1 cute puppy 2 cups of love 5 cups of patience 1 Easy Walk Training Harness by Premier 6 ft Hands free leash 1 treat pouch 1 clicker 1/2 cup of soft smelly treats (cheese, chopped chicken, soft jerky treats, Zukes Mini Naturals or Ziwi Peak)
1. Before you even clip on the leash or step outside, make sure that your puppy knows what heel means (also make sure that you know what it means!). A lot of dogs and their humans think that it means jerk on the leash and say heel whenever your puppy pulls. This only results in tug of war, frustration and a choking dog. Heel means that your puppy must stay by your side with his head lined up by your leg and his body parallel to yours. When your inside your house with no distractions lure your puppy to your side with a treat and click and feed once he is in the right position. Keep reinforcing your puppy for staying by your side in a standing position by clicking/treating. Then next step is to take a step forward and encourage your puppy to take a step forward with you. Keep your hand with the treat on the seam of your pants and when your puppy’s head is by your side click/treat. Keep doing this until you’re able to take several steps with your puppy walking right next to your side. Then take the lure away by guiding your puppy with your hand and without the treat in it. Click/treat when his head is by your side and then reach your hand into to your pouch to give him his reward.
2. Once your puppy is happily heeling by your side in the house you can attach your hands-free leash to your waist and to your dog’s front connecting harness. Ask him to sit and stay at the door and then release him with “ok!” once the door is all the way open. If his bottom pops up, close the door and repeat until he’s able to stay calmly as you open the door. Once you get outside the door ask him to sit calmly again. Ask your puppy to “look” and click/treat him for giving you attention. Then release him with an “ok, heel!” and walk off quickly in the direction you want to go.
3. When walking your puppy, pretend like you are the Queen (or King) of dogs and walk as quickly as you can. When dogs are in a trotting pace, they know that you mean business and that you’re traveling somewhere together. If you walk slowly, your dog will want to do a lot more sniffing which results in more pulling. Plus, your dog will think you’re more fun if you’re walking quickly and happily. Also, leave your phone at home! If you’re not paying attention to your puppy he will ignore you too and will want to drag you to every bush in the neighborhood to check his pee-mail.
4. Just like in the house, capture and reinforce your puppy’s good behavior with lots of “good heel!” and click/treats. Remember to feed right by your side near the seam of your pants. When distractions come your way, click/treat more quickly.
5. If your puppy pulls you or ignores you due to distractions, ask him to “look” or use the kissy noise to get his attention back to you. if he ignores you after two tries, quickly turn and go the other way. It will keep him on his toes and ‘reset’ the heel. If your dog lunges or pulls for something, you can also stop dead in your tracks and ‘be a tree’ until your dog calms down, stops pulling and takes the tension off his lead. A tight leash means your puppy goes nowhere and doesn’t get to check out whatever he wants to move towards. A loose leash is good and means that he gets to go towards what he wants to check out. Moving forward is a reward. Pulling equals stopping which is the consequence.
6. Be consistent and your puppy will be walking beautifully by your side in no time! Once he knows what “heel” means you can start weaning him off the treats and just use lots of praise and attention when he’s traveling by your side. Also, remember to reward your dog with “ok go ahead!” Which means he’s allowed to go out on the end of his leash and sniff and smell all the flowers and bushes that his heart desires!
Below is a quick clip of a training session with Lego today! Lego is a 4 month old adorable shepherd/lab mix puppy who is learning how to walk on a loose lead and walk nicely with distractions. This is his first time learning the heel command, therefore we are using lots of repetition and treats, but gradually we phase out the clicker and the treats to replace it with life rewards and praise. For instance, the reason why dogs want to pull is because they want to sniff and smell. So you can reward them by releasing them from your side with a "Ok! Go ahead" and allow them to go to the end of the leash to sniff, smell, explore and be a dog. They still shouldn't pull you so if your dog does, 'be a tree' and do not move until they loosen the tension on the lead and give you attention.
Lego's first leash lesson (click on the lick for a quick video demo)