Training a Pair of Goldendoodles to Listen and Stop Pulling on Leash

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 17, 2016

Crowley and Emmy

Crowley is a two-year-old Goldendoodle who doesn’t recall and pulls on the leash. His guardian set up a dog obedience training session with Dog Gone Problems after adding five-month-old Emmy to the pack. Emmy also needs some leash training, doesn’t listen consistently and has some potty issues.

Before we get to the details of this session, I wanted to introduce myself to you as one of David’s new apprentices – I’m Sam. I recently started working with David as his client base continues to increase and I had a shared interest in helping dogs and their guardians.

We use the word guardian instead of owner, because to us the term guardian implies someone who is looking out for the well-being of the dog and providing them with the tools and structure to be successful, whereas the term owner sometimes implies control.

We use positive reinforcement because we want the dog to know what we want and take the time to show it how to perform in the way that pleases us. Dominance theory is all about correcting the dog for mistakes or punishing it. We don’t think that is too cool or a good relationship to build.


David started the session by sitting down with the dogs’ guardians and asking them what types of rules they had in place for their dogs. Like most of David’s clients, they had a few rules in place, such as not jumping on visitors or begging for food. David defines a rule as anything that a dog has the ability to do, wants to do, but can only do so when given permission. When there is a lack of rules in a house this often leads to a confused leadership structure. David suggested some rules to help the dogs become the followers and identify the guardians as the leaders.

In addition to the rules, David suggested the guardians start practicing his Petting with a Purpose strategy, which will be demonstrated in the next video. Petting with a Purpose is a structured way of petting and helps the dogs see their guardian as their leader.

Crowly is being asked to “Sit” to ask for permission to get attention. At first Crowley was pawing and nudging his guardian with his nose to get attention. This gives Crowley the leadership role because he is telling his guardian to give him attention and when they follow through, they validate that belief. By having Crowley Sit to earn his affection or attention, he starts to take on the follower role. Importantly, David stresses only using the word “Sit” to communicate with Crowley (Not” good sit” or “Good boy sit”). Using too many words when instructing or leading he dog can often confuse the dog.

It’s easy to forget to ask your dog to sit before starting to pet them, so David suggested the ‘Paycheck’ game. When a family member walks into the room and they see someone petting a dog they who isn’t sitting or laying down, they say ‘Paycheck!’ The person petting needs to immediately stop petting and ask the dog to sit before  continuing.

This “Paycheck”game helps you remember to Pet with a Purpose. But if you asked the dog to sit first, then the dog gets up and you continue to pet and someone comes in and sees you and you argue about if you asked him to sit, the dog sees you are on different pages. Asking the dog to sit again is easy, shows the dog you are all on the same page and gives you another opportunity to practice sitting again.

One of the behaviors that the guardians were having trouble with is leash pulling. Because Emmy is a puppy, David demonstrated a technique for rewarding the puppy for walking with her guardians in a heel position.

The first thing you will want to do is decide what side you want your dog to walk on. Then, you will walk in a small circle with the dog on the inside (the side you want the dog to walk on), rewarding your puppy for walking close to you. It’s important to keep the puppy on the inside of the circle.

In the next video I gave David the camera and demonstrated keeping Emmy at a heel position. Since this was her first time learning this, she is rewarded for walking near me, even if she is not in the perfect heel position yet. Emmy is rewarded in two ways: the clicker and a treat. The clicker is used as soon as Emmy is in the correct position, which is followed by a treat.

Emmy was rewarded for following me, which over time and with practice, will help her achieve the heel position. When Emmy stopped following and sat down, she needed me to come back around to her and make a tight circle around her. Making a quick, tight circle around Emmy will help her learn more quickly, and as she learns this technique she will be able to walk in bigger and bigger circles with less correction. For example, when Emmy sat down in the shade, I should have made an abrupt U-turn and circled around her.

When Emmy came to me after making stops, she always received an immediate reward, telling her she was doing the right behavior. As I got better at making quick short, circle corrections, Emmy learned quicker.

Next, Emmy’s guardian works with her on the heel technique.

At first, the guardian had Emmy on the outside of the circle, but then corrected himself and started walking around her properly. The guardians will want to remember to keep Emmy on the inside of the circle. When Emmy stops following, they can correct this by quickly turning and making a tight circle around Emmy to bring her back to them.

David suggested to have everyone in the family work with Emmy once a day for 1-3 minutes each. It is best to separate the times that they work with the puppy. Puppies have short attention spans, so multiple short training periods is the best way for her to learn.

David also suggested that each family member works with Crowley on this each day as well. This will be more challenging for Crowley, because of his age, he has developed his own behaviors that will have to be undone. With practice, Crowley will be able to master this as well.

Since it will take time for the dogs to learn this new technique, David offered a solution to the leash pulling, so Emmy and Crowley can still get their daily walks to burn energy. David suggested that they use a martingale collar (with a special twist of the leash) for structured walks, to stop them from pulling on the leash. Note: it is important for the dog to be calm before leaving the house.

David recommended that at first Emmy and Crowley should be walked separately for now so the handler can focus on one dog at a time. The guardians used to walk the dos on the same side but have decided to walk the dogs on different sides now, so when they do walk them together they can each get corrected separately.

By the end of the session, Crowley and Emmy were no longer invading their guardians’ space and had already started sitting for attention. Emmy was learning to ‘heel’ by following her guardians off leash in a safe space. Crowley was walking on the leash with minimal corrections for pulling using the Martingale.

As the guardians assume their leadership role and correct or reward behavior within 3 seconds, their dogs will be well on their way to being calm and well-adjusted dogs. It will be important to have all of the family members work with the dogs each day for short training sessions to master these skills. But with consistency and practice, I’m sure that Emmy and Crowley will become great followers to their guardians.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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