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I am dog sitting for my landlady, and she has a large male German shepherd. We have a fenced in yard that I walk him in a few times a day. He is not well trained and has even climbed over the fence before, so I have to keep him on a leash at all times. Most of the time I take him outside without incident, but the last few days there have been rabbits in the yard morning and night which causes him to go crazy and chase after them dragging me behind him. The same freakout happens if the neighbor lets his dogs out in the adjacent yard.

I am a small lady, and it takes most of my body weight against his pulling to stop him, once I get him stopped he is still amped and is difficult to manage. He wears a circular chain collar that tightens as he pulls away. The real problem I am having is that he runs so abruptly that it causes me to run a few steps before I can stop him which has caused me to have pain in my leg like a pulled muscle. I try to anticipate these sudden movements, but he even lunges after bugs at times.

Since I am only dog sitting for the next two weeks, I don't expect to be able to remove 7 years of bad habits/prey drive from the dog. Is there anything I can do short-term to avoid getting injured further? Send all your ideas, ill try anything!

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    Just a little comment: dogs are terrible at generalising. In this case: use this to your advantage! Check out a few texts and videos on leash-training, and see if you can get anywhere. You just might: the dog may just learn that with YOU it has to behave, at least, instead of going for a generalized "I may pull on the leash all I want". – Layna Jul 27 '17 at 11:52
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    The last few days I've made a point of being very vigilant when I have the dog outside. Instead of looking around the yard or day dreaming I've just been watching the dog for any signal that he is the least bit interested in chasing something. As soon as he seems to perk up, even if I don't see the cause, I've been saying "leave it" and then taking him in a different direction. He has been very responsive to my commands and only half heartedly lunged at something once. Thanks for the suggestion of not assuming he won't behave with me. – user3281667 Jul 29 '17 at 3:31
  • Awesome, glad you and the dog start getting along like that :) – Layna Jul 29 '17 at 12:47
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Two things I could immediately think of, although they cost a bit, but maybe the owners would be interested in it as well – both would also work in conjunction with each other:

  • Get a harness in addition to a collar. This gives you two points of support to hold the dog back, while also giving you more control over where he's looking/turning (so you might even be able to avoid the dog seeing rabbits or anything else).

  • Get a dampener between collar and actual leash. These are typically made from elastic materials and will consume most of the power applied when the dog starts jumping or running.

Also in case of the collar, I'd replace that immediately, if there's no stopper or similar that keeps it from strangling the dog. This is not only outlawed in some regions, but it may also make the problem worse.

Also if there's some treat the dog loves, you might be able to use that as a distraction, but it really depends on the individual dog. We've got two and while one would do anything for a treat (even ignoring wild animals or barking dogs), the other just won't care about food at all while on the road.

  • These are great ideas. Thanks for pointing out the issue about the collar, I definitely don't like the idea of causing the dog any physical harm and it doesn't seem to deter him from pulling at all. I especially like the idea of the harness and I think its a great solution both sort and long term which I'll share with my landlady when she returns. – user3281667 Jul 29 '17 at 3:22
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Give the dog less leash.

The dog needs to understand that it is following your lead when on the leash. Imagine that there's a line that runs from side to side in line with your body - when you walk forward, the line moves with you, and when you turn, it turns. Think of it as lining up with your shoulders or your hips.
Whenever the dog is on the leash, only give it enough length for its head to barely cross this line; don't allow it to pass forward of this line any farther than its ears. Its shoulders and most of its body should be behind you at all times. (Yes, this may require you to hold the leash at a somewhat awkward angle. You might need to use your off hand to hold the anchor loop, and possibly cross that arm in front of yourself depending on the length, and then use your dominant hand to hold the middle of the leash just behind your hip.) Start this before you're even outside.

Here's how that might look initially, before the dog learns to stop pulling on the leash:
Woman holding a leash to short length with a dog pulling

And here's how it should look once the dog figures out what you expect:
Woman holding a leash to short length with well-trained dog

When the dog understands that it isn't allowed to walk ahead of you, it will start to recognize you as the leader in where to walk, which should help to reduce its inclination to dash after other animals.

You might think this wouldn't be applicable for a dog you're only watching for 2 weeks, but I can tell you from personal experience that it will:
I adopted an adult dog from a rescue who was completely untrained aside from being housebroken, but after just ten minutes of using this technique on a single walk, he had already figured it out and was walking alongside me with a slack leash.

And if the dog winds up getting in front of you anyway, due to its strength and speed, don't pull straight back on the leash, this will only result in it pulling harder. Instead, pull to the side. This will put the dog off-balance, and cause it to naturally turn towards you, reinforcing the idea that it should be looking to you to know what to do, rather than it leading you around.

  • I am not sure if I fully understood how you want to wrap that leash, but wrapping any leash connecting a strong, badly trained dog with a small person seems to be asking for injuries! Also, holding the leash like that, I am unsure one could hold it with any kind of strength. The idea is the right one (highly dominance-based, but this IS a short-term arrangement, so go for it if it works, you won't hurt the dog!), but I wonder how to handle this physically! – Layna Jul 28 '17 at 13:12
  • @Layna I've added images showing a couple of examples of what I mean. I also adjusted the wording slightly, so that it's more clearly written in the context of a simple leash. If you're using a retractable leash instead, obviously there's no anchor loop, so you'd have to hold the chassis as normal for that type of leash. – Dan Henderson Jul 28 '17 at 13:55
  • Also, here's a close-up example: pbcdallas.com/wp-content/uploads/DSC002521-1024x768.jpg – Dan Henderson Jul 28 '17 at 14:06

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