Digging in heels on walks

We have had this problems on and off for several months but it has been getting worse and became quite an obstacle yesterday.

When we leave our door to go on walks we can go either right or left. Ella has developed an aversion most of the time to going left. She can be coerced eventually to walk about 1/4 mile in that direction and then she is fine and will walk normally. She is also fine traveling this same stretch in the opposite direction. Sometimes she has no problem walking this stretch. Sometimes she will exhibit the same aversion going right. That is what tells me this behavior is not really connected to the particular place. And yesterday she showed the aversion is both directions. She wouldn't willingly go either way out our parking lot. I was frustrated to say the least.

When she exhibits this behavior it is very obvious in her body language. Her head and body and all tight and erect, eyes focused. Feet just planted tightly in place. As I said, I am stronger than her and I can get her moving but once she is in this mode it is stop-and-start for several minutes until she gets past it. If she is in this mode and I relent and turn around she is happy to walk briskly in the opposite direction.

This is a problem and becoming a bigger problem. Treats do not seem to work. If I start jogging or calling "pup-pup-pup" I can eventually get where I want but I don't want to have trick my dog into following me.

Any ideas?

When are you walking her? Any chance that it is in the heat of the day with the sun on the pavement? Could be burning her feet? Just a thought?

Is it dark out?

I have nothing to offer. I call this "putting on the brakes". Zuki will do this to me when I want her to turn toward home too soon on a walk (which I have to do because of heat and her advanced age). I'm doing it for her own good, but she's a stubborn one. I usually end up picking her up and carrying her for a while and then I put her down and she's fine. I used to give her a good pull, but with her senior status she's very spoiled. 😃

I have this problem time to time with my B. Doesn't matter what time of the day it is (i.e. not related to how warm the pavement is), but he'll do this exact same thing.

If I start running he will follow, but with a normal walking pace he'll stop in one direction.

Tillo does this too sometimes… I'll just wait for him to be ready.. If I haven't got the time for that I'll pick him up or decide to go to the left (which solves all problems :rolleyes:). He only does it on walks, not when I have my bike with me (I walk that same route then..)

Mine occasionally stops then tries to back up shaking his head trying get out of his collar. He used to just stop and not want to move so I had to pick him up and carry him a few feet and put him down then he would walk fine. He hasn't been doing that lately.

Well, at least it is nice to know that I am not the only one to experience this problem. FYI-It does not appear to be related to light or temperature.

We are going to see a new trainer in the next week and this is one of the things we want to work on, so I will update if we find something that works.

Watch her nose! Sometimes mine put on the brakes, scent the air or ground and refuse to go any farther. I respect their instincts that something "bad" has been in the area, and then I just choose a new route. It might be another dog or wild critter that she doesn't want to confront. You never know.

@nobarkus:

Mine occasionally stops then tries to back up shaking his head trying get out of his collar. He used to just stop and not want to move so I had to pick him up and carry him a few feet and put him down then he would walk fine. He hasn't been doing that lately.

Yea, Kananga tries to get out of his collar too, except he jumps up on his legs and hops back (strange). He always has this worried look on his face though, well I guess Basenjis always have a concerned look on their face to some extent.

I too think it's a scent thing. Perhaps they sense something we don't and their instincts tell them to discontinue walking in that direction.

@Kananga:

Yea, Kananga tries to get out of his collar too, except he jumps up on his legs and hops back (strange). He always has this worried look on his face though, well I guess Basenjis always have a concerned look on their face to some extent.

I too think it's a scent thing. Perhaps they sense something we don't and their instincts tell them to discontinue walking in that direction.

Yea, the backward bouncing dance on the hind legs. Buddy did that in obedience class and all I wanted him to do was heal.

Oh yes - Gossy does this frequently and like Kananga she twists and turns and hops and jumps trying. At first I would pick her up and carry her for some distance and then she'd be okay but then soon do it again. I finally decided that if she didn't want to walk any further then fine I wouldn't fight it. So now we walk only as far as she want to go - often she'll ask for another walk later (but again not really far).

Jaycee usually always does fine on her walks and will go right along no problem. However the other evening before dark we were walking Jaycee and a jogger came out of no were. Jaycee's hair was end and she was at the end of her leash. We were walking one way but after that no way was she going that away we had to go home.
We did not walk her the next night and now we are back walking and all is well. I was scared she would never want to go that away again.

Rita Jean

Here is an update on my original posting about this issue. Just to clarify–this digging in of the heels was becoming a chronic problem. We had a session with a trainer last week and we did go on a short walk. Of course, she did not exhibit the behavior at that time.

However, based on our general description of Ella's issues the trainer started on the assumption that we needed to work on establishing our leadership role--both in and out of the house. We were doing some things right (she has to sit for her food and sit at the door before going outside and we go first), but other things wrong (she had free access to the couch, she got treats just for being cute, we let her inside the house before us). On walks we are using the simple technique of a tight grip on a very shortly held leash to keep her in the heel position but with a loose arm so she can feel the loose leash when she is doing it right. When she hangs up on something she is close enough that a tug and a command will she her trotting along. She had always been rewarded for heeling and making eye contact but we were not using verbal commands. Now we are using the commands Heel and Look, which seems to help engage her attention. If she does try to dig in heels, it is easy to get her moving again. She has a long way to go, has problems with various distractions, but I am convinced we are going in the right direction.

