I am hoping you can help us. We have a f4-year-old Labrador/Staffordshire male dog who loves to pull us when we take him for a walk. We currently use a choke chain collar, the command “heel,” and reward him with treats when appropriate. We feel like we are starting over every time we take him for a walk, rather than making progress. Ugh, every day feels like Groundhog Day!
Are there any types of collars, leashes, or methods you can recommend?
In my experience, you and your dog will need the help of a pro to teach your dog to heel successfully. When a dog is heeling, he’s by your left knee and he never strays from there. That’s all he’s doing. He’s not sniffing stuff, he’s not peeing, he’s not “doin’ nothin” but staying by your left knee. Whether you’re walking slowly, making continuous left turns, about faces, running, sudden stops, whatever, he’s at your left knee.
I accomplish this by having Pully (I’ll call him that for this column) sit on my left, and when I say “heel,” I start walking. When Pully lunges in front of me, I don’t stop him. The moment he’s about to run out of leash I make an about-face, as Pully uncomfortably hits the end of the leash. If he veers to the left, I don’t stop him, but rather make a sharp right turn. If he cuts me off to the right, I make a left turn into his face. Wherever he goes I’m going in the opposite direction, and when timed right and done correctly, Pully’s attitude will quickly become, “Damn, I have to pay attention to this idiot, ’cause he’s always going in the wrong direction, and when I’m not with him it’s unpleasant!” And not having eyes in the back of his head, there’s only one way Pully can avoid the discomfort of hitting the end of the leash — BY STAYING NEXT TO ME.
It’s at this point that I’m praising Pully and giving him treats. Like I said, I would strongly suggest you get the help of a pro if you want to teach Pully a “real” heel.
Choke chain collars do nothing to stop a dog from pulling; however, there are two adjustments you can use that will reduce Pully’s pulling dramatically. I’ve found that the Easy Walk Harness will reduce a dog’s pulling by about 70 percent; the leash attaches at the chest instead of the middle of the back, and makes life a lot easier.
Then there’s the Gentle Leader, which will basically STOP the pulling. Here again, I wouldn’t suggest you just buy one and put it on Pully; get the help of a pro. It goes around his snout, with the leash attaching below his muzzle. It has to be sized just right, with Pully getting acclimated to it. Even if you would prefer not having eyeglasses on your face, you wear them because you know what they are, and they help you see. When you put something on a dog’s face, all the dog knows is “Get this crap off my face!” Initially, try the Easy Walk Harness, and start enjoying the walks more.
Best of luck
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