Saturday, 3 December 2011


For a Puppy that has never walked on a leash before this is pretty normal behaviour…so don’t panic and don’t get frustrated! 

I mean, what would you do if some one put a collar around your neck and tried to tug you…uh huh, now you see, I’d dig my heels in and shut down too!

I have had to show client's that  their puppies could walk very nicely - after they had quit trying to walk them as the puppy refused to move!

Sometimes people inadvertently create this kind of ‘shut down’ in teenage and adult dogs too. Don’t worry it is fixable. How does this happen, well there are many reasons…here are a few…

One - On a past occasion your dog did not want to go out, he dug his heals in and refused to budge, you were surprised, maybe felt worried, anxious even frustrated. These feeling tell your dog that you are not in-control and may also have reinforced your dog’s anxiousness. Now if you gave in and did not walk him he learned that he could control you.

Two - something that your dog thinks of as unpleasant may have occurred during preparation for a walk or while you were out on a walk. He dug his heals in and refused to budge, you were surprised, maybe felt worried, anxious even frustrated. You pulled hard on his leash (you dug in too!) and in so doing reinforced his ‘shut down’. You did not know how to lead and unlock you dog’s psychological state so the pattern of behaviour was formed.

What’s the worst thing you can do in this situation - full out tug your dog…I guarantee your dog’s resistance will increase, especially if you are upset. I understand that you are attempting to lead, but if you are emotional you are leading by the wrong example. If you are upset your dog will start to associate the leash with stress and tension.

If you have stopped trying to walk your puppy or dog because its does the ‘flop’ or digs in and refuses to ‘budge’ I do have good news for you… 

Because dogs live in the moment it is easier to change a dog's 'bad habits' than it is a human's. Humans carry grudges, dogs do not, they form associations with places, things, animate and inanimate objects. Dogs are very forgiving and treat each day, each experience as a new beginning if you change how you approach the experience.

This is about training you - not your dog. If you communicate the right way your dog will follow. Dogs are patient and persistent. If they think that they do, or do not want to do something a dog will simply draw upon its strength of will to succeed. If you are not prepared to employ greater patience, persistence and will you will not prevail. 


First of all you need to be aware of how dogs communicate and how you can unintentionally communicate the wrong message to your dog.

When we think of something that makes us happy, unhappy, sad, angry, excited, etc. the thought translates to our body. We may tense our shoulders, clench our hand, narrow our eye, purse our mouth, change our breathing, sweating and so on. This is our physical reaction to our own translated to our bodies = body language.

Body language is a form of communication and your dog takes notice -instantaneously…our dogs are often aware of what we feel before we are.

This is just one reason why it is so important to learn to be aware of your own emotional state when you are communicating to and working with your dog. If you use force and do not employ self discipline yourself your dog will not respect you. Psychological control consisting of self-restraint and self awareness, is a very powerful tool that when applied properly becomes a powerful, respectful method of directing your dog. Read more about that here and here


Your dog requires coaching and mentoring not domination. Take a quick read of these two articles and then you are ready to get your dog motivated!


How Dogs Assign Respect

For really small breed dogs like my 1.6 kg /4 lb Pomeranian please do not use a collar. For Dogs over 3.2 kg / 8 lbs collars are safe, but for dogs smaller than that you risk injury or breakage of their neck! I would recommend using a harness rather than attaching a leash to a delicate dogs collar. A wrap style harness would be best as it is designed to be ergonomic - no pressure points and secure.

If you are clipping a leash to your dog’s collar, make sure the collar is correctly adjusted so it cannot slip off over your dog’s ears and head.


Your confidence is everything to your dog. This is a psychological test of wills and has nothing to do with training your dog. It is a matter of training yourself - learning how to coach your dog through to success. You have to disengage your worry about what your dog will do and instead think about a positive outcome - engage working mode - calm assertive, directive confidence is key - no emotion. You have to be 100% committed to believing in yourself and your dog. Remember you do not want to engage in debate and argument with your dog. If you think you are going to have to fight with your dog over this - your dog can sense your lack of confidence and what you anticipate.

Now Get Ready for Your Walk... 

One - Don’t worry about whether your dog will refuse to move…think about the fact that it is normal to go for a walk - be confident, breath normally, relax, no tension;

Two - Now, clip the leash to your dog’s collar or harness;

Three - Immediately turn so you face forward in the direction you want to go, have the thought in your mind that you are ready to go for your walk;

Four -  With your dog beside or behind you, don’t look at your dog relax and look forward, give a little quick tug, immediately release the tension on the leash - keep the leash loose in your hand, no tension (loose-leash in hand)  and move forward;

Five - If your dog stalls give another little tug, release tension and move forward. loose leash in hand with confidence - don’t look at your dog just tug and go.

Six - Once you get your dog moving, if your dog bucks or digs in just repeat the quick little tug, immediately release all tension on the leash and move forward without looking at your dog. Don’t worry, maintain your confidence, own your walk with a confident stride and look forward…do not look at your dog. When you look at your dog (in this situation) your look becomes a conduit for expression of the though ' are you really going to listen to me? Are you really going to follow me? Such thoughts are not conducive to eliciting a follow response from your dog and provides an opening for an argument with your dog.

Seven - Remember that your dog has ‘gotten away’ with having ‘his way’ for some time, so your patience (persistence, determination and will) must be greater than that of your dog. Expect to have to reinforce a little until your dog goes through the experience of ‘testing’ you and seeing that you will be consistent, persistent and respectfully directive. Once he sees that you are determined to direct in this firm but fair and consistent manner he/she will start to work with you.

