Walking Manners?
This has been a battle that I have not chosen to fight until now.

Ember's leash manners are severely lacking.

Now, by leash manners, I don't mean pulling or lunging or anything like that (well, lunching when another dog lunges first or when some critter darts by, but that's about it). Overall, she's incredibly easy to walk.

What I don't like is her complete engrossment in the environment. Not just looking at everything, or even worry. Let me see if I can explain it this way: I want my dog to enjoy a walk WITH ME. But she treats me like a hinderance. I'm the one who keeps her from going full chase, or doesn't allow her to mark (I keep walking when I see that leg go up). The only time she even looks in my direction is if I try REALLY HARD to get her attention - I mean a full stop and lots of noise making and then some backwards movement. But the moment I move forward again, I am forgotten.

I know I don't have to be the center of the walk - I don't really want that. What I do want, though, is a dog who enjoys walking with me, not in spite of me.

Right now, our walks are very chaotic. I let her lead where she wants to go (she is a heavy sniffer and I know that's what SHE wants to get out of a walk, and I don't mind) - but she can't pick a direction. She ziggs and zags and sometimes starts to look a little lost, so I take over, and that's when I get the "where the heck did you come from" look from her and she'll run ahead to take lead again.

She also will not let me touch her (acts like I'm swinging at her, darting away or tucking in and going very stiff), but she will investigate other people and maybe even let THEM touch her with a softer reaction if they are attached to another dog.

I have tried limiting our walk to one very defined path so that she has a sort of routine and an idea where to go, but it hasn't made a difference.

I am going to start working on some general leash manners once I have the apartment to myself - things I never got to teach her because the leash was such a huge source of concern for a very long time and at the time training wasn't happening for us. I'm going to start in the living room with her on leash and play Its Your Choice games for looking at, engaging, and heeling. My plan is to move that gradually towards the door and then out on the back patio, and then out on the front porch, and then down the stairs, etc. 

We still lose a lot of food motivation once beyond the steps, so I know a lot of it is nerves. But if having a defined path that hasn't changed in a month and a half hasn't made a lick of difference, I am at a loss as to where to go from here.

Any thoughts, comments, concerns? I'm trying everything from Essential Oils on.
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Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014
It sounds to me as though the reason she can't pick a direction is because she is tracking. Tracking is different to scent detection. Her olfactory system is the primary sense with which she see's the world. We might rely mostly on sight and sound but not so for a canine. A canine will smell before it see's and hears. Every creature from humans to butterflies are leaving a scent signature/footprint. We might tend to walk in straight lines unless actually changing directions but not so for all creatures, many are erratic. It also depends where the scent falls and this can be influences by fog, mist, breeze even if undetectable. Microscopic scent particles fall from us like fine mist and don't necessarily go straight down. So if a dog for example is tracking where feet have been the scent can, depending on conditions and terrain actually be stronger further away from where the feet have been because this is where more particles landed. Many dogs will weave for up to several yards/metres either side of the track, all the time processing the information and determining edges and consistency in the track. A footprint is made up of everything about us including what we wash our cloths in, cosmetics, shampoo, soap, what we eat, medications, where we have been etc, etc, etc. Likewise for other animals, what they eat, where they have been, there is incredible amounts of information detectable to the canine.
And then there are all the cross tracks, some newer some older i.e.: following a rat but wait their was a cat and OMG another human but wait "butterflies". It's all very exciting LOL and well you are just mum.
You are not really that interesting to her from an olfactory point of view, she knows you well already and she is on an adventure but the tracks, other people and dogs are interesting and have a story she wants to smell (listen to). If you are letting her lead the way she kind of has your permission to do what comes naturally and it sounds as though she is loving it. You could be considered a hinderance in a way because you are interrupting a communication/connection to something else, something new or exciting.
Perhaps decide what type of walk you want to have and teach the differences. i.e.: if you are going to let her lead then let her enjoy the adventure she is on, she doesn't know that you are not privy to the same investigation. If you want her to be focused on you then teach her to walk beside you rather than in front but pick up the pace rather than strolling, change directions and be unpredictable, give her a reason to remain engaged with you.
Many dogs that have had a background in obedience work really struggle with tracking because they have rarely been permitted to lead the way and follow what comes naturally. 
I use different equipment for walking and tracking. It's not just about the practicality of equipment for a given task, it also tells the dog what the mission is going to be. Flat collar = going for a walk, a harness means we are going to work. You should see the excitement when the "tracking" harness comes out woo-hoo !!!
So, I haven't really helped much in how to achieve what you want but maybe helped with a better understanding of why and this might lead to some ideas.

