View Full Version : Lunging at cars -- help, please!

Daisy's Mom
22nd December 2007, 04:29 AM
Daisy has started a very bad and scary habit lately. When I walk her, whenever a car passes, she lunges toward it. If her leash ever came off or I dropped it, she would be under the wheels in a heartbeat. It scares me to death every time. Our neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks. It has extra-wide roads and barely any traffic (the streets don't go through to anywhere, so it's just the people in the neighborhood on the roads for the most part.) But whenever I see or hear a car coming up behind me, I know she will be jumping out after it. I've started using a shorter leash because literally if someone drove very close to us, she could be hit while I am still holding the leash! Heaven forbid I should ever use a flexi-lead. she'd be hit by the first car that passed us. She has an extremely strong prey drive and I think she just sees movement and wants to chase. She jumps right toward the wheels as the car/truck is driving by us! She's always kind of noticed the cars, but recently has been doing this lunging thing much more dramatically.

I have been trying to correct it, but I'm not really sure how to go about it. I just kind of pull her back and say "NO." She wears a harness, so it doesn't hurt her, but I'm hoping it gets the message across that she is not supposed to be doing that. I try to do this whenever I see her start to notice and react to the car and prior to her jumping out toward it. I could probably have better timing though. Every time, I hope she will not do it and I try to give her a chance not to. I usually end up pulling her back and saying "no" after she's poised herself for the attack, and then it's too late because she's already fixated.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Actually, she is just a terror on the leash in general. She pulls herself almost sick until about halfway through our walks when she starts to get significantly tired. And if we see another dog -- forget it. She's lunging like a madwoman. We've been through puppy kindergarten and Obedience I, in which she did very well, at least in the 2nd half of the course. She graduated with very high marks. But that's all due to the treats. She would do anything for treats so she fixates on me pretty well during class, but on a regular walk she's bonkers. Maybe I could distract her with treats in this car situation? The other complicating issue though is that the vet said she needs to lose weight so I should walk her more and cut way back on the treats. So I probably shouldn't go crazy with them every time a car goes by or she will really become a porker!

Maybe I should make her sit and hold her attention with a treat every time a car drives by? I don't know, but I'm willing to try just about anything.

22nd December 2007, 10:21 AM
Th answer is in the second half of your post -- eg she does well in class when there is a reward but not out on the street. That's because you worked very briefly (in overall terms) to teach her in class, and then are assuming she is already trained when you go for walks. Her behaviour indicates she isn't trained at all -- she is not walking on a loose lead,she is pulling and lunging and generally not responding to you or recalling what she learned in class. Eg this is like believing a dog is housetrained because you've done some basic housetraining and the dog does well for a week -- we all know that won't men the dog is housetrained, but it does mean you have a good foundation to build on! :) The fact that Daisy did well in the closed environment of a class means you have a good foundation to build on but she needs practice, practice, practice and continued training as now, these very bad habits of lunging at cars and pulling hard have crept in.

In-class learning is only the groundwork for you to go away and work every day with your dog to cement those techniques. :) If you have ever taken a class -- say, learned to ski, to drive, to sew, to play an instrument, to cook, to do math problems... this will make more sense if you think about it. You and Daisy needed to go off and *practice*. I bet your training classes were maybe an hour or two at most maybe once or twice a week? That isn't enough time for a dog to learn, and learning to walk on a loose lead takes a lot of practice. In addition, walking around in a class where the only distraction might be a few other dogs isn't at all like walking down the street with cars, people, cats, birds, squirrels, noises...

This is a really common issue and the solution is you need to set aside at least 15 minutes once a day and ideally twice a day just to work on loose lead walking. Start in the house or garden and progress to a park or somewhere there's no traffic. If you can just do not take her on street walks for a week or two and really work on this. Bring the rewards and reward as you do in class (you should use praise as well as treat rewards and increasingly move to where she mostly gets praise and not treats but this too takes time). Then start to work walking her on quiet streets, then move back to the more distracting streets.

The way to stop her lunging at cars is not to say no -- as you have found this makes no difference to her because she is more interested in the car and saying 'no' before she does anything isn't connecting an action to the 'no' (imagine walking long the street and having a friend start saying 'no, No, no, NO!' to you for what seems to you to be no reason at all! The fact that something happens, and you react, several seconds later isn;t going to make a connection). Instead, carry treats all the time -- a small bag of kibble may do for some dogs, but higher value treats like cheese or hot dog piecesare better -- and in the moments before you see her start to focus on the car, distract hr with treats and praise for focusing on you, She also should have learned the 'look' command so she will focus on you and you can ask her to sit and look at you when you see a car coming, and offer treats and praise for focusing on you, not the car. If she is sitting, she cannot lunge.