Eight - Enjoy your confidence and normalize the experience for yourself and your dog.

Have a good walk! If you would like you can come for a walk with me too - trail walk  or  road walk  you choose!

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  1. what if the quick tug doesn't work!!! everything I read is about the human and their emotions and how they are transmitted to the dog!! I am quite tired of feeling like I am doing something wrong. My dog will not walk in the afternoons...he is fearful but who knows what associations he has made with the outside envirnment. He is afraid of everything, so impossible to pinpoint. What happens if a tug doesn't work and you want to make sure you don't give into him?????

    1. Hey I know it is really frustrating. Trust me. My Staffordshire really tests me. But I just tried it and it works. Make sure you use a dog harness (not a choke because it will not work). Also critical use a long leash.

  2. Keep in mind that it is not your dog's fault, nor is the current situation your fault. In this society we are generally not brought up to be very aware communicators nor are we taught about how intelligent and sensitive dogs are. The gift that a dog presents is the opportunity for the human to learn. But to do so you have to set-aside preconceived motions that a dog is just a dog and is less than intelligent.

    The quick tug will not work if you don't have the rest of the direction aligned - in fact nothing will work if you are not consistent in your alignment of body language to thoughts to emotions. Many of the dogs that I work with are rescued dogs - 50% of clients' dogs in fact. The history is not a predicator of the end result - the human's ability to lead from a place of directive and connected neutrality is the predicator. If your dog is continuing to shut down you are enabling that shut down by matching his anxious state with your frustrated state. Do you follow someone's lead if they are frustrated and angry? Do you look-up to them and respect them? Neither will a dog. You can read this and from it look to better understand your dog. Dogs admire pure logic much more than humans do. Give a dog truly supportive, clear truly patient direction and he/she will want to work with you - show a dog your frustration, anger, exasperation etc and they will be as you are. Either way you provide the example and the end result will reflect your example. A stressed and fearful dog learns nothing from a stressed and anxious human. Read this - the theory is the same You have to change the associations he has irregardless of how he originally acquired them.

  3. Karen, I want to thank you for this *amazing* advice. A couple days ago, my 8-month old Shepard mix Amber just stopped walking and stood on the pavement shaking all over. She being a shelter dog that I've had for about three months, I was of course incredibly worried - so I panicked, pulled and pleaded. I now realize that was fueling her anxiety in the first place! My past week was very stressful and she must have been picking up on that downward spiral. Where yesterday I literally had to carry her across the street, today she ended up taking my confident lead after I followed your guidance. Yes, it required quite a bit of patience and isn't yet perfect. But it's definitely heading in the right direction. Forward. :)

  4. Hi Greg - so glad it has helped you and Amber. I am going to recommend two more articles for you to read which will help you further...

    Amber is what I call a Heightened Sensitivity Dog (HSD) - an amazing asset when understood and leveraged the right way...

    You should read this one too - it will give you a much deeper understanding of how to support her even more...

    Cheers, Karen

  5. Hi Karen, I have two girls who don't get along and I'm scared of taking them on a walk together in case a fight breaks out but it would be nice if I could walk them all at once,maybe it helps their relationship? Note: their walking manner need a lot of work they pull and tug A Lot at the beginning but by the end of the walk they are more in control and on a loose leash for the most part. Thank you for your time!

    1. You can choose to do a phone session with me

  6. I wanted to send an update to the comment that I wrote yesterday. This morning I went out confident and determined to follow your steps listed above. I also chose to pop in some headphones and listen to some calming and groovy Bob Marley to help me feel positive and happy! This totally worked. Although my puppy did still freeze a two points during the walk. I took a deep breath, did not look at him and took a self-assured stride forward. To my delight my pup followed suit. This simply boosted my confidence and off we went. I know I will have to remain in this mindset and things may still take time, but I was so pleased to feel progress in the right direction. Thanks again!

  7. Hello Karen,

    I have an 8 month old German Sheppard. He absolutely refuses the leash. Whenever I put the leash on he would start to shake his head and then run back to his kennel.

    At the vet's I have to carry him (as he weigh 25kg trust me it's no fun).

    His behaviour is erratic, he steals the food of the other dogs, chewed on my dad's new car (now we are having to change both front and rear bumpers).

    My mum no longer wants to hear of the dog and wants me to give it away. I, myself is exasperated so I am very tempted to do that.

    The other dogs are playful and will come to play with me but he keeps his distance.

    The only time he comes near me is if I am giving out treats.

    I don't mistreat any of my dogs. I really want to give it away unless I can help the dog to behave.

    Any idea as to the best way forward?

    The dog was already 3 months old when I got him.

    Thanks in advance

    1. You have a VERY intelligent dog - you need to learn how to communicate with him properly, for that I recommend Phone Sessions/Consultations
      For cost and payment information and to pay for a phone session go here

  8. Thank you! When my puppy Hallow was around 3 months we had adopted her from a rescue center. Now she's 8 months and hasn't really been anywhere but my backyard and when I tried to get her on a leash she would just lay down. The first few times I had given up almost right away and I now know that I was letting her think that was okay but today I read this and it really worked. We were able to walk a small distance from my house, unfortunately another dog started barking at her when we went by the house and she stopped but at least now I know we can improve.


Important Note

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

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Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


"relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

"Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

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Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

Karen Rosenfeld
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats