If you have a young puppy the best thing to do before attempting to put on a lead is to get him (or her) used to following you. Start with some food held in your left hand. You may have to bend down a little. When the puppy is in the heel position, reward with food and give the command heel. Practice this for short periods (your puppy will get bored or distracted easily), and practice doing left and right turns using food as a lure.
Next make sure you have a comfortable lead and collar. Start training indoors or in the back garden where there are few distractions before attempting a walk in the park. Encourage your puppy to follow you. If he surges ahead of you on the lead, stop and then lure him back into position. Allowing your puppy to move forward when he pulls on the lead rewards him. This behaviour will then be repeated. Instead, if you stop whenever he pulls, he will realise that pulling is pointless and will wait for you to take a lead.
Pulling a problem?
If you have an adult dog that is pulling this training method will also work. However, it will probably take longer as he has learnt over a period of time that pulling is effective.
For a quicker resolution I recommend a “Halti” head collar. This device is a quick an easy way to stop your dog from pulling. I often see people using a harness to try to stop their dog from pulling – unless you have a special training harness this is pointless. In most cases a harness will give the dog even more power and will make it easier for him to pull.
I always advise people to think about controlling a much larger animal like a horse. If you want a horse to pull a cart, you put a harness on it – this gives him maximum power for pulling. If you want to lead a horse you put a head collar on it, and it is quite easy to lead it. The same principals apply to the dog. If you have control of the head you have control of the dog. The “Halti” does require a little bit of training – but there are clear instructions with it. This is one of the best ways of getting immediate control of a dog that pulls.
Another important part of walking your dog is being able to let him off the lead when it is safe to do so. To do this you must be able to get your dog to come reliably when called. This is probably one of the most important commands you can train a new puppy.
One major rule with a new puppy is reward them every time they come when called. Never call your dog to you in order to punish it.
Practice with friends or family calling your dog. When he comes to the person who is calling him reward him with a treat, a pat or praise. Do not make excuses for your dog when he refuses to come to you indoors. If he will not come to you indoors where there are few distractions he certainly won’t come when he is called on a walk.
If you bring your dog on a walk and leave him off lead, make sure to call him back several times during the walk. Always have a treat or a toy or a ball so you can reward him for his obedience. Also try to have fun and play with him when he is with you. This rewards him for sticking with you on a walk, and means he is less likely to be distracted by other dogs and other people.
It is best to put him take his lead on and off throughout the walk. This way putting his lead on is not a signal that fun time is over, it is just part of the routine.
The more exercise your dog has the better behaved he will be, it keeps him stimulated, tires him out and relieves boredom – the root of many behaviour problems. Therefore if you can train your dog reliably to come when he is called, you will be able to let him off his lead more he will get more out of his walk.