Our actions at the other end of the leash are just as important as the dog’s and in many cases, an owner that keeps pulling back is fuelling the unwanted behaviour, as the dog is genetically programmed to rebuff your actions with the outcome becoming a sort of tugging game – which can effect your dog’s health later in life as well as your own joints.
To combat this behaviour through training, the owner must be aware that this process will take weeks as opposed to days and any lapses in training will set you back and damage the work already completed.
With most dogs being responsive to food rewards, instead of feeding them at mealtimes take their biscuits out on walks to train heel work. This way you are in total control of the food intake and they only get fed when the correct behaviour is being carried out. First fill your pockets or treat pouch with the food, hold the leash in your right hand with the dog on your left, keep feeding whilst the dog is next to your left leg making sure that the dog is not in front you at any time.
With time you can increase the steps you take between feeding. If the dog loses concentration and is looking for things to do, then you need to regain the attention of the dog by changing direction – call him/her, make a funny noise then go back to the training. Once you are at a stage with your training whereby you are covering a fair distance, you can introduce a favourite tug toy or ball to enhance what you have already worked on.
Play with your dog in between training the heel – let your dog know he is doing well.
With all dog’s being different there are many difficulties and different situations that can arise, so if you find yourself struggling then you may need a one-to-one training session to put you on the right track. With patience and consistency you will be well on your way to a happier walk.