KPStorms writes to me: “I have a 9 month old shepherd /pit bull mix we adopted from the shelter when he was about 6 months old. The problem is he pulls me like crazy he weighs about 56 lbs. and is extremely strong . I’m a big guy but I have a hard time controlling him. When ever he sees another animal ,a bike ,or anyone walks by he lunges at them/it . I don’t think he wants to fight ,he just wants to play . I have a pinch collar and I can barely put one finger through. I have tried walking in the oppisit direction I’ve tried just putting him in the down stay ,and nothing seems to work .I’ve tried the correction thing (yanking on the leash) it does not phase him . He also does this screaming thing that sounds like your killing him . please help.
Adam replies: Hi, KPStorms:
When you look at the pinch collar, can you confirm that the chain part forms a triangle and the chain is not crossed over on itself?
Look at this image (below). See how the chain lies flat (it’s not crossed over on itself). Also, when you do your about-face turn (right about) you’ll need to use your arms to reach forward toward the dog to create slack, then do the turn and take a leap step in the opposite direction.
Get back to me on the above issues, and we’ll go from there.
Lynn (DPTrainer2) adds:
You might also take a look at your technique as well as what Adam suggested. Are you doing the jerk-and-release action or are you pulling him back on the pinch collar?
One thing I would focus on in his case is to start with the basic lesson before exposing him to the sorts of distractions that drive him wild. In the case of the Great Dane, you’ll notice I recommended to take the dog home and do some work. I suspect part of the reason Adam’s advice worked better was that the dog already KNEW what a correction was and understood what it meant. Oftentimes, a dog that has never received a correction will do one of four things when it first receives one for any reason (misbehavior, missed command, etc) : look around like nothing happened, respond appropriately by stopping the misbehavior/obeying the command, scream in absolute horror because it just experienced something new, or come right back at what it perceives to be the source of the correction and all but say “Care to try that again?”
I worked a dog that was similar to yours. He was one that would lock onto other dogs that even looked his way, and bound out to play with them. Teaching him Heel was actually the easy part, since we could work in a low-distraction environment.
This is after only one session of learning the basic command and teaching him his role when I said “Heel.”
(You’ll also notice that he was a leash-grabber, and you’ll see me correcting him for that partway through the clip.)
Teaching the basics is not the time to bring another dog into the room or toss out one of the Kongs on the rack. This is time for him to learn.
Using that obedience helped when I took him around other dogs, since he understood that his focus was to be on me–the more hepped up he became, the more s-l-o-w I became (similar to the whole “The angrier the other person gets, the quieter your voice becomes” mantra). As I slowed down and he moved ahead, not only would I do the about-turns, but I would also pivot to my left and use both hands over the dog’s back to correct BACKWARDS towards his tail. I wish there was a good example of that in here, but I don’t think this is one where I do that much, if at all (I’ll try to find one and get it uploaded.) The about-turns will teach him to stay where he can see me, but the corrections backward also help remind him to move back to a position where he can see me and set himself up for success.
There was one more thing that really snapped him out of his “locking on” to other dogs if they looked at him. I had about 2 seconds to correct him, and I had to do it right…if I gave him one he didn’t respect, he’d take that moment to jump out and start dancing/barking/etc, and I could give him one he found motivational…but if I gave him TWO quick ones in a row, it really back his plans. (Imagine popcorn popping: it’s a quick pop-pop. If you feel like you’re trying to haul a piece of furniture across the room, you’re using too much muscle–the goal is to startle the dog and get his attention back on you, not physically move him.) You’d be surprised how flabbergasted they are when they expect one correction and know they can handle it, but when another comes along right after that, it’s like us tripping over both feet instead of just one. It doesn’t make them AFRAID…it just makes the message clearer, and when focus is back on you, praise.
Try and avoid forcing him into something, whether it’s physically holding him at your side or making him go into a down position. It’s going to increase the stress of the situation and just frustrate the both of you.