The Importance of Heeling
Many people have difficulties walking their dogs, for they cannot stop them from pulling. Teaching a dog to heel not only makes the walk more enjoyable for you and your furry friend, but helps you gain your place at the top of the pack. Instictly, dogs have a “pecking order” within the pack, and when we come in, we must place ourselves at the top of this, in order to have a better relationship with our canine pals.
When we let a dog lead us on the walk, we are telling the dog that they are Alpha, as they are leading us. This can lead to other problems later on, for in their minds they are required to lead the pack, and many dogs are not fit for this role. It also means that the dog is most likely pulling on the leash, something which everyone can agree takes the joy out of walking our furry friends. In order to teach the dog that we can lead them correctly, we must teach them to willingly stay by our side. Teaching a dog to heel is easier than it seems. There are three main rules to remember:
1. Remember to pull and release. The quick tug on the leash tells the dog they made a mistake, and the releasing the pressure when the dog is next to your leg tells them they did the right thing. When starting out, you may be asking the dog to heel every second or so, however once they get used to the correction and reward, they will start to stay next to you more.
2. Walk with confidence. Dogs communicate through body language, so by walking at a good pace with our shoulders back and head up will let your dog know that you are the confident leader he desires.
3. Allow the dog to stop and sniff only when asked to. When we walk, the dog should be kept walking at a brisk pace, and only be allowed to stop and sniff when we have released them to do so. This goes the same for “going potty.” It is important that we ask the dog to eliminate and stop on command, in order to reinforce our role as pack leader. A dog that is allowed to stop and sniff at will, does not see us as worthy to lead them.
Personally, I prefer the harness, as the leash attaches to the chest of the dog, giving us more strength, and it does not put pressure on the trachea, a common concern with dogs that pull against their collars. The harness is also designed to gently move the dog slightly off balance, so they stop and come into us. It is a very effective way to teach your dog to heal, and is easy on your arms, as well as your dog’s throat.
The martingale collar is also an effective training tool. Silimar design to a choke chain, except the chain only covers half of the collar, and when pulled tightens the nylon strap around the dog’s neck, only to an adjusted point. The collar works by giving a quick tug and release on chain, which tells the dog that he has made a mistake, and then is rewarded wiht the loose collar when the mistake is corrected. Martingales also come in a full-nylon variety, however many dogs react to the sound of the chain more than the slight pressure around their neck. For dogs that lunge frequently, and also very small breeds with delicate necks, a harness may be a better option. For dogs with very wide necks, a wide full-nylon variety is also available.