Wits End Dog Training: helping you to help your dog be the best it can be

Wits End Dog Training, helping you to help your dog be the best it can be.

Wits End Dog Training | Specifics

4. Leash walking

When we are out for a stroll my dog exhibits self control, my dog walks on a loose leash, pays attention to me and responds to my body movements and changes of direction, not dependent on a tight leash for communication. My dog will sit when I stop.

I think the thing I see that goes wrong most frequently with this behavior is a combination of the owner and the dog regressing to a natural reaction which I term the 'opposition reflex'.

"When the dog feels restraint he leans forward,
when the owner feels pulling he pulls back!!"

If you start to see this as a natural automatic response which you have to consciously recognize and deliberately avoid the training will go much more smoothly! As with so many of these habits you will start to see that this is NOT A DOG PROBLEM!

In fact, YOU are probably, almost certainly, training your dog to do it! Oh, ok, not you, but someone you know really well!

You see people all the time walking in a straight line down the sidewalk, with the dog in front at the end of a tight leash. The dog is pulling them down the street and the owner is jerking the dog back and shouting “heel heeel heel!”. In the dogs mind the label “heel” is being attached to pulling and /or jerking which they both then get really good at!

"I suggest you start by imagining a game that involves
you and your dog working as a team."

Go into your living room, kitchen or out into the yard and create an obstacle course. You can move the chairs back from the table, use the sofa, coffee table and easy chairs or pop down the hardware store and by a dozen or so “soccer cones”. Lay them out so you have a start position, some obstacles that you can do clockwise turns around, anticlockwise turns around, left turns, right turns and u-turns and then a finish line.

Now start the game. Keep a short leash on the dog and try to maintain its attention on you. Sometimes all you have to do is move a little faster than you normally do, if the dog has to trot to keep up he will be much more interested in you! You will find this easier if you are the “center of energy” by being fun, funny, playful, energized and bouncy, try skipping! You can carry a squeaky toy to start with but it is most effective if you are the squeaky toy! Now turn so you are facing away from the dog and have him follow you playfully as you zoom around the obstacle course.

"Congratulations, you just have performed
your first experience of your dog
running at your heel!"

Because you are unpredictable and excited you are the focus of your dog’s attention, he will watch your body language as you turn and swerve so that he can anticipate where you will go next. In fact when you have practiced a couple of times you will find that your dog will do this without a leash!

"Magic Formula! Now you can label this behavior “heel”.
Think of the word as the click of a camera
taking a picture of the perfect behavior.


When you can play this game and your dog will not take his eyes off you for a moment or be more than an inch or two from your heel, then you can consider adding distractions and thinking about how to make it even more fun.

Now take this out on the road! Don’t be predictable, use lampposts, trees, bus stops, benches, and so on as your obstacle course. Practice, stop, start, left turn, right turn, left full circle, right full circle, u-turn to the left, u-turn to the right, speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down, stop, sit, lets go, left foot one step, left, left, left, and so on.

"Have fun and your dog will too!"

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