By Suresh Sherawat
As a Professional Dog Trainer for the past three decades, one of the most common problems I have heard from dog owners worldwide is that their dog does not walk properly while on a leash. The erring canine often darts, zips back and pulls around sniffing, jumping on people, chasing other animals or shrubs along the way. These people, ruled by their dogs, are unable to control the situation.
Training your pet to walk calmly and properly while on a leash is called ‘HEEL.’ The ‘heel’ skill simply means that the dog should walk on your left side without pulling around. You can train your dog to heel through a simple step-by-step procedure. The most pivotal step in dog training is – your dog must have a strong bonding and trust in you, which can be built through love and affection. Training can be commenced as early as the puppy is around three months old. First, teach him to ‘come when called’ by using a long leash – make him sit at a distance, call by his name and clap your hand. When the puppy comes to you reward him with some delicious dog treat. When you achieve perfection in this exercise, move to training for ‘heel.’ This training has various positive effects on your pet’s overall state of mind and adds tremendous benefits to further training endeavours.
Training Your Dog to Walk in the Heel Position
Using a 6 feet long nylon leash with a flat collar is a preliminary requirement for teaching your canine to walk correctly while on a leash. Never use steel choke chain or spike collars as they can harm your pet and make him scared too.
Now hold the leash in your right hand while keeping your left hand free for correction. Make your dog sit on your left side and move forward with the command ‘heel’ followed by patting your dog. Give the dog a slight jerk and he will start to follow you. If your dog darts ahead, STAND STILL, and snap the leash backwards while praising him. Make U-turns every few feet. Whenever you turn left or right, snap the leash end and always praise the dog when you make corrections.
Heeling work includes fast and slow pace, about turn, circle and figure of ‘8.’ To teach your dog to walk in a circle, walk continuously to the right, then continuously to the left. Follow the circling with walking in a zigzag pattern. A change in directions will keep your dog attentive. Please keep in mind that you never adapt your pace to that of a canine.
If the dog is making mistakes, use a demanding command ‘HEEL’ and jerk the leash to make corrections. When you are teaching your pooch to heel, make the training fun. Use playful corrections so that your dog never loses interest and shower him with praise. Keep repeating the same. You can also use some treat for quick response. After a few days of training, you will find your loving pet enjoying walking with you calmly.
Remember that a balanced combination of hard work, good bonding and patience is the key to success in every dog training exercise.
Author is a Global Certified Master Trainer and Founder of Canine Village – Dog Training and Research Centre, New Delhi.