How do I teach my dog to walk on the lead without pulling?
Guest blog post by Sharon Alton, Perfectly Polite Dachshunds
This is a question that comes up a lot. It’s one of the hardest things to teach a dog. Why? Because it takes time and patience. We are always in such a rush to get to the park or get to work that we just want to get from a to b and we don’t realise the consequences until the dogs mimic our rushing behaviour and start pulling like a train to get to any destination. Add that in with the endless decisions that come with walking our dogs….it can be overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion. What do they wear? Collar? Harness? What type of lead? Normal? Flexi? Coat? No coat? The list is endless. At the end of the day, listen to the breed experts, trust your instincts. It is your choice as you have to live with it.
As for collars and harnesses, if they are correctly fitted and your dachshund doesn’t pull, it really doesn’t matter what they wear. It is down to personal choice. Personally, I choose a collar and lead. I feel it gives better control and is much easier to put on and take off. In my head, a harness resembles someone walking you by your bra; there is no way that can be comfortable! Research has found collars do not increase the risks of IVDD. If a dog is pulling, be it harness or collar, it is going to have a knock-on effect – physically putting extra pressure on their throat, spine, chest and movement. Pulling can also increase issues of on-lead aggression, barking and lunging. So, you may find, just by teaching them to walk calmly by your side, these issues subside but, at the very least, it will make walking your dachshunds much more pleasurable.
So, what’s the best technique? Well, a bit like all the parts of an orchestra, there isn’t just one instrument. Each plays their part for the big performance. There are also lots of different techniques. I’ve listed one. So, let’s break it down.
Start at home, first of all teach your dogs not to get soooo excited about the lead going on. How? Well, you will have a certain routine when you walk your dogs. Same time? Same shoes? Same coat? They will know this, so do the routine a few times a day even if it’s not ending in a walk. Pick the lead up and move it around the house and say nothing as you do so. Put the lead on in the home and do some short periods of fun training. Don’t say walkies and rev them up before you go out. This will help remove some of the excitement. We don’t want them being excited when they leave the house – it’ll set the tone for the whole walk.
Next, when you are at the front door, don’t let them pull ahead of you. There could be an unsuspecting person on the other side of the door. Have them on a short but relaxed lead and as you open the door and they go to run through, say nothing, just close the door. Repeat until they eventually stop the surging. Then, reward the calm behaviour with a calm “good dog” or if you are clicker-savvy “click” the desired behaviour adding in a steady command once they get the idea and reward. Once they are calm you can then move out of the front door. Woohoo!
But, how do I teach them to walk beside me? The big issue is people often chastise a dog by saying “heel” and pulling them back on an already tight lead. So effectively you are teaching them to pull on the wrong command. Ahh, you say…..so what do I do?
This also starts at home. Pop the lead on at home, put aside a few minutes here throughout the day to practice – remember the orchestra analogy….practice the small parts to make perfect. Keep the lead short but relaxed (not tight) walk a step and reward them verbally or with a bit of something yummy by your side. Or again, use a clicker to mark the desired behaviour. Keep repeating this until they are consistently staying by your side. Then start adding a new heel command, for example, “walk, with me”, “close”. When they have this, add a few steps and reward as you did with one step. Once you have this, then start practicing in the back garden. Repeat the same process but here there are a few more distractions. Then progress to the front and walking up the path. Always taking it back to basics. If they look at you, reward that behaviour and put in a “look” word. Remember to keep training sessions brief and always end on a positive note. Don’t do every step above in one go. Short and sweet. This keeps you and your dachshund keen.
It really is that simple. Practice makes perfect. Reward the good behaviour, ignore the ‘bad’. Practice. Practice. Practice. And please make it fun!
Sharon Alton, Perfectly Polite Dachshunds
Sharon is a Dachshund owner, breeder, and dog trainer who runs workshops specifically tailored for Dachshund owners.