First, train your puppy to walk next to you on the leash
The Walk or Heel:
The command for Walk or Heel should only mean walk next to me and follow me when I change direction. It should not matter whether your puppy or dog is on or off the leash, the command means the same thing. It is far simpler to coach a puppy to Walk off the leash but to Heel first and then put a little connection between you – the leash!
Think of it like the leash is just a simple connection, it could be a thread because it is not going to be used to force your puppy into position. Your puppy will have already learned the command.
Here are some simple things to remember:
- As always you should make sure that your puppy is very motivated and only train in very short bursts leaving your puppy wanting more
- The first ten exercises should be no more than 5 yards
- Start by using both physical hand gestures, patting your side and also verbal commands “Samson Walk”, then after a while, you can just use one
- Bend over and start by putting the food right on the end of your puppies nose (not waving around at your head height where she cannot smell it!)
- When you have got your puppy following you all over the house or garden with an off leash walk only then progress to the next stage
- Make the transition to on leash super calm so that your puppy hardly notices – put something immediately onto the end of her nose to distract her from the new leash
- When she does notice you may have to gently wait and then encourage her to keep working with a little sniff and then a reward.
- After one or two tries with a lead on call it a day and quit while you’re ahead!
- Before you know it, she will-will want the lead on to follow you so she can do some training!!
The command sequence should be like this:
- “Samson Walk” (or Heel) – at this point pat your side and place the food on your puppies nose.
- When your puppy is walking nicely next to you then you encourage with “Good boy, good boy” this keeps them going.
- Use a high voice for this praise, do not keep simply saying “Samson Walk” (he is doing it already!).
- When he has completed a few yards, simply say “OK” and reward immediately. This is not time to get your puppy to Sit, just reward, regardless of your puppies position. The reward is for the Walk, not sitting!
- So to summarize it would sound “Samson Walk – Good Boy, Good Boy – OK”
Try a different leash
If your puppy or dog is in the habit of becoming too excited when she sees the leash then you can try a different one for this exercise, often a simple clip with a piece of string attached can often mean that your puppy does not flip into her usual behavior pattern. Then after time, you can revert back to the standard leash. You will have broken the pattern.
Struggling with the walk? Puppy still pulling?
Sometimes young dogs can really try your patience and get them to calm down can seem almost impossible. Here are some tips if you feel like you are not moving ahead and have followed everything perfectly.
- Focus on the place that your dog really starts to pull and work in that area. (Usually, this will be around the garden gate)
- Standing still is training your dog. Practice this and only move ahead when your puppy has totally stopped pulling.
- If you find your puppy is good for a while but then starts to get away from you then check that you aren’t pushing your puppy to far too fast. For many six month old puppies a 30-minute walk to heel is simply not realistic, this is the equivalent of asking a 4-year-old to study maths homework for 1 hour. They need to build up to it. Try walking them for a minute or two and then give them the release command and give them a longer line to explore. After a minute of free running call them back over and practice another two minutes leash work.
- If you feel you have transported out everything but your dog simply needs to run it all off then try doing the off leash run first and then after some of your dog’s energy has been drained try doing some leash work practice.
- Remember though – off leash running is no replacement for leash walking. One is the dog simply burning calories and having fun the other is a serious exercise where you are training your dog to follow you – that you are the leader!
Q: My puppy jumps up at the food in my hand what should I do?
A: Use smaller treats and possibly less exciting ones. Stand up tall and walk faster, ignore the jumping and move your hand out of reach. Stay calm and do not speak. The jumping will stop if you do this and reward when your puppy is walking nicely. If you have a dog that is mouthing you or nipping you then consider just walk away without a treat or a word. Your puppy will realize that things have not gone as planned and will change his behavior.