Walk to heel and loose lead

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Dogs that are a pleasure to walk get walked more often! Teach your dogs to enjoy their walks and behave well when on the lead.

  1. Start with a basic foundation of teaching “heel”. This is the same as teaching sit, down or any other position. The hard part about the heel position is that this is a moving position. We need to first teach dogs to be on our left side, in a standing or sitting position and that this is heel.
  2. The dog will learn this quickly if you reward him for being in the position a few times, (use your clicker and lots of treats and rewards for this. Attend as many training classes as possible to get better at getting dogs to work on one side.
  3. In the beginning – do not walk in this position. First get the dog to understand what “heel” means.
  4. In the run, you can start playing “come to heel” walk away from the dog and then call him to “heel” on your left side and reward him as soon as he gets there. You can walk to all corners of the run, using the fences to help you get your dog into position, by calling him to come to you between your leg and the fence. Always reward the position and don’t expect your dog to walk forward with you for some time. Ignore any behaviours while training that are not heel. It is important to teach the dog that this position is as rewarding as sit or come.
  5. Keep up with practice and training – when you are feeling comfortable, you can add the leash in the run and start teaching the dog that the leash means heel at all times when moving. Do not try this on walks yet.
  6. While you are training the heel position, it is useful to also train the “look at me” position. Call the dogs name, and when he looks at you, click and reward. Say “look” while you do this. Keep doing this so that the dog feels safe making eye contact and will look at you for longer and longer periods.
  7. Loose lead walking is trained in tandem with heel work – when the dog pulls, he gets a good result – he gets out of the kennels and he gets to have great sniffs and see fun things. He may pull the whole walk and he may only pull in the beginning. Set him up to learn not to pull this way:
    1. Start by ensuring that the walk out of the kennels will be as stress-free as possible. Make sure that very reactive dogs are controlled and kept as busy as possible.
    2. Prepare your dog for walking and insist on being calm before even leaving the run.
    3. Walk out, and every time the dog pulls, simply stop and wait. As soon as the dog calms, and looks back at you, or stops pulling, walk forward. If it is impossible to do this – look at how you have set up the walk. Is the dog in a hurry to leave the kennels due to barking dogs at fences? Is the dog more interested in attacking other dogs as he walks than in you? Is the dog anxious and trying to get past all the dogs as soon as he can? Now place those behaviours into a situation where a potential new owner takes the dog for a walk – at the kennels or the new home – will this be an obstacle to lifetime ownership?
    4. If the dog manages to do well on his walk out – success! You can now enjoy the walk at hand. While out on the walk, imagine that the pulling action of the dog against the lead is a brake. It means STOP. Every time the dog pulls, simply stop. Wait for the dog to stop pulling before you move forward. As soon as the dog relaxed against the lead, move forward. This will initially be time-consuming as well as testing against patience but is well worth the work.
    5. If the dog pulls towards an object he wants to smell, use the same system and work on learning to know when this will happen so that you can approach as many of these things along the walk on a LOOSE LEAD.
    6. The dog needs to associate a loose lead with having a good time and a tight lead with going nowhere.
    7. Specific problems like walking passed other dogs, biting the lead etc are best addressed one on one with your trainer.