We train a lot of dogs and the dogs we see have the usual issues; leash pulling, jumping, not coming when called and won’t stay. The dogs are really all over the place with no focus and they don’t pay any attention to the owner. If your dog will not follow he/she does not respect you and certainly will not listen when distracted. The very first thing we teach dogs when they come in for training is to follow. They already know how to lead and that is the problem. Dogs are supposed to follow and not lead. If your dog will not follow you what makes you think they are going to walk next to you on a loose leash? They won’t because you have allowed them to lead.
Dogs that lead are the leash pullers. Leash pullers are the ones who set the rules in everything else in their life; nuisance bark, jump on people, counter surf, reactive and will not come when called. In fact, they like you to chase them, that’s a great game. Whether it’s a 16 week old puppy or 10 year old dog the first step is the same; follow me.
To teach the dog to follow begin with a training collar of your choice. Start walking any direction and when the dog goes ahead, you turn and go the opposite direction. The dog will self- correct because they are going the wrong direction and you are going the right way. Once the dog turns and catches up with you, they usually will pass you again and continue in a forward direction, totally ignoring you. Turn and go the opposite direction of the dog. Continue doing this until they start paying attention and then add “let’s go” command. Say “let’s go” just before they run out of leash. As the dog learns, you can add a 15’ long line and continue the training. Soon you will see the dog paying attention to you and changing direction as you turn.
The “let’s go” command is really meant as an off lead command, but you always start on lead until the dog understands and is following you without any leash corrections. As your dog learns you will see them almost falling into a heal command. This is when you can start to teach your dog to walk next to you on a loose leash. Go back to your short walking leash and give the dog about 18” of line. Make the dog walk on your side and use quick leash corrections as the dog walks. They catch on quickly because you have already done this exercise with the “let’s go” command. In no time at all your dog will be walking on a loose leash next to you.
All dogs should focus on their owner when they hear their name and come when called. The “follow” command is the first step in training dogs to follow, heel and come. Training is all about patience, consistency and praise. When your dog is looking up at you and doing it right, let them know; stroke their head and tell them good boy/girl. All dogs want to do is to please but you have to set them up for success.