Is your dog walking you? Training your dog to walk on a leash without pulling.
Recently, we’re all spending more time at home with our pets. Hopefully, this involves more walks with our dogs to help provide the enrichment and exercise we both need. Even in a time of stress, walking your dog should be enjoyable. When you walk as a team and enjoy the surroundings together, it’s a treat for both of you. But when ‘dog walking’ is really your dog walking you, it becomes a chore that you don’t look forward to.
All dogs love to go for walks but if you always find yourself getting dragged down the street, it’s not going to be enjoyable for either of you and chances are, you’ll start looking for excuses not to take your dog for a walk. So before that happens, let’s take a look at some ways to teach your dog to walk calmly on a leash.
I start this training indoors, to create a stronger foundation for my dog. Outside there is so many distractions, I avoid battling those by starting indoors, and hence I can get a greater chance of my dog succeeding. With the steps below I don’t practice them outdoors till I am sure my dog understands and can succeed at it every time indoors first.
- We’ll start by teaching a heel position, this is new to our dogs so remember to take your time and be patient. This will be easier if you’re next to a wall or in front of a step – or better yet both! Start indoors where there are fewer distractions. I’m using a training platform (The Klimb) that has a step in front of it. The step will prevent your dog from inching forward and will help you get that perfect heel position.
- Step into position, leaving enough room for your dog to fit next to you. A larger dog will need more room than a smaller dog like Rossi. With a treat, lure your dog into position next to you and reward him. If you find your dog is too far away from you, standing next to a wall or couch will help you position your dog closer.
- You’re going to repeat this a few times over a few days. Once your dog starts to understand it, you will say “heel” before luring your dog over.
- When your dog really begins to understand this, you’ll slowly raise your hand to fade out this cue.
- Next we’re going to add movement. Take one step forward and ask for the heel. If you have problems with this, try a smaller step or lowering your hand to help your pup get his or her position down. And of course always tell your dog when he’s doing a great job! Now you can start to mix it up – begin by trying a few steps and getting that heel, turning or practicing not on a wall or platform.
- When you think your dog is about to start pulling, stop moving and stand still and if he doesn’t come back to you, call him over to refocus his attention back on you and return to your side. Remember to do this before your dog gets to what he wants to pull to. It’s important to stop as soon as the pulling begins. If your dog won’t sit or listen to you, you’re probably too close to what is distracting them. Try adding some distance, regain his focus and then slowly move closer.
- When you dog starts to pull, move further away from the distraction by turning around. If there is no distraction, either change directions so the dog is no longer pulling or stop and ask your dog to return to that heel position. Then attempt to refocus. You may be changing directions or stopping a lot at first but that’s okay – be sure to praise and reward the good non-pulling moments, even if they’re very short in the beginning.
- Instead of setting a goal of a place to reach on your walk try to achieve a nice non-pulling walk, even if that means going back and forth in one small area.
Lastly, if you’re still struggling with a puller, many dog owners find success with a no-pull harness. I prefer one that doesn’t go across the shoulders as those can restrict the dog’s natural movement – I personally use the Balance harness from Blue-9. For no-pull harnesses, you’re going to slip your leash on the front d-ring, and when your dog pulls the harness will be an aid in redirecting your pets direction to prevent pulling. *Keep in mind, these aren’t a fix on their own and should always be paired with training for best results.
We hope both you and your dog enjoy some longer, calmer walks soon.