You’re out walking him, the roads are unusually quiet and you’re having one of those ‘life is good’ moments when you’re pulled to the side by your aging dog. Nobody told you when you first picked him up from the kennel that he’d never walk calmly by your side. Instead, he lunges for every rodent he sees and insists on pulling you over to every pile of animal feces in scent range.
Training him to heel will save your arm from feeling like it’s been pulled out of its socket. It will also make walking peaceful and, dare I say it, relaxing. He may have spent years pulling, but it’s never too late to rectify this behavior. Getting this training right will also help you train him to do a range of other things too.
It’s never to be underestimated how tricky it can be to train a dog to heel. It’s particularly hard if he’s spent years of running riot while on a leash. Training will consist of obedience commands to re-assert your control and taking a number of steps to manage his behavior when he’s on his leash. Because the behavior is so ingrained, it will take a minimum of 3 weeks to break the cycle. If he’s a tricky customer and you aren’t consistent with the training, it could take 2 to 3 months.
Getting it right will be more than worth the hassle. Every walk from that day on will be leisurely and in the direction you choose. In the long run, it will also be good for your mischievous dog too. It will ensure he’s more receptive when it comes to other training, so if you finally want to teach him to ‘wait’ or ‘roll over’ then master the ‘heel’ first.
Before you can crack on with training you’ll need to gather a few bits. A body harness and a short leash will be needed. A body harness will prevent unnecessary strain on your dog's neck and afford you greater control. You’ll also need treats and lots of them. They will motivate and incentivize him to walk calmly by your side.
You will need time to practice training each day when you’re walking him. Apart from that, just find all your patience and a positive attitude and you’re ready to head for the door!