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Canine Behavior/Resisting on the leash

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We have a labrador retriever and I have recently been taking him in my car for walks. When we arrive back from these walks I have some difficulty getting him out of the car. I do like to get him tired from the walks as this sets him for the rest of the day. When I want him take him out of the boot he has started resisting and refusing to move forwards. I have placed the leash at the top of his neck to help move the brain forward but he still resists. I took him to be weighed the other day at the vets and I couldn't get him off the scales - he was resisting again and refusing to move. I threw a ball to entice him to get out of the car and he jumped straight out and went to find the ball. He has a broken toe but this does not affect him much during walking and when I threw the ball he just jumped straight out. There has been no issue with him in the car and he is very quiet. Nothing bad has happened in the car to create a negative association. I'm wondering why he is resisting to get out of the car.

Answer
Thank you for your question. I don't think there is a negative association with the car. He gets in quite willingly to go for his walk and he's refusing to exit the car at the return of the walk.

First I want to point out that there is this thing called the opposition reflex. Dogs have it, humans have it, pretty much all mammals have it. The opposition reflex means that if pressure is put on your body in one direction, your reflexive response will be to push back in the opposite direction. We see this clearly when walking dogs who pull to the end of their leash. They are pulling, causing our hand/arms to move out away from our body. Our reflex is to pull our hand/arm back to our side which in turn puts more pressure on the dog's neck (chest if their wearing a harness), which causes them to pull even harder.  You're also seeing that when you put the leash up just under his chin (anywhere on his neck, really) and pull forward, putting pressure on the back of his neck - his opposition reflex prompts him to push against that pressure, further into the car. This is why you're finding this to not work for you.

Also, I expect that he loves his outings. He's having a great time and doesn't want it to end, and the longer he stays in the car, the longer the outing is... When you toss the ball for him, the fun suddenly isn't over and he's happy to get out of the car to keep playing.

I'd continue to use the enticement of a toy or a yummy treat (or 3 or 5...). You can toss the ball with a happy "let's go in an play!" phrase, or you can offer him a treat dropped on the ground just outside the car, and then a few more tossed toward the house with a cheery "find it" suggestion. Make getting out of the car and going back inside a fun part of the adventure. If the fun ends upon your return because he goes back inside and you go back to work or to check email, or any other thing that is no longer engaging with your dog, it's no wonder that he's trying to make the outing last as long as possible.

If you take just 30 seconds or a minute to play with him back to the house and inside, and then offer him a solo activity to occupy him such as a Kong toy stuffed with a mixture of his regular food, a few tasty tid-bits and some dog-safe soft food to bind it all together, this can help him feel much better about leaving the car at the end of the outing - the fun isn't ending, it's just changing course.

If you're going to use a Kong, you should rotate what you put in it to keep it interesting. I often mix 2 or 3 different binding ingredients together, either to cut down when an ingredient is high in fat such as liverwurst or peanut butter, or just to make it more interesting for the dog. Other binding options include mashed potato (no garlic), sweet potato puree, pumpkin puree, apple sauce, nonfat plain yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, low fat cream cheese, high quality canned dog food, or you can even soak some of his regular kibble in a low sodium broth until it's mushy enough to use as a binder (chicken, beef or vegetable). This is not an exhaustive list, but it's a good start.

You can stuff marrow bones the same way, or you can offer up a Bully Stick (these are fully digestible and depending on how large, it can take him 10-30 minutes to eat - he shouldn't have it for longer than 30 minutes, so if you get a huge one, make sure you replace it with another activity after a half hour). You can provide other interactive games for him such as Tricky Treat Ball or Kong Wobbler or Buster Cube. These are all used with just kibble (no wet food), and after you've taught him how to use it, he can entertain himself for anywhere from 10-45 minutes, depending on how long it takes to empty the dispenser. This would be how he gets his meals, not on top of his regular meals. You can feed entirely through these toys (brain exercise is more tiring than the physical exercise) or you can feed a portion of his meal in his bowl at his usual time and a portion from these toys after the walk if it doesn't work for your schedule to walk before meal times.

In short, I'd stop trying to force him out by pulling on the leash and I'd continue to entice him out with a fun activity, either with you or a solo activity that he can do upon returning inside. Take it as a testament to his joy at the outings you have - he just doesn't want it to end...

Good luck. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist
http://GoodDog-DogTraining.com

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT

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IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com/ If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.

Experience

I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

Organizations
I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications
http://NutzAboutMutz.com ; http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

Education/Credentials
I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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