Heel Work Training

How Do I Train My Dog to Stop Pulling on the Lead?

Hi there Pippa,

I was hoping you may be able to help me with my dog Poppy.

She is about a year old and we have been trying to train her to walk at heel on the lead. However, she will not stop pulling making it very hard to walk her when a lead is needed. She has in fact chewed through two leads, which is also a problem when we have stopped on a walk or to talk to someone. Our other dog is very good and I have tried walking them both together so she can see a good example but when she sees or smells anything remotely interesting (and for her that is pretty much anything!) she is out ahead straining to be ahead. Is there anything you can suggest which could help in training her?

Many thanks

Maika, Ashford

Dear Maika,

Thank you for your letter. For the majority of dog owners training your dog to walk to heel is one of the hardest commands, (alongside the recall!), but it is just a case of practicing. The outside world presents numerous wonderful smells and sights to distract your dog, so it is always harder to maintain your dog's attention on a walk compared to training indoors.

Start by introducing Poppy to the heel command inside. Ask her to walk to heel at your side as you are walking round the house, reward her and give her a treat as she walks at the side of your leg, repeating the word heel. Take a few steps saying the word heel, if she continues to walk by your side give her another treat and praise her, and continually repeat.

Introduce a training session during the day and practise all your basic training: sit, stay, wait, down, come and heel, practise in both the house and garden on and off the lead. When you feel that Poppy understands the command heel during your training, start asking her to heel outside. You will probably find it easier to allow her a good run and then practise the heel on the way home. Take treats out with you and hold the treat by the side of your leg at Poppy's head height. If she pulls ahead either stop or use your voice to correct her, as soon as she falls back to your side reward her and carry on.

If she really pulls you might have more luck using a head harness such as a Halti or Dogmatic. With these you have control of their head instead of their pulling you along. Dogs always like to be in-front so it is always advisable that you lead through the door way when you leave and return to the house, just to enforce that you will be taking charge during the rest of the walk. If you stop to talk to people I suggest you ask her to sit, or even go down. By engaging her in a command you will distract her and she will be less likely to chew the lead. Keep practising, it is the key to training outdoors and is very rewarding when your dog automatically walks next to you!