Taking your furry friend out for a leisurely stroll can turn into a tug-of-war if your companion has no leash manners.
Naturally your dog wants to forge ahead and go where he pleases, so unless you want to race from lamp post to tree sniffing everything in sight while your dog checks his ‘pee-mail’, it is time you took back control of the lead.
We’ve all seen those wonderful well-behaved dogs that walk next to their owners. However, behind that comfortable, care free walk is an owner who has put in some time into training them properly. All it takes is some short training sessions and consistency. With the following guide and 5-10 minutes of training each day, you will soon be enjoying a more relaxing and pleasant walk with your canine companion.
Why is Heeling Important
Pulling on the lead is not only uncomfortable for you, but also for your dog. While your arm is getting pulled from its socket, your dog’s neck is suffering. And while harnesses are slightly better, they do allow your dog to pull with their entire body weight. In the absence of a sled to ride on, harnesses do not help you get back in control of your destination.
Choke Chains are a No, No
Choke chains are very traumatic to the neck, so please avoid them. If you do want a ‘cheat’, invest in a halter-style lead such as the Gentle Leader® or Halti®, that fits around the muzzle and back of the head. As the lead is attached underneath the chin, your dog will soon work out that he needs to walk next to you in order to walk in a straight line.
Time to Sniff
Try to combine leash-walking with some off-leash time so your dog has some time to enjoy sniffing and going at his own pace. He then knows that when he is on the lead it is time to behave. If your dog doesn’t reliably come on command, find some off-leash dog parks in your area to enjoy.
Before you Start
- Ensure you have somewhere to train where your dog is not distracted, you can even start in the house or backyard.
- Keep training sessions short, so that neither of you get frustrated. Training for 5-10 minutes a day is perfect.
- Find some treats your dog really likes that you can easily carry with you. Train him when he is a little hungry.
You can find some more general training tips in our article on basic dog training.
Steps to Success
- Ask your dog to sit next to your left leg, with his shoulder in line with you.
- Hold a treat in your hand to get your dogs attention.
- Step off with your left leg, while saying ‘heel’.
- As soon as he takes off ahead turn around and start walking in the opposite direction.
- As soon as your dog catches up and reaches the correct position next to your left leg say ‘heel’ and get his attention with a treat.
- Repeat the turn-around each time your dog surges ahead and correct him by saying ‘heel’.
- Initially reward him each time he is in the heel position and walking by your side, it also teaches him to look to you for direction. As he progresses, get him to walk for a longer period beside you before he gets the treat.
- Enjoy your walk and continue intermittently rewarding your dog for paying attention and walking with you. Once the behaviour is established rewards can be in the form of treats, play or just simply a ‘good boy’ when he is doing the right thing.
Check out this great video from the Guide Dogs for the Blind channel. It provides a very practical demonstration of the steps and techniques we have outlined above.
- Keep training sessions short, 5-10 minutes is perfect.
- Initially train somewhere with few distractions.
- Use rewards not punishment, and initially reward the correct behaviour immediately with a treat.
- Remember to enjoy yourself and celebrate the progress you are both making by combining leash-training with some off-leash time.