Practical steps for polite lead walking
Gently does it
There’s no need for punishment or harsh equipment when training your dog to walk nicely on the lead. Prong collars and choke chains have no place in today’s training and can cause behavioural and physical injury. Let’s be more imaginative. Modern training techniques are fun, friendly, fast and effective.
1 Start as you mean to go on
Walking to heel is really about your dog following you. Your new puppy doesn’t know what pulling is yet – so don’t let him learn! Make sure you walk in the direction that you want to – not the other way round. Practise getting your pup to follow you on and off lead, in the house and garden.
2 Mark the right behaviour
Luring with a food treat when training walking nicely on lead is problematic. I know that this is a bit controversial, but that’s the reality. Instead of luring, marking and then rewarding the correct behaviour (with a clicker or clicker word) is far more effective, and prevents the dog from focusing all his attention on the food alone.
3 Red light, green light
If your pup pulls on the lead, stand still and wait for the lead to go slack again. If it’s possible, you can change direction completely, so that your pup learns that pulling causes you to go the opposite way. Consistency is key.
It sounds obvious, but let’s be honest, if your dog hardly ever goes on the lead, guess what – he’ll most likely be pretty bad at walking nicely on it. Walks where you focus on training and not exercise are essential if you are going to crack this exercise.
5 In haste?
If you are short of time, or if your kids frequently walk the pup, make sure he isn’t dragging them along and undoing all your good work. Use a body harness or a head collar (which work like power-steering for dogs) to prevent a pulling habit from forming. Now, before those of you who don’t like head collars start scolding me, let’s face it, when fitted and introduced properly they are fabulously effective and can mean that strong pullers actually get to go out for a walk when they might otherwise be stuck indoors.
6 Reward, reward, reward!
Bear in mind that all dogs work well for rewards – and that walking politely next to you on the lead is not in the list of behaviours that dogs are born with. Be generous and reward heavily for good lead-walking behaviour. Join a good training class or visit www.trainyourdogonline.co.uk for a week-by-week lesson that will help you practise until you’re perfect!