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Hi, I am currently training my 5 mth Labrador to walk next to me. My trainer is asking me to hold low level treats in my hand while encouraging her to “look at me” and “with me” commands. But she is biting my fingers and her sharp teeth is making them bleed once she grabs the treats she looses interest and starts pulling again. I am thinking maybe of using a Lick Stick as a reward or something similar? Anyone have any ideas or has anyone used a lick stick?
I have also used high level treats but she still loosing interest.
 

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I've always found holding a treat in your hand encourages them to nibble your fingers. Instead I randomly treat them, so sometimes they get told 'good lass' (all of mine are bitches) and other times they're told 'good lass' and get a small treat. Because it's random they never know if the good lass is definitely going to be followed by a treat, but the good lass in itself becomes reward enough. If they get a treat every single time then they lose interest, so for example I ask my youngster to sit before I let her off lead, but she doesn't necessarily get a treat every time, and if she does it's not always straight away, I make her wait for it, and then sometimes if she sits and gives me more attention she gets another treat or a really good fuss.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you Tarimoor I tend to agree with you. I am also thinking that by constantly having treats in your hand and asking them to walk while nibbling the food encourages them to bite fingers etc. As you know Labs are very clever and she is learning that if she grabs and bites the food from my fingers she then can continue to pull. So far I don’t feel like we are moving forward.
 

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JohnW has some great pieces he's written about encouraging walking nicely with you. I tend to encourage good eye contact, lots of praise with the occasional treat and it seems to work pretty well.
 

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This was an article I wrote a while back. It was aimed at starting with a baby right from the time the pup first arrived home. But it can be adapted to an older puppy.

Heel training seems to be the main stumbling block for most new puppy owners, yet there is no reason why it should be. But just looking on various dog forums there seems to be a common theme. HARNESSES! Everybody is looking for the holy grail in the latest harness, and are seduced by the silky language of the advertising agent who is paid to make their product seem the best thing since sliced bread. “Use my harness and your dog will never pull again!” and such things as “This harness is kind to your dog, unlike collars which are cruel and can cause untold damage!” What they never tell you is why your dog wont pull on their harness. So ask yourself? Question, Does your dog read the label and say, “Oh, this is a XYZ harness, we don’t pull these!” No of course they don’t. The reason why any harness works is because it inflicts pain somewhere on the dog so that it makes it painful to pull. The very thing they accused collars of doing! Think about this for a minute, THERE IS NO OTHER WAY THEY CAN WORK! But the main problem with seeking the holy grail of harnesses is that your training then lacks consistency. Every harness or collar works in a slightly different way, exerting pressure in a different place meaning there is no consistency in what you are doing. Dogs learn by repartition, but every time you change harnesses you are starting a new series of repartitions and your training starts from day one again. But you are not really training at all. All you are doing is using different things in the forlorn hope that you will bore your dog into submission and that he/she will eventually grow out of pulling. Then “Oh joy! This new harness really works! I’ll have to tell everybody about it!” No it didn’t. Your dog just grew tired of pulling! So, how do you actually TRAIN your dog heelwork?

First off, as in most things, there is more than one way to skin a cat. This is just my way.

Firstly, I never take a puppy for a walk. Every time we go out of the gate it’s training. But not too regimented, rather fun training. Think about this for a moment. You are going on the school run and take your pup with you, killing two birds with one stone. Kids to school and puppy walked! You are in a hurry as you always are at this time, trying to get the kids to school on time, and preferably with them not getting run over by a lorry on the way! You meet other mothers on the way and have a nice natter as you go. Once you have posted the kids in through the school gates you can relax and walk back home with the other mums. In all honesty pup did not get much of your attention for the whole of that time, you were too busy. Training the pup was the last thing on your mind! Yet your pup was learning. He was learning that there were exciting smells and sights just past the end of the lead, people to greet and to make a fuss of him, so he wanted to get there in a hurry. In other words, he was learning to pull you along!