edit: Not all dogs are as into tracking as others. With Max for example I have had to put work into encouraging him to ground scent instead of air scent. Sounds like Ember is just a natural and enthusiastic tracker. Oh and with the food motivation, it might not necessarily be nerves unless of course you are seeing other signs but instead excitement or enthusiasm for the adventure ahead. My Sheps and my BC's have all been food motivated but wouldn't even look at treats if engrossed in a track. Tracking is my go-to game when I want to exhaust my dogs. Processing all that olfactory information in a track can be worth 10 times the distance in physical exercise.
I can relate to this.  Most of the dogs I have walked have been keen to do their own thing on walks.  The most striking example is a lurcher/spaniel cross called Pickle.  I sometimes walk her on moorland where there are lots of streams.  It's a complete nose-fest for her and she will often engage in a dig/sniff/dig/sniff frenzy in an attempt to unearth some small creature that has burrowed out of sight.  I'm not surprised that this is what she does - she was bred to do exactly this.

Trying to get her attention reminds me of when I was a young boy having a really exciting game with my friends.  Mum would call me in to tea and I either pretended not to hear her, ignore her, or genuinely not hear her.  My mother was the most important person in my life but there was no way I wanted to go with her when I was having an exciting game with my friends.

When I take Pickle up on the moors I regard on-lead walking (because there are sheep around) as 'her time' - as if she were off-lead.  She can do what she wants, and I tag along.  If she starts to eat cow poo, I call her off.  

If we're walking down the street I walk her to heel, with her attention on me.  So, I guess we have two distinct walks - walking 'with me' and walking which is 'her time'.

If I'm honest though, my hunch is that you've already realised all of this and your issue with Ember is slightly different - I don't get the sense that Pickle regards me as a hindrance, she's simply not aware of me because she's consumed with much more interesting things.
You both have some really amazing insight. I've been watching her over the weekend and I would say she is definitely tracking. Yes, I would love for her to enjoy doing what SHE wants, but without me being a hinderance to that. So I guess the question is, then, how do I equip her to have a successful tracking session?

Right now we are working on not being allowed to just walk when we haven't pooped (she's still throwing a bit of a fit and acting like she is trying to buy time outside, but seems to be getting the idea). We are walking in a small circle just outside the building to establish a "potty area". If she does everything, then I will take her on a (rather short right now) walk around a few buildings. Long enough to feel like a walk but not risk overheating.

So I'm trying to think of ways to both be clear in my intentions (good job, let's walk!), and to help her not see me as just something in the way. I am completely fine with not being "involved" (and yes, we will work on an obedience style walk on a flat collar and regular leash as something different). I'm thinking of putting a harness on her with her collar, starting off with the leash on her collar for pottying, and when she goes, switching it to her harness and letting her do literally whatever she wants (except mark/potty). What else can I do to help us both enjoy time outside?

ETA: I'm not sure it's nerves, honestly. She's a mix of signals when outside. I want to label it "conflicted curiosity" meaning she really wants to investigate but then it seems worrisome to do so. She does a lot of switching back and forth between pursing lips and panting, looks at everything but at the same time is very quick to avoid looking in something's direction, switches between lowered head/body and completely forward/upright at the drop of a hat/sound, changes pace from really fast-must-go-now to a complete stop (I kick her / trip over her regularly), and drools like crazy after a certain amount of time. Some of that does seem to be Collie Work related, though. I guess I just don't know how to read her. I'll film her some over the next few days and see what comes of it.
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Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014
I insist Koda walks on my left. I hold the handle of the lead in my right hand, and hold again down the length of the lead with my left hand. My left hand can then direct the Dog left or right as we walk and keeps him nicely to heel. It's important that you set the pace of the walk, not the Dog. I use a figure of eight lead with a nose band to achieve this, but it's only a training tool, not the ultimate fix.

