Walking nicely on leash is not the same thing as heeling. Heeling is much more precise and demanding, and – while an interesting behavior to train – is rarely employed by pet owners on walks. The point of the walk, in fact is to give the dog an opportunity to check out smells, a great pleasure for dogs, and this is impossible if he is heeling. So walking on leash is a compromise both owner and dog can live with. It allows the dog some freedom but not so much that he is all over the place (meaning switching sides) or pulling, which makes the walk unpleasant for the owner.
Walking on Leash Exercises
- If you have a toy-crazy dog, use a toy for this exercise. If he’s toy-interested, buy a new toy and don’t let him see it until you do the exercise. If he’s quite unmotivated by toys, use a pile of tasty treats. Dinner is also fine if he’s keen for it.
- In a quiet room in your house, put your dog on leash (I like a four-foot leash, but six is fine) and tie him to something so he can see what you’re doing.
- Show him the toy or handful of treats, then walk about ten feet away and put it on the floor.
- Go back to your dog, take the leash, and start walking verrrrry slowly toward the prize. Hold the end of the leash against your body to keep the length from changing due to arm movements.
- Your dog will pull the leash tight toward the prize. This makes you start over. Say “Too bad” and return to the starting position.
- Wait until he gives up straining, and then start slowly walking again. He’ll pull again. Say “Too bad”.
- Repeat until your dog can make it all the way to the prize without tightening the leash at all, then do a two-second Leave It and pick up the toy treat and let him have it (don’t let him grab it from the ground).
Push on five in a row without one tightening. This exercise will take many repetitions for most dogs. This is one of those character building parts of training that I mentioned earlier, so make sure you’re in the right frame of mind to plod away at it.
For more training tips and ideas, purchase Jean Donaldson’s Train Your Dog Like a Pro from Whole Dog Journal.