Better to leave pup at home. A lesson learned by him that he cannot go everywhere you go! Take him out only when you can give him undivided attention. But I’m getting a bit in front of myself. Training starts the minute the pup arrives, well before it has had it’s vaccinations and able to go out.

The first part of training is to get the pup use to a collar, and this literally starts the day the pup arrives home. I always put the collar on immediately before feeding. That way the food takes the pup’s mind off the collar. I leave the collar on all the time unless pup is in her crate. (It has been known for collars to get caught up in the bars and strangle the pup, so don’t take chances!) I like the softest, lightest collar I can find.

My first actual heel training takes place off lead in the garden. Armed with a few treats I call the pup to my left side, waft the treat in front of his nose so that he is aware of it and with the command “Heel” walk forward 3 or 4 paces then stop, praise him and give him the treat, then give him my “End of training command.” In my case I use “OK” as the command. Basically it means “We’ve finished and you can do what you want now.” Talk to your pup while he’s walking at heel, tell him how wonderful he is, keep his attention on you.

After a few days of this, two or three times a day I’ll start using a lead. And for my first lead I use a piece of string! It’s lighter than any lead, which is ideal because I don’t want pup to really notice the “Lead.” We are starting to walk a little further now, so time to think about where to walk. Aim at 10 seconds of heelwork at first, keep it short and keep it fun. Walk pup on the left and If he tries to get in front turn in an anticlockwise direction across in front of him. If he lags behind turn clockwise away from him and encourage him up to heel. Never walk in a straight line for more than 5 paces, straight lines are boring! Squares, Triangles and circles are the order of the day. Add other exercises in to provide variation. Stays are so useful for when you need to clear something up on the floor, or even for taking photographs. Recalls are obviously useful. But don’t combine the exercises at this point. For example, if doing a sit stay then make sure you praise the sit stay before moving on to a recall. Make sure your pup KNOWS it’s finished it’s sit say!

There is a lot of talk about the relative merits of collars or harnesses. But in reality they only secure the dog from running off. Really they play very little part in the actual training. Because my pups are destine to be working gundogs I don’t want a collar on my dogs when working because of the risk of getting caught up and strangled. So I use a slip lead, so named because it is quick to slip on or off and does not need a collar! If you do your training right then you never have a tight lead so what you use is really unimportant.

So now the vaccinations have been given and your pup is able to go outside the gate. I slip my pup into my car and take her to the park where I can continue training along the route I’ve started. I don’t want to walk there because it’s too far to be able to keep my pup’s attention. Plenty of time for that when the habit of walking to heel is set. All the training in the park is the same as at home. Short pieces of work interspersed with games. Even sitting on a seat watching the world pass by is still training, it’s training patience! Work at your training and you will end up with a dog to be proud of. I don’t take my dogs for a walk. I go for a walk with my dogs, and thats a big difference.
 

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Our pups have just reached 5 months too, and whilst we do not hold treats all the time in our hand whilst walking, I empathise with the sore fingers scenario :( When treating whilst walking, it's hard to get down to them before they jump up to take the treat resulting in fingers going deeper into their mouths and a very uncomfortable extraction of fingers at the end. It's damn painful and even moreso when it's very cold outside! I think we have generally been treating too much and as a result, it's hard to just stroke them sometimes, as their heads immediate point up to receive a treat and can duck away so we cannot pat or stroke them on the head. Something we need to correct once we have found some guidance.

With regards to walking by our side, it continues to be a long process for us, but getting better. We just need to do little and often; realising that if we miss a day of reinforcement, we can very quickly end up back at zero. It's the repetition which is important and as excited new pup parents, we need to remind ourselves there are no short cuts to getting out there for adventures with our pups :D
 

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Treats! So important they are used correctly. I wrote a short article about them for another group only this week so I'll start a new thread about them.
 

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We use Arden Grange Liver pate straight from the tube to save the fingers. Rewarding frequently to start with, then phasing out/swapping for dialogue. We're still in the midst of it so hesitant to impart much 'advice'
 
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