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Dog Training Notes - Walk to Heel

The no-lead method!

As with all training, start out in a quiet place in the house where there are no other distractions.

Dogs learn best with no distraction, and when y ou teach them 1 step at a time.

Step 1 - Teach Them Where Heel Is......

Stand in front of your dog, with a treat hidden in your hand, lure your dog in a circle / C shape/ to circle around to be beside your leg. Hold the treat right in front of their nose, and keep it there as they follow your hand. When your dog is at the side of your leg, roughly facing the right direction, say good! and give them a treat. Your luring/treat hand is on the same side of you as you want the dog to be - not across your body.i.e. if you want your dog to walk on te left, then your luring hand is your left hand, and vice versa.

Immediately turn around so that you are now infront of your dog again, and repeat, luring your dog in a circle around to your leg again.

Repeat that a few times, aiming to have your dog standing in the heel position.

Step 2 - Take one Step

To move on, this time after you have lured your dog around to your leg, then instead of immediately giving them their treat, take 1 step forward before saing good! and giving them a treat. Gradually build this up by taking more and more steps before treating (first 1 step, then 2 steps, then 4 and so on). Try to ignore bouncing and mouthing at the beginning and gradually work on withholding rewards until that’s stopped.

Step 3 - Change Location

Once this is working ok in one room, move to a different room, then the garden, in different places. But - keep the distractions low so that you can be sure of being able to lure your dog back to your leg.

Step 4 - Add the Lead

When this is achieved, add the lead - in the house - held loosely and go back to stage one again. Do not use the lead to pull the dog to you – keep to luring her to your leg and rewarding her. Hold your lead with the hand that is not your luring hand - so really this is across your body. e.g. your lead is held in your right hand, and your treat/lure hand is moving your dog to the left side of your body.

Step 5 - Change Location

Again, now that your can get your dog taking several steps around the house, walking beside you with the lead on, then move outside to yoru garden, to the street, to the park.

Step 6 - Without a Food Lure

Then go back to the beginning again, although this time, repeat all this without food in your luring hand. Still treat your dog after a few steps, from your treat pocket or pouch - just don't have a treat in your luring hand.

And some notes.....

  • Don’t walk in a straight line, keep changing direction, make it fun, and practice in at least 12 different places.
  • Pracitce little and often - a few minutes several times a day.
  • Don't bother saying "heel" until you know that your dog is actually concentrating on walking beside you
  • If your dog is already pulling on the lead, then it is very important to prevent that - during the time you are not training - by using a stop pulling training aid. Some people perceive this as sort of giving up... or failing...... and want to persevere with just training. You could do this, but it will take longer, as you will be making progress with your training, but then taking backward steps (not literally... ) during the time you are simply taking your dog for a walk.
  • This circle-lure method is generally more effective that the traditional “stand-still” method because it removes the dog’s reward more quickly (i.e. pulling or staring or sniffing at something), and allows you to have more opportunities to reward him when he passes by your leg again.
  • Don’t expect miracles. This will take time. Repeat the exercises 2 or 3 times a day for a week or so.

Step 7 - Add more distractions

And, when things seem to be ok, and your dog is walking nicely on the lead then gradually introduce some distractions, such as the children playing with a ball at a distance, and gradually bring the distractions closer to you. Then try it out in the park when there are other dogs at a distance, and gradually decrease the distance (this will obviously be more easy to control if you have a friend with a dog whom you can work with).

Or try, food on the go
Put a good handful (i.e. perhaps half the meal!) of your dogs food (if your not feeding complete dry food then use equivalent treats) in your pocket or treat bag and go on your walk. Of-course, if the distractions are high then you may need to use something really tasty to start with. However, this training is done just before breakfast or dinner, so your dog should be hungry at this point.
Walk along, continually luring your dog back to your leg with the food and give treats at your leg, as you walk along. Again, try to gradually build up the number of steps you can do before giving the treat. This approach is obviously similar to the no-lead method but it gives you 100s of chances to reward your dog.

Repeat this every day for a week or so.

General Training
All general training will help with lead pulling. So teach your dog to sit, down, stand, leave, and “watch you”, and build this into the training program. This is especially useful if your dog tends to pull to get to someone or something - if your dog is sitting or lying down, then they can’t be pulling on the lead at the same time!

Important Notes :

  1. If the motivation for your dog pulling on the lead is aggression, then contact a Behaviour Therapist to get expert help.
  2. Always take care of safety when training and be prepared if you know your dog may pull – especially if the ground is muddy or slippy.
  3. If you’ve got a small dog and can’t manage to lure her to your leg with your hand, then Target Training is very useful (notes to come soon).

And if that hasn't all worked - then review the notes on stopping dogs pulling to consider what's missing in your training program.


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