I have been having a problem with my 16 week old corgi, Arthur. He hates going on walks. Like, really hates it. It's become a frustrating experience to take him out to do anything aside from bathroom breaks.
He is deathly afraid of cars, loud trucks, and any noises that he cannot immediately identify (i.e., someone knocking on the neighbor's door). He attempts to run away from the scary things and pulls on the leash like crazy until the noise/car goes away. Since I live in an apartment complex, this makes things extremely difficult because there is just no way that we can walk anywhere without him being exposed to cars. This fear seems to be a new development (over the past couple of weeks). Even before he started being fearful, though, he would balk during walks and refuse to move unless I was dragging him. I chalked that up to him being a young puppy, but the more I take him out, the worse his behavior gets. Sometimes I feel like I'm at my wit's end with him. Walks are no fun at all and even potty breaks are hard sometimes -- he won't go potty if he sees cars or hears "weird" noises. When I've taken him somewhere vehicle-free, he spends the entire trip either pulling on the leash or planting his feet and refusing to move. I've tried some of the tips suggested on here (refusing to walk while he pulls, changing direction, keeping walks short, etc.) with little success.
When he's inside, he's a different dog altogether. He is friendly, affectionate, and easy to train. He already does a pretty reliable sit/stay and "leave it" and we are working on a couple of tricks. He does not become fearful inside the house at all. I love him and just want us both to be able to enjoy our walks! Is this just normal puppy behavior? Does anyone have advice on how to help him?
Puppies can go through fear periods, but no, I wouldn't say that's normal behavior. Have you tried bringing treats along? It sounds like he needs some counter conditioning/desensitization to realize that these aren't scary things.
Have you done a puppy class with him yet? If not, I'd highly recommend it.
A class may really help since it is a controlled environment and a good trainer will be able to help improve his confidence. You also can reward any signs of confidence on his part such as walking with you for short distances. Mostly though I would consult a very positive trainer. Try googling clicker training for some tips.
Clicker training worked well for us on walks. It lets you capture the behavior you desire immediately, and he will soon learn to associate the behavior that will get him treats. When Selkie went through her fear stage I worked in this order: 1st couple of times she was scared of something I would kneel down so I was at her level and put her in a sit-stay command (with a treat in hand!!!), I would then get her to focus on the treat and not what she was afraid of using calm talk and lots of reassurance. 2nd step, when she got less afraid of things and associated them with getting treats, I advanced to the sit-stay while I remained standing. 3rd step, when I felt confident that the things that scared her were distracting her less, I taught her the command "focus" which is basically keeping her attention on me while we walked around or by the scary thing (this I started with a treat in my hand by my eye, then advanced to just pointing at my face). She keeps her attention on me and not other things, and thus gets a treat. Good luck with your boy and don't give up, it always gets better.
Thanks for the advice! I have not taken him to puppy classes yet because I was waiting for him to finish his Parvo vaccinations. His last one is scheduled for next week, so I will definitely start looking into puppy classes. I have not even thought about clicker training, but am willing to try it.
I took Bev and Nicole's advice when I took Arthur for his nighttime walk tonight, and it made a huge improvement! I'd previously noticed that he hardly ever looks at me during walks, but when he realized I was handing out treats his attention improved dramatically, lol. Nicole's advice to get down to his level and offer a sit-stay command while cars go by seemed like it was helping as well. He really is a great puppy and very eager to please, I think that until now he may not have known what I want from him during walks and became anxious? When his attention was on me he did so much better. I don't know why I never considered taking treats on walks... but I am glad it is working. Thank you all so much!
I would suggest that you focus on getting him used to the loud sounds that he hears around your apartment and the areas you walk him in before you worry too much about walks. Using the food method, short intervals of sitting out by the parking lot and treating and talking to him in a happy reassuring voice, then back up to the apartment. I would also suggest a martingale collar if he tries to bolt or pull away from you. You don't want him slipping his collar. After he is really comfortable with the various sounds he might hear, then work on your walks, again very positive, happy, treats galore. He will soon be bringing you the leash!
So glad the treats are helping! Try just spending more time outside playing, training, and just hanging out. Desensitizing essentially. My friend has a dog who has never lost that instinct to twitch or flinch at a bag or a swift moving thing. Now at 9 years old the dog just flinches and looks to mom to make sure theres nothing to worry about. I asked her advise, she said the getting to his level and doing some sort of focus exercise like sit and stay but dont get to that level and give a ton of comforting affection, she said it just made the anxiety worse to pet her when she was like that. Keep us updated!