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Puppy only looks for food on walks

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Member Since
07/21/2012
 
 
Barked: Tue Nov 20, '12 4:04pm PST 
Hi everyone,

I hope you might have some helpful tips for me. I have a wonderful, smart puppy that was dumped at a shelter in Poland. She's about 5/6 months old and looks like a shepherd/collie mix.
She's really good, apart from one thing: she's completely obsessed with food. She's had a rough start in life, having to share 1 food bowl a day with 11 other puppies and being separated from the mother very very early. Therefore it makes perfect sense that she feels the need to eat everything that comes within reach. Jumping up on the table and stealing food is getting better (although she did try to steal a pretzel out of a child's hand today).
The problem, mainly, is when we are out on walks. I live in Berlin, so it is a busy city with lots of food lying on the sidewalk permanently (pizza boxes, aluminum foil with little bits of food attached to it, sometimes even cooked bones). This means that I can't walk her normally: she walks with her head down at all times, always looking for food, pulling when she smells something.
This means that walks have become rather frustrating for me - which really sucks because it's the main active time we spend together and it's supposed to be a time of bonding and mutual pleasure rather than frustration and irritation.
My frustration is fuelled by the fear that she'll eat something poisoned, as unfortunately it is quite common here to have poisoned meat lying around for dogs to eat.
I want to teach her to walk with her head up and to not sniff around constantly, and also to simply ignore food when it is lying on the street.
My trainer suggested to use a muzzle for a few weeks and to click and treat everytime she keeps her head up while walking. So the muzzle would be there to prevent her from receiving a reward from the ground. And only getting a reward from me, up in the air.
Also I will teach her leave it.
I hope one day we will get so far that I can let her off-leash in the park and she will just go past those pieces of bread and apple cores that are lying around.
Would it be a good idea, for the second phase, to get one of those leashes that go around the face so that, for a few weeks, I can give a small yank up on the leash whenever she tries to put her head down and sniff around. Off course she will be allowed to sniff when I tell her to (e.g. 15 minutes walking, 5 minutes sniffing, 15 minutes walking, 5 minutes sniffing, etc.)

I would love to hear it if you have some more advice. Part of me thinks it's really unfair to forbid a puppy to sniff around and get to know the world. On the other hand, it's for her own safety as in summer there's lots of poison to be found in this city. Do you have tips/opinions/experiences for me?

All the best,
Julia
P.S. I train with the positive reinforcement method, so please no dominance theory arguments
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Smokey

Let's play tug!!
 
 
Barked: Tue Nov 20, '12 5:59pm PST 
I think your trainer's advice sounds pretty reasonable. You'll probably get some strange looks, but assuming you get a soft, comfortable muzzle and condition her to it with treats, it will have virtually no long-term negative effect on her. Also remember that the initial method of teaching leave it is to reward the dog for ignoring the street food by giving her something even better when she leaves it alone. You need to build a strong positive association with leave it, so that later on it will work even when you don't have a pocket full of treats. But for now, you should definitely be setting off on walks with super high value treats- think pepperoni and cheese.
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Member Since
07/21/2012
 
 
Barked: Wed Nov 21, '12 3:35pm PST 
Thanks for your reply!
Yes I hope the muzzle is not going to have any negative effects. I'm worried in so far that she might get strange/fearful looks from people and starts to become less trusting herself, as she already is hesitant towards strangers.
I guess I'm rather pessimistic because knowing her, as soon as the muzzle comes off and the rewards from the street are back, she will slip into her old routine again immediately.
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Member Since
07/21/2012
 
 
Barked: Wed Nov 21, '12 3:37pm PST 
I was also thinking of teaching her to carry something. So that she would have a job to do on walks and her mouth will be occupied with carrying.

Is it possible to teach a dog to carry something for a long amount of time, like half an hour or so? Is it fair to teach this to a puppy?
[notify]
Buster

1201864
 
 
Barked: Wed Nov 21, '12 5:32pm PST 
My dog was the same always pulling to go after scents or food and we lived near a really bad fast food place so it wasn't worth the risk of him eating something. What helped a lot was a halti and the second he started pulling stopping dead and only walking when he was back beside me. After a few weeks I was able to wean him off the halti and he walks fine on a loose lead now and this was a dog who spent about 3 years pulling. Click and reward when he's got his nose off the ground and is walking nicely if he's that mix he is going to be a smart dog. Teach a strong leave it as well
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNAOe1djDyc
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