I have been training my Norwegian Elkhound dog to go left and right on “Haw” and “Gee”, by standing in front of him with a clicker and some treats, telling him which way to go, and click/treating him if he goes in the right direction.
He does it pretty well, but when I harness him up and have him pull, he won’t follow the commands and even tries to bite the towline. He will only perform the command correctly if I stand in front of him.
Is there anything wrong with my training techniques? Is there a better approach to teaching him left and right?

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  1. Anonymous

    You can’t really teach Gee and Haw from in front of the dog because that’s not where you’ll be when you give the command. The dog may learn to recognize the commands, but he will also associate those commands with you being in front of him…which is entirely counter-productive to what you’re trying to accomplish.
    When teaching my young dogs to pull, I spend as much time behind them as possible. I’ve never worked with Elkhounds as sled dogs (not really their function, although I’m sure they can be trained), but I can tell you what I — and most mushers — do.
    For Gee and Haw, you need ideally to find a winding trail or road that will allow you to use the commands as much as possible. However, even a neighborhood with cross-streets will work.
    Ideally, the dog will be pulling a light load (small tire, etc.). Encourage the dog to stay out ahead of you while moving/pulling. When the opportunity presents itself, use a bend in the road or a turn at a crossroad to use the command. Bends in the road work great, the more sharp and obvious the better, because the dog more or less has to turn that direction, anyway.
    When the dog is moving the direction you called for, praise (“Good Gee!” “Good Haw!”) — don’t be too excited or the dog might turn to come back to you. You want to avoid this.
    If the dog ignores the command (especially at a crossroad, where he has the option to ignore it), that is when you walk up beside him and move him firmly in the direction you want him to go, repeating the command as you do so. Once he starts moving that way on his own, praise him and slowly fall back behind him.
    It is imperative that the dog learn to work with you behind him, or he’ll never work on his own.
    I hope this helps a little. There is a book called “MUSH! A Beginners Manual of Sled Dog Training” that is pretty much required reading for anyone truly interested in teaching their dog to pull. Amazon has it:http://www.amazon.com/Mush-Beginners-Man…

  2. Wench

    Left and right are very hard concepts for a dog to understand. Some dogs don’t every really get it. Understand that to a dog this is like advanced calculus, and be patient.

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