My dog, when he sees another dog coming jumps up onto his hind legs and starts to pull forward while barking. I have tried to stop this leash pulling by getting him to sit so that the other dog can approach, but he suddenly gets deaf and has a one track mind that does not include listening to me. I continue to walk forward and he continues to be on his hind legs, turned opposite to the way that I am walking and is still barking and trying to go towards the other dog. Sometimes, I worry because I don’t want to hurt his paws by dragging him forward to walk with me.
Traditionally dog trainers teach the basics indoors and for the most part in that environment the dogs end up doing pretty well by the end of their six week class. The problem is that no one has a dog that needs to do geometric patterns around pylons let alone has access so they can practice.
Showing a dog owner what to do in the relatively sterile indoor environment of a training center and then telling them to “go practice” – in the real world – is like giving a youngster a few skating lessons and telling him or her practice in an NHL game. Unless they’re playing the Leafs it’s bound be a little discouraging.
Most dogs start to act like they’ve won the lottery the second they see the leash. The door hasn’t even opened and already the dog owner’s chance of getting them to walk without pulling is as likely as getting a real lottery winner to give it all away in favour of a monastic way of life.
There are too many details for a proper overview but dog owners should start by separating “walks” and “exercise”. To learn to walk properly the process needs to be broken down into smaller steps which may or may not satisfy a dog’s exercise needs.
Start by taking what is learned in the dog obedience class and apply it only in your back yard. Once you can get your dog to walk in that relatively sterile environment for three days running without pulling, practice in the driveway. Once you can get your dog to walk on a loose leash to the end of the driveway three days running, try a little up and down the side walk with the same time line in mind. Then graduate from the immediate proximity of the home to the dog park to practice a loose leash walk 200 yards away from the fence if necessary. Once you can walk the actual perimeter of that fence line with the dogs on the inside acting as the sort of distractions you’ll encounter on real walks move on to the park and work near geese, pedestrians, squirrels, roller bladers etc. It is only once a dog has demonstrated competence in all these areas would I strap on his skates and send him into the big game. When it comes to teaching a real “Heel!” like so many things in life – slow is faster.
To give a general idea of how to start a dog off, I have a short video of me working with a bouncy non-heeling dog from scratch and I’ll send a link to whoever has a pulling dog. –