dog did not strain himself. Note that not all dogs will suddenly walk nicely on a harness.

This afternoon, my partner walked my dog on his collar. When the leash is attached to my dog's collar, he is allowed to sniff but any pulling results in the walk stopping. These days, I can pretty much throw out the harness and walk my dog on the collar, because the training has caught up and my dog is generally not a puller on walks. But I have my habits! However, in the beginning stages of LLW training, I had treats and stopped 100% of the times my dog pulled, when he was clipped to the collar.

I don't pull my dog back from things he wants to smell. I stop before he pulls to get to the smell, if that makes any sense. My dog walks in front of me for almost all of the walk but being in front doesn't necessarily mean pulling. This is a 'know your dog' sort of thing and I recommend gently stopping the moment you notice your dog forge ahead, not when he is already pulling. If your dog pulls 6 inches forward and gets to smell the thing, it doesn't matter that you pull him back (and it is ineffective); pulling still got him to smell the thing.

Luring versus rewarding... I recommend continuing to use treats to reward moments of polite walking, but not luring or putting the treat in front of your dog's nose to get the behavior you want.

Hope this helps! Loose leash walking truly is a cascade of many cause and effect moments, it requires fast acting, and this is why it is hard.
I'll try to answer your questions as best as I can. Loose leash walking (LLW) is very complex and it is really hard to advise on it without seeing it.

For tools, I recommend the Blue-9 balance harness or the Freedom Harness. The Freedom has a warranty that covers the harness even if it's chewed through. And the Balance offers more adjustments than any other harness. I have the Balance harness and it is the only harness I'll ever need for my dog's lifespan.

To clarify on "leisure mode", yes the dog is allowed to pull in that mode. For example, this morning I walked my dog with the Balance harness on, clipped to the front or back. He is allowed to sniff and pull me. HOWEVER, because front-clipping reduces pulling by design, it was not tiring for me at all and my dog did not strain himself. Note that not all dogs will suddenly walk nicely on a harness.

This afternoon, my partner walked my dog on his collar. When the leash is attached to my dog's collar, he is allowed to sniff but any pulling results in the walk stopping. These days, I can pretty much throw out the harness and walk my dog on the collar, because the training has caught up and my dog is generally not a puller on walks. But I have my habits! However, in the beginning stages of LLW training, I had treats and stopped 100% of the times my dog pulled, when he was clipped to the collar.

I don't pull my dog back from things he wants to smell. I stop before he pulls to get to the smell, if that makes any sense. My dog walks in front of me for almost all of the walk but being in front doesn't necessarily mean pulling. This is a 'know your dog' sort of thing and I recommend gently stopping the moment you notice your dog forge ahead, not when he is already pulling. If your dog pulls 6 inches forward and gets to smell the thing, it doesn't matter that you pull him back (and it is ineffective); pulling still got him to smell the thing.

Luring versus rewarding... I recommend continuing to use treats to reward moments of polite walking, but not luring or putting the treat in front of your dog's nose to get the behavior you want.

Hope this helps! Loose leash walking truly is a cascade of many cause and effect moments, it requires fast acting, and this is why it is hard.
Thank you for the thorough explanation and harness recommendations! Yes, that makes a lot of sense! I will stop pulling him back and adjust to only rewarding instead of luring! I think I will also spend more time on walking indoors/less distracting areas or time of the day and practice "focus" with him first. The harness and "leisure mode" also sounds like a great solution - I think part of me stressing out is that I'm worried if we don't nail this sooner I won't be able to pull him back as he gets bigger. Really appreciate your time and advice - very helpful!! :) Now I won't be sending him the wrong signals at least!
 

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Hi @Lillith! Thank you!! Yea, sounds like "being a tree" is an important principle; I will definitely reinforce that. Also nice/reassuring to hear that it's ok and will take quite a while. I will have to admit that between quarantined with him 24/7 and his puppy classes being postponed indefinitely, I felt pretty pressured to keep him up with training and definitely did not have enough patience for long walks (especially it's more of a training session rather than walk now).
 
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