In retrospect, even though I thought I was leading her on the walks there were a lot of mixed messages. The walks are becoming more enjoyable for us again, and I think eventually she will be happier and less uncertain as she gets more used to following us.

@bcraig:

…Of course, she did not exhibit the behavior at that time....

Isn't that typical, LOL? 😉 It's like going to a mechanic with your car "making this sound" or whatever - and them saying, "could not duplicate"!:mad: :o

It seems like you're getting past this behavior…glad to know your walks are more enjoyable! Keep us posted...:)

@bcraig:

Well, at least it is nice to know that I am not the only one to experience this problem. FYI-It does not appear to be related to light or temperature.

We are going to see a new trainer in the next week and this is one of the things we want to work on, so I will update if we find something that works.

Please let me know what you found out at the training! Thank goodness I'm not the only one with this problem - my spaniel mix Sophie, 7 yrs does this, not my Basenji, Max who walks just fine. She does this when we walk around the neighborhood, digs in her heels, refuses to go left or continue on certain streets. I have picked her up and carried her past a few houses (I feel like a criminal) and it's not always the same area. I check out the obvious things like noises but it's very quiet where we live. She just has one favorite route and that's it and this gets boring for the rest of us. However, if I drive to our park trails and we walk, still on leash and no houses she is fine. This is nice but not always convenient! I know this is an older post.

Luckily, I get email notification when a thread is active again.

I can understand when there is a tangible reason a dog will not go in one direction or another, but my frustration was that it really was not associated with any particular distraction. She would just sort of zone out-stare ahead into space-and not move. Tugging on her leash would not get her going.

As I said at the end of the last post, it really turned out to be a confidence and leadership issue. We had a lot of issues with Ella at that time, so it was no surprise that many of them were related. She was (and is) mostly pretty shy and wary. She can be overwhelmed and made nervous somewhat easily. Because of that, we tended to handle her a bit with kit gloves. That resulted in her becoming a little spoiled and feeling like she was in charge. So we had a nervous timid dog that considered herself to be the pack leader. So we she got nervous she didn't have anybody to pull her out of it. If any of that sounds anything like your dog, then maybe our solution will work for you.

The solution was just pretty basic leadership oriented training exercises, which I can detail if you want them.

First Basenji's

@bcraig:

The solution was just pretty basic leadership oriented training exercises, which I can detail if you want them.

I don't know about the originator of this thread, but I would love for you to detail them for me. My Faro is still a very young basenji but I think that these exercises will benefit us. I think he doesn't perceive me as a leader and I do baby too much. Any advice would be great. Thanks for the ideas.

We are now in an area that is covered in many dog training books and/or websites, so you are welcome to research this subject on your own. I think the leadership ideas are pretty much the same even though we are dealing with Basenjis, the issue is using the right technique for Basenjis.

We had 4 sessions spread out over about 6 weeks with a positive reinforcement-based trainer. I don't think you have to use a trainer but it does really help. Each week we would have questions because almost nothing went smoothly but she always had ideas to help us get through. I would divide what we did into two categories–changes that we made in how we behaved around Ella, and obedience training (tricks and commands) that helped to strengthen our bond and reinforced out leadership position.

The behavior changes are pretty easy to implement. The main ones for us were making sure we led the way out the door on walks and were the first to enter the door upon returning. Eventually we taught the "wait" command so that she will sit at the door and allow us to step outside before we release her. So she is calm and submissive in front of an open door before we walk out. That is huge. Sets the tone for the whole walk. We had to do a lot of body blocking while teaching this but eventually it worked. Treats are keys. We made an effort to eat our dinner before she is fed. Also, she had to sit and wait for her food. She is not given treats just for being cute or for having a curly tail. We are generous with treats but she has to do something (even just a "sit") to get one. She was so forlorn and sad for the first few months we had her we had created bad treating habits...making her see us a submissive to her.

I think equally important was at the same time we began teaching commands. At this point all she knew was "sit" and that took a long time (a moth or two) to learn. With a trainer and using treats and a clicker we were able to teach about 6-8 commands in about 3-4 weeks. When Ella picked up on a new command and the excitement it generated, I really felt connected to her for the first time. And because I was the one issuing the commands it made me the pack leader. It gave me a way of controlling her behavior a little and getting her attention. All good things. We learned down, stay, touch, shake, wait, roll over (very tough), up, here and come (the hardest command for a B).

The final piece of the puzzle is getting it to make a difference on a walk. Any trainer will tell you that the energy you bring to the dog will be reflected right back to you. We had gotten so stressed with this digging in of heels on walks that it gave bad energy to the walks. It is a vicious cycle that is difficult to break. You just need to have one good walk, or part of one good walk, and build on it. Relaxed shoulders, relaxed hand on the leash, a care-free gait, these are all things a dog will pick up on. As bad as the vicious cycle is when things are bad, they can turn around just as easy. One good walk begets another. One successful commands teaches another.

Hope this helps. We were at a low point with our new dog when I wrote that post. She is far from perfect on walks but we have made huge progress.

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