Nothing is more important when owning a dog than a good walk. Taking your dog on a walk is not an option, it is a must. Every dog should go on at least a 30 minute walk everyday. And not just any walk will do. A proper walk is one is which the dog is heeling on a loose leash next to the owner. His body language should be as follows: his head should be up (not smelling constantly), his ears should be back, and his tail should be in the middle (not high, and not tucked). His gaze should be focused ahead and he should not be easily distracted. How does one accomplish this picture, you might ask? Read on!

A Proper Model for a Good Walk:

Getting ready:

Preparing for the walk is the most important part of the whole ritual as it sets the standard for the walk. If you hurry through the leashing up process and allow your dog to leave the house with a heightened state of excitement, you will not have success. As you prepare to go on your walk, stay calm and in control. Do not talk to your dog as that creates excitement (one of my pet peeves is an owner who ask their dog “do you want to go outside?”. It’s impossible for this dog to go on a calm walk after such a beginning). Your dog should be calm before the leash is even taken out of its storage place. Hold the leash/collar combination in such a way that the dog can come to it himself. If your dog becomes the least bit excited, barks, jumps, etc, correct him with a firm “shhhhh” and wait until he calms down again. When the dog becomes calm, start again. The dog is not allowed to show any signs of excitement as the leash appears or is placed on him. Until your dog gets used to the “no excitement” rule, you will have to use a great amount of patience. No need to tell your dog to sit, stay, lay down, etc. Just wait until they are calm and start again.

It is important that the dog comes to the leash, not the other way around. If you bring the leash to the dog, the dog is prone to think of the leash as a punishment or something to run from. But if you bring the leash down to the dog’s level thus asking the dog to come to it, he will see the leash as a positive thing.

Leaving the house:

Before you open the door, have your dog be calmly next to you and hold the leash very lightly in one hand. Do not wrap the leash round your hand as that will communicate tension to your dog. Loop it once and hold it lightly so that you are ready to teach your dog to heel from the very beginning. Open the door. Wait. Make sure that YOU and not your dog are the first to walk through the door. Whoever goes out the door first is in charge of the walk from that point on. Stop just outside the door, and then calmly lead your dog to your side. Correct any excitement by a quick side pull on the leash. Close the door behind you. Your dog should be waiting for you to make the first move. When you feel ready, begin walking.

Heeling—a must:

Teaching your dog to heel is a must. In the wild it is the pack leader who heads up the walk. The leader tells the pack when to walk, when to run, when to relieve themselves, and when to stop. As the leader to your dog you must do as pack leaders in the wild do. This means that you must be ahead or next to your dog and you must call all the shots—the pace, when to stop, where to stop, how the pack should react to their surroundings, etc. Your dog must never be allowed to go in front of you. Period.

How to teach a dog to heel

The philosophy behind teaching a dog to heel is actually fairly simple: you must walk in front of or next to your dog at all times. Your dog must never again be able to step in front of you. Ever. When walking with your dog, imagine that there is a brick wall at the end of your toes. Your dog is never able to cross that barrier. As your dog tries to go in front of you, give a sharp side pull on the leash. For smaller dogs, this will require that you bring your hand down so that it is parallel to your dog’s collar. When you give a leash correction, make sure you pull and then immediately loosen the leash again. Pull and release. Pull and release. If you only pull, your dog will become confused and will pull back in the opposite direction. As you perform the leash correction you should see your dog’s body language change. The ears should go back and he should lower his head, acknowledging that he knows he did something wrong (stepping in front of you). You need not be harsh, but you must be consistent. Every time your dog begins to walk in front of you, snap the leash. Your dog will learn where his boundaries are and will respect them in a short time resulting in a powerful walk and a deepened relationship between human and canine.

Some dogs catch on to this method of heeling in about 5 minutes, but for other dogs it can take several months. But the reward is awesome–I no longer hold onto my Schnazuer’s leash. I clip him into my belt and he always walks next to or behind me.

Recap:

~Don’t rush the preparation for the walk–it is crucial to your success.

~No tension is to be on the leash at all except when you are giving a quick leash correction. If you give tension, your dog will pull. No tension in the leash, no tension for you on your walk!

~When your dog begins to walk in front of you, do a quick side snap. Look for the change in body language which is a sign that your dog understood.

~Relax, relax, relax. Have fun. Be patient. No tension!

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