Hi, Molly (4mo. old Westie) and I have been working on her on-leash walking the past couple of weeks. She doesn't seem to have a problem with the leash, and has finally stopped chewing on it. She loves walking outside, but I'm trying to train her to walk "nicely", without pulling, tugging, etc. I have read some instructions and tips on how to teach the "heel" command- giving a firm fast tug when she pulls, saying the word "heel" as I do that. We also take little breaks when she's getting too excited or out of control, I tell her to SIT, she does, then she sometimes gets a little treat, sometimes just praise, and as we start walking again I say "let's go!"... she seems to understand that cue very well. Then when she picks up my pace and doesn't pull I praise her too, with lots of "good job Molly!" The main problem is that she still likes to tug and pull, sometimes more than others. A friend told me that I should not pull her back, and basically have NO tension on the leash, ever, otherwise she'll learn to enjoy the pulling. This is contrary what I had read, and I don't understand how I could correct her if I don't tug back. The other thing that I would like her to stop is the sniffing. She walks at a good pace, but her nose is to the ground all the time... she looks up and her little face is black! lol!! it's cute, but I want her to walk upright, looking forward. She does it sometimes, but for the most part, she wants to sniff. How do I get her to change that? I should probably mention also that she wears a harness, not a collar (I don't know if this is a factor in this type of training). Any thoughts or suggestions??
At 4 months old I wouldn't worry to much about training her to walk at a heel perfectly. The sessions should be really short and remember lots of praise and treats. Look up google clicker training it is so much fun and you will feel better using positive reinforcement.
I wouldn't worry too much about heeling at first either, just teach polite walking on the lead without pulling. Heeling is a very formal sort of command and some dogs have a problem learning the concept of staying in one position relative to you. She is still young yet, and a few basic leash manners can later be molded into the perfect heeling position. Do not let her pull you, but don't be afraid to correct with a tug. If a dog learns to walk with a taunt leash because they are pulling, they will learn to accept it as normal to walk with a taunt lead, since they are reward with pulling by getting to go. But if you correct their position by guiding them back into place with a tug, and stopping when they pull, they are not being rewarded by going, so your friend has the right idea, but you are right too. Make sure you are taking along treats as you walk. High-value treats, not just regular stuff she gets at home all the time. Bits of chicken work well. It has to be something that will get her interest even though there are infinately more interesting things to pay attention to outside. Hold the handle of the leash in your left hand, and a treat closed up in a fist around the leash a bit further down in your right hand. (switch if you want her to walk on your left side. Always have her walk on one side only when teaching leash manners) Let both hands hand naturally at your side. Say 'let's go and start walking. Praise her for loose leash walking, and occasionally stop, have her sit, and treat her. If the treat is good enough and she is food motivated, she will keep turning her head to look back at you, to see if you are about to tell her to sit for a treat. If she pulls the leash taunt enough to move you right hand from its natural position, then say 'opps' and stop walking. Guide her back to your side and have her sit, wait until she is focusing her attention back on you, then say let's go and keep walking. If she is pulling because she is busy sniffing, so that stopping is more of a reward than a time-out for bad behavior, then instead of stopping, make an abrupt left turn and walk in the opposite direction, away from the interesting smell. If she is smelling but not pulling, don't be hesitant to reward her for good walking by stopping and allowing her to sniff. As she grows out of the puppy stage and grows more accustomed to her walks, she will grow out of this behavior the more familar she is with your walking territory. Frequent praise and high-value treats will also get her to focus more of her attention on you. If while she is walking if she crosses in front of you or pulls out too far away, say opps and guide her back into position with the lead, but keep walking. A harness on a small dog is good for this sort of guidence since it doesn't put stress on her neck. Once you have the basics of polite loose leash walking down, if you want to teach a more formal heel, do not do so on a 'walk,' which should be a more pleasurable relaxed activity, not a formal obedience activity. Start in your house or back yard by have her sit at the heel poistion at your side. Using a treat in your hand opened so she can see/sniff, slide you hand down your side in a deliberate fashion, this will be your hand signal for heel. Say heel and take one step. Try to get her to keep her nose no further ahead of your hand. This will be harder to teach to a small dog like a westie, I know cause I have corgis, but it can be done. Dora learned heel perfectly in two training sessions, turns and changes in pace not distracting her at all, but I must have food in my hand. Albie, I think he doesn't fully understand heel as a strict position relative to me, but knows it means he should stick somewhere near me and not pull, and will do it without treat reward. Work at it slowly for her to best understand the concept of stay right at your side whether you turn or change pace. Work on two steps, then three, then several steps, then turns (outside turns she should speed up, inside turns she should slow down, so that her nose doesn't pass the side of your leg), then pace changes. Use lots of verbal praise and have her sit and treat for doing it right. If she gets ahead of your hand, say opps, stop, have her come basck to you and sit at your side, and start again. This works best after a quick run to get out some energy, and with frequent breaks, cause heeling is quite boring. Try to keep training sessions short and fun. As she becomes older and less hyperactive, and the more experience she has with on lead training, you will find her starting to heel without being told. But it will take a while so don't be discouraged. Good luck!
Walking nicely on leash is the one thing that my dog is freakin professional at! He doesn't do any tricks, only basic commands, but the boy can walk. Manson is a strong guy and about 38 pounds, but I could carry a cup of coffee in my leash hand and never spill a drop. This is the method that we used.
Put him on a 6 foot leash. Walk along at a fast pace, ignoring him. Then abruptly turn around and start walking the other direction, still ignoring him. Do not slow pace or give any indication that you are going to change direction. Walk crazy! Zig zag. Stop suddenly. Make quick sharp turns in random directions.
Your dog will learn to pay attention to you in order to know where to go. Once he has learned and is doing well, if something happens that causes him to run ahead,like he sees a squirrel or something, suddenly walk the other direction fir 10 or 15 steps. Then turn around again and he will be right beside you!
I also use this technique before I do any training, to get him in the mindset of paying attention to me. I go out in the yard and run in all kinds of crazy directions with him.
***Edited By: shinyblackpit on 9/2/2008 11:57:44 PM*** Reason: typo
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