Get your dog walking started off right!
1. Teach your dog to pay attention.
Before you even put the leash on make sure that you train your dog to look at you. Say their name and treat when they turn to make eye contact with you. Practice in a variety of places and use high value rewards and praise. All dogs should learn the “touch” command where you present a flat palm and they touch with their noses. This will help your dog to learn to follow your hands and to help you get them in the right position.
2. Choose your equipment wisely.
I like the use of a 6ft. leash preferably made of leather, and either a flat collar, martingale or the Easy Walk harness. I do not recommend the use of a slip or prong collar especially on a puppy. This is because of the damage that can happen to the trachea if the collar is not positioned properly, and the fact that in the very beginning your dog will pull and be strung up in a very uncomfortable walk. And they may equate the choking and pain with the approaching child or dog that they just can’t wait to greet.
3. Take the time to practice heeling patterns.
This teaches your dog when to move and how to follow closely by your side. When teaching heeling we often face our dogs first, treating them for coming and then turning forward in the heel position. Another popular method is heeling around cones at different paces in a figure-eight. The main thing is to be creative and do the opposite of what your dog wants to do. In order to engage your dog you should change your pace to make things interesting. And you can bring a small toy with a squeaker to engage their interest. Don’t forget to bring some tasty treats and praise for good behavior. Practice makes perfect!
4. Shape heeling behavior by using walls.
One of the easiest methods to teach heeling is to find a long building in a safe area where you can practice with your dog on your left side against the wall creating a narrow space so they are focused on proceeding ahead by your side.
5. Be patient and have fun!
On your first experiences teaching your dog to walk, you may not get very far but with patience your dog will be a willing companion.
Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT), Consultant for Pet Therapy, Writer for AKC Family Dog and Gazette, Owner of Canines Can Do