In the last feature I explained some of the things to consider about walking with your dog and why it might be inclined to pull away from you. One thing I didn’t include was something that I perhaps should have because, although it’s obvious to me, it may not be obvious to you.
Headphones. They insulate you from the world. That means that they also insulate you from your dog to the extent that, as far as he is concerned, you’re the lump on the end of the lead.
Headphones are completely inappropriate for walking with your dog.
There are a number of ways to teach a dog to stop pulling but, if your dog is a little too strong for you, you should only use techniques that suit a shorter lead.
This is a medium lead-length exercise that requires you to anticipate the point at which the lead goes taut.
Walk with your lead hand to the centre of your chest and, as it does go taut, turn around and face the other way, say your dog’s name and tell him to ‘heel’ as you walk away from him.
When he catches up and is in the heel position, guide him gently through a 180 degree turn so that you’re both facing in the original direction of your walk. Praise him and remind him to heel.
Repeat over and over. He’ll eventually become quite fed up with being turned around and should walk closer to you, if only out of curiosity.
Whenever your dog walks ahead or to the side to the limit of the lead, stop and stand still until he looks at you to see what the problem is. The first thing he should see is you offering a treat.
If you’ve been kind enough to buy either ‘My First Dog’ or ‘6-Minute Dog Training’ you’ll know how to move the treat to bring him back into a ‘heel’ position, but it’s enough in the early stages for him to come back to you so that the walk can continue with the lead loose.
Keep repeating this process and you’ll find that the lead will become taut less often and, as the incidents decrease, replace some of the treats with a happy fuss and a scratch behind his ears.
You should gradually remove the treat element altogether.
This technique works because dogs don’t like to stop once they’re on the move – in the same way that many drivers prefer to crawl along slowly in a traffic jam rather than speed up and have to stop again.
This technique is suitable only if you are able to move quickly and have good balance. Because of these two requirements it’s one I’m no longer able to use, but I used to find it worked very well with some dogs.
The reason you need to be able to react and move quickly is that, when your dog moves forward from the heel position, even before the lead pulls taut, you will step across and in front of him to change direction 90 degrees to the left while giving the ‘heel’ command.
At the same time, using as little pressure as is necessary, slow your dog by putting your left hand on the lead about halfway between your right hand and his collar. This is to help ensure that he doesn’t step under your foot as it crosses and that you don’t inadvertently kick or knee his head, depending on the size of the dog.
Continue walking in the same direction, having released the lead from your left hand.
Repeat as necessary.
It may take several sessions, as with all of these techniques and, if you find that they all suit you equally, you can mix them up which will only serve to make your dog concentrate on you all the more.