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Leash Pulling American Staffordshire Terrier

Providing the owner of an American Staffordshire Terrier with some guidance on how to approach leash pulling in dog training. In this article you’ll find some effective techniques for teaching your canine companion the heel command. Learn how to overcome common challenges like distraction training and end leash pulling “No Matter What”. With practical tips and insights, this article explores the art of dog walking without pulling, providing solutions for common problems to achieve heel command success. Also, some valuable advice on choosing the right dog training collar and delve into the strategies outlined in the eBook “Healing the Heeling Problem.” Whatever breed you have, this guide equips you with some great tips for effective leash training and leash control, paving the way for harmonious walks with your furry friend.

Heeling Problem

Dear John,

Beans, my American Staffordshire Terrier is placid by nature; he is the cuddliest dog I have ever owned and is full of love. However, I cannot walk him because Beans is stronger than I am, and as soon as he is out of our front gate, he wants to go full speed and full-force running, and I am just not physically strong enough to control his power over mine. 

Leash Pulling DogI have a big enough yard that Beans has worn his harness, and I’ve attached the lead so we can walk up and down the backyard, which went well; he would heel, stop, turn around, and sit. Until we went to go out the gate… 

Beans is smart and enjoys learning (not that I’ve taught him much). It’s towards any other dog that he shows aggression. 

Having said all that about Beans, here’s a little more info about our home life. Three other dogs live with Beans. Kevin is his brother from the same litter, Boss is his dad, and Willow is his mum. All neutered/spayed. They all get along fairly well 95% of the time. 

Beans and I would love to go for a walk down to the beach without incident and without him dragging me behind him like a rag doll. I understand this will take significant dedication and detailed hard work, and I am prepared for that. 

I stay home, I don’t drive, and I don’t have to commute to work, so I am able to commit my time to doing this for Beans.

My immediate goal would be for Beans to accept other dogs without aggression. The long-term goal for Beans is to be able to walk with him to the beach and home again without incident.

Barb (Australia)

Effective Strategies to Address Leash Pulling in Dog Training

Dear Barb,

The goal of “Heel” – No Matter What, is no small matter. Many things factor into achieving this goal. Always the first, and rarely taken into consideration, is whether Beans sees you as a loving authority figure instead of a loving roommate. Another consideration is: can you get Beans to Heel – No Matter What, inside your home, for one minute in duration, six times per day, even if you’re tossing toys left and right, having someone knock on the door and ring the doorbell for three days in a row?

Overcoming the Heeling Problem

The biggest mistake is companion dog owners (and dog trainers, for that matter). make is setting things up to fail by prematurely practicing/teaching heel in a neighborhood. You wouldn’t try to teach a child to do geometry at the gateway of Disneyland, would you? How far along in your geometry lessons would you want to be before that attempt?

If it were up to me, I’d want you to avoid all neighborhood “Heel” lessons right away, as all you can do at this point when Bean’s interest is inevitably triggered by one thing or another is to dig in your heels and wrap the leash around your hand three or four times. In essence, do what is called agitation training in guard dog training. In other words, not only are you not going to make teaching Heel possible, but you’re instead going to make learning it far harder, as you’re increasing his agitation and anticipation so that if it isn’t the case already, he’s less going for a walk, and more going on patrol.

Exercise, Sniff Time Vs Learning To Heel

There are better ways for Beans to get exercise than a walk. As he lives with three other dogs, they get a fair amount of exercise just rough-housing in the yard. So, there is no loss in cutting the walks out for now, which, quite frankly, I’ve never understood why dog walks are considered exercise for dogs or humans. How many people who walk their dog every day can run half a block without having a near coronary? I think this confusion about what is and isn’t exercise contributes to training and behavior. We’d have much happier dogs and more easily trained dogs if we were to make sure they received cardiovascular exercise instead of these jaunts we call walks. That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t encourage outings about allowing a dog to sniff about, which I also think is a very important inclusion in their day. We must separate true exercise and sniff time from learning to “Heel.”

Heeling Problems Overcome

Once you have established who the teacher and the student are and laid down a basic indoor understanding of what is expected of him when you ask him to “Heel” (Inside your home, for one minute in duration, six times per day, even if you’re tossing toys left and right, having someone knock on the door and ring the doorbell for three days in a row.) change your “classroom” to your yard.

Divide all the time you would have invested being pulled around the neighborhood into three-minute segments for learning “Heel” in the yard. Your goal is to achieve three days in a row of success where you can stop, start, increase pace, decrease pace, change direction, and feel no tension on the leash. Make sure you have three days in a row of success, before even considering the next step, which, “Surprise, Surprise,” still isn’t testing the neighborhood out on him.

Using “Field Trips” In Your Heel Training

The next step is to parse your neighborhood into separate distractions. Anything likely to interrupt a “Heel.” That would be things like pedestrians, squirrels, joggers, skateboarders, bicyclists, dogs, etc. Then, pick one from the list that is the least likely to fully set him off, locate an area where you can put at least 100 yards between him and the trigger, and see how difficult it is to have him respond to your voicing of “Heel.”  Your initial goal is to find a distance where he can accomplish at that distance what you were able to get him to do for three days in a row in your yard. Your second goal is to get him to do his “Heel” at that distance for three days in a row without any problem. At this point, you’ll slightly decrease that distance. Rinse and repeat until he can Heel at a distance similar to what you’d encounter on a neighborhood walk. Then, move on to a different type of distraction.

Teaching Heel - The Role Of Equipment

I have no idea why you’re using a harness. I know they’re all the rage, but they’re next to useless when it comes to having an emergency brake level of control (safety) or getting a dog’s attention. Two things that you certainly need and will struggle with if you stick with that harness. Look at this article (it’s a long one), Choosing The Best Dog Training Collar For Training Your Strong, Stubborn, Or High Drive Puppy Or Dog, about equipment and rethink the harness.

Healing The Heel eBook


healing the heelFor a far more detailed step-by-step, I highly recommend you invest in my eBook Healing the Heeling Problem, as it covers a lot more of the dos and don’ts to make your journey more likely to result in success (without the need for treats or resorting to ‘Might Is Right’).

John “Ask The Dog Guy” Wade

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