You might want to go back to the trainer, either to discuss techniques with in the next level of obedience, or get someone in for one to one guidance. Continued cl;asswork WILL help.

A quick approach as you start all this is to get Daisy a Sense-ible walking harness. These clip at the front and will make it impossible for her to lunge at cars or to pull. But she still needs training work too, to continue. :thmbsup:

Harness: http://www.softouchconcepts.com/products/sense_ible_harness.html

Daisy's Mom
22nd December 2007, 06:36 PM
Karlin, thanks for the advice! I actually have a no-pull harness that I think is identical to the Sense-ible one you talked about. I have used it a couple of times and it does keep her from pulling hard. I wasn't crazy about it in other ways, though. She seems to be able to wiggle out of it by getting her front leg through the chest loop. I tightened it and that helped, but the other thing is that she ends up kicking the lead hook all the time with her front leg as we are walking. It's just hard to keep it up out of the way when we are walking. It's hard to explain, but neither she nor I are very comfortable using it. But I will definitely try it again.

And I will try the treat thing as a distraction when cars go by, too. I generally do bring treats, to try to "catch" her walking well with a loose lead and reward her, but that generally doesn't happen till the 2nd half of our walk. If she was really hungry, then I might be able to get her attention before she gets tired out, but not always. She will usually heel when I have a treat visible in my hand but at all other times, she's out front pulling. It is very annoying. In class or in the backyard, she is very good on the "Watch me" command, but with distraction (like on a normal walk) it generally does not work.

She does great in the backyard with heeling (even without a leash, but only with a treat visible), but in public it's a whole 'nother story, unfortunately. We'll practice more. She's so unbelievably food-motivated that she doesn't want to do anything without the promise of a treat. She is the easiest dog in the world to teach tricks, because she will do ANYTHING for a treat, but unfortunately almost nothing without it!

Anyway, wish me luck and we'll work hard. Sometimes I think she'll walk well on a lead when she's too old to pull!

Daisy's Mom
7th February 2008, 05:14 PM
Update: I have been making using the "Watch me" command and Sit using treats whenever a car goes by, and it usually works, but we are nowhere near her not lunging at them if I don't distract her. And we are in Obedience II now as well. I'm determined to get her walking on a loose lead if it kills me, I know she can do it! I have been using the "tree" method where if she pulls, I stop. When she has slack in the lead, I move. I think I may be seeing a tiny glimmer of light down at the end of a long tunnel. She looks at me like I have lost my mind. Like "Let's go already -- what's the holdup?"

We'll keep working... Patience, patience, patience.

If anything happened to Daisy because of her leash habits, I would never forgive myself. She's such a great dog in all other areas. We made it through the ferocious puppy stage and we'll make it through this, too!

7th February 2008, 06:09 PM
how old is she?

Both cavaliers I've had have done this but they grew out of it once they got to about 12 months, fortunately!

8th February 2008, 01:03 PM
She also should have learned the 'look' command so she will focus on you and you can ask her to sit and look at you when you see a car coming, and offer treats and praise for focusing on you, not the car. If she is sitting, she cannot lunge.

Yes, the "looking" or "look" command is the very first thing we were taught to teach our dogs at obedience class and it is such a valuable thing. When any fraught situation is immanent that little treat under your chin, your dog drooling over is such a great distraction. :)

Daisy's Mom
8th February 2008, 02:06 PM
She is almost 2 years (will be 2 in April). Actually, she didn't used to do this. She started doing it this past summer. I used to walk her outside of our neighborhood on a sidewalk along a street that is not at all busy, but does have a few cars going by once in a while. I don't dare do that until we get this fixed. I only walk her within the neighborhood, and with plenty of treats.

The Watch me command is working most of the time, but I have to do it every time a car goes by, and have her in a sit. Sometimes you can tell it is just killing her not to fixate on the car and she will roll her big eyes over toward it as it's going by, but not get out of the sit so she will get the treat after it's past us.

Scouty girl
8th February 2008, 04:11 PM
Scout also did this as a pup, but has stopped. It was rather scary. Sounds like you've made great progress.

Scout will also be two in April. April 5.