Loose Lead Walking

The Heel

Heel Position

There are a ton of different ways to teach a dog heel position; I find one of the most reliable ways is to start dispensing your rewards where you want your dog’s head to be. So if you want your pup to walk on the left hand side of you, use your left land to deliver the reward directly by your left leg.

You should still make sure being close is reinforced, so click and reward for being elsewhere even if they are not in a heel position. For example, if your pup is walking nicely on the right hand side, still click and reward with verbal praise. Every time the walk on the left click and reward with praise and food. Walking on the left will then become the pups most frequently used place as they build a history of stronger reinforcement in this position.

Exercise 2- Getting a heel

You will need puppy’s breakfast, a clicker and somewhere quiet.

So, back in your quiet room with no distractions, start walking around. If your pup comes close (which it should as you have almost done this exercise before) click and reward with food on the left by your leg. As before when they are fully focussed, you can add in distractions. Reward them verbally when they are close and a food reward when they are right in the position you want them.

Next step- take it in the garden.

Next step- add a leash. This shouldn't be difficult as the puppy will barely notice a lead being placed on as there will be no tension or pressure on their neck.

Next step- (if they are vaccinated) take your training out in the street. Here you will face a whole lot of new challenges, dogs barking behind fences, traffic passing, people, other dogs on walks too. Things they may never have encountered before. If they are momentarily distracted wait for the second they turn back towards you and mark that moment with a click and heap lots of praise and maybe jackpot the food reward.

Congratulations, you have a puppy that walks beautifully on the leash- for now.

The trouble usually begins when distractions become too close, or too powerful. Your puppy can only focus if they are not over aroused, things that can tip them from being engaged with you to completely being unable to focus can vary. Inevitably, you will come across something that just draws your puppy’s attention. In order to maintain excellent loose lead walking skills it is important that YOU DO NOT REWARD PULLING. Anytime they get to the end of the leash YOU have to STOP. Pulling becomes a brake, it stops all forward momentum and never gets your dog where they want to go. Tension on their collar or harness is a sign things are about to become boring and counter productive. Most dogs that pull, do so because their owners pull the lead tight, even when they are walking nicely, the pups get used to that feeling of tightness and start to think this is just how it feels to walk. They will start to drive forward on the leash to get that feeling and if the owner just blindly follows the pulling is rewarded.

If your leash is always loose and you are consistent in your training, you will have a grown adult dog that walks just as well as they did as a puppy.

Troubleshoot Walking