You could also work on a strong "Watch Me" command; and transpose that to your walking time. A small, tasty and easy to swallow treat every time Ember looks at you will soon turn you into the most interesting thing on the walk. Small cubes of smelly frankfurter sausage will do wonders here. I always love it when Koda looks up at me with his big smile as we're walking along, it's completely priceless.

Naturally that advice only really relates to having a nice loose leash walk - If you want to encourage and cultivate a tracking session, I'd recommend following Trifan's advice above.
Thank you Koda Smile The reason I haven't pushed this until now is that Ember is very space sensitive and has had issues with confinement/leashes, so "demanding" anything of her in position was met with meltdowns as soon as she felt confined by the leash. It is very important to her to feel in control - giving her as much as possible made her a lot less reactive and confident. If I tried to get her into a heal positions, she got infinitely slower, more worried, less attentive, and quick to belly-up. But if I had her on a 20 foot leash and let her ahead (or better yet, even off leash completely), she is more attentive, happy, less worried, and has enough head to listen to most commands.

It is only recently that I noticed she is a lot more relaxed and pliable. I would love to see that same measure of confidence on a 6ft lead.

Ironically, she actually has a very good position beside me when we are headed BACK home. It's not a heal (she doesn't like being in my space, we are working on it), but it is at my side.

I guess I need to know when she is "working" and when she is not.
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Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014
I hope you get the result you are looking for! It sounds like Ember is a difficult little cookie. If she really is claustrophobic and reacts badly to constraints, a figure of eight "nose band" type leash/collar, probably isn't the right thing for you guys.

Out of interest, have you had Ember from a Pup, or was she a rescue?
She is a rescue, was 1.5 years when I got her, now a little over 3 years. A noose leash was used to move her around kennels and we believe that is where a lot of the issues comes from (same with metal-sound-phobias and she melts down when another dog starts crying).
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Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014

I have been closely observing our walks based on the responses here. Turns out she is DEFINITELY tracking. What I am working to figure out now is if allowing to do so is taking away from or adding to her stress. We are taking 2 ~30 minute walks a day - once after breakfast and once after dinner.

As stated in another thread, we are getting a thyroid check in 2 weeks. What I am observing is that the longer I allow a walk to go, the more stress signs she seems to show. This could be from a number of different things:

- exercise is uncomfortable (we haven't walked this long before, and it seems to be tiring).
Possible related issues: thyroid (?), nails

- overstimulation
Possible related things: too much to smell, walking area isn't trigger proof, wildlife (squirrels, birds, bugs) must be hunted, too much to see/do

- heat issues
Possible related things.... heck, it's the south people Tongue  High humidity and high temps

- tummy issues
Possible related issues: whatever is causing the upset tummy maybe doesn't feel good to walk on
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Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014
This video was just shared with me on facebook, and this is EXACTLY what walking Ember is like. I love the approach, and I have tried it starting today. I went from 0 check ins to 3 mini glances. She wanted to walk FOREVER so this can't be done during the workday anymore, but it has put us on the right path for sure!

While the stress related behaviors she is showing at the end of a walk could be medical, based on our walk this morning I think it had more to do with me still trying to maintain some form of control. I had been letting her "mostly" chose where to go but let the leash get tight, tried to anticipate marking behaviors and move on, and use tension to create no-go zones (not snapping or anything, just a firm "no further" where she was straining on the end of the leash to get a last smell). I thought this was very liberating for her but I learned I could actually let go of it all. When I allowed anything she wanted, the results were very interesting.

1) She wanted to check out people's porches (the only time I said a word to her in a way to distract her and move on without using tension to say "don't do that")
2) She was intrigued by the stairwells and breeze ways of many of the other apartment buildings - we crossed through 3 buildings and almost took the stairs on one
3) She approached bushes but didn't try to drag me through them as before (maybe a form of respect since I wasn't trying to drag her away?)
4) She walks in very wide circles and doesn't seem to know when to end or head home (I still ended up leading her home with nothing more than body language)
5) She actually prefers pavement to natural things under foot like grass (kept taking me out on the road, which was quiet and never had to be redirected off of for safety)
6) Still had some stress behaviors at the end, will investigate further.

I love my dog.

[Image: e5Qmm5.png]

Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014

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