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You are tempted to walk the dog under cover of darkness. You see, your Dachshund has got into such a bad habit on the leash. He pulls. In fact, he doesn't just pull, he tows you along. It's embarrassing, especially when it's such a small dog who's bossing you around.
It would be great to stop this bad habit but you're worried about jerking on the leash and hurting his back. Mind you, pulling so hard on the leash such that his front paws leave the ground isn't good for his back either.
Part of the problem is that he's so keen to get to the park, he becomes deaf to calls of "heel" and now it's you that's nearly at the end of your tether.
Training a Dachshund to walk on a leash is about having him walk on a slack lead while listening to you. Also known as 'walking to heel', this doesn't have to be a regimented affair, where the dog stares up at you while moving forward. It is perfectly acceptable for a pet Dachshund (rather than one participating in obedience competitions.) to walk steadily forward as long as there is slack in the leash.
Unfortunately, what sounds like a simple task is deceptively difficult given that Dachshunds love to get ahead, which then involves them pulling badly. Not only is this bad manners, but it's bad for the Dachshund's long low back, as it puts it under strain.
To leash train a Dachshund, you need patience and consistency. They are an intelligent dog, but this can also make them strong-minded and prone to distraction. You also have a special consideration in the Dachshund in that he has a delicate spine, so harsh or physical methods of getting to walk nicely on the leash are definitely not appropriate.
Start training in a quiet place with few distractions, and as he gets the hang of the task, move outdoors. Practice plenty and in different locations, so that he understands he's expected to walk nicely on the leash no matter where he is.
Because of the Dachshund's delicate back, it's better to train him using a harness rather than a collar. The harness spreads the force over his chest, rather than concentrating it on his neck, should he pull.
- Bite-sized treats
- A treat pouch so the rewards are handy all the time
- A comfortable harness
- A leash
The Indoor Start Method
Understand the idea
This is ideal for a doxie puppy that hasn't completed his vaccinations. Just because he can't go outside yet, doesn't mean that you shouldn't start leash training him. This method looks at ways you can get ahead with leash training, so that when he does discover the great outdoors you have a head start.
Introduce the harness and lead
It will take the puppy some time to get used to wearing a harness and the feel of the lead dragging behind. This is something you can do while the pup is still confined to the house. Put the harness on ahead of a mealtime, so that he gets food as a reward for wearing the harness. Let him wear it around the house, and reward him when he calms down. However, don't leave doxie unattended in his harness and leash, as he may well get tangled up and need rescuing.
Hold the leash and call him
Teaching a puppy to walk neatly to your heel starts with him coming to you while on the leash. With a young puppy, start practicing this in the house. Do this my holding the end of a loose leash and making a noise that attracts the puppy's attention. When he looks towards you, attract his attention some more my slapping your thigh and taking a couple of steps away from him. Bizarrely, stepping away will trigger most pups to come towards you, at which point praise him and hold out a treat. When he comes to you to get the reward, you're starting to sow the idea of sticking by you.
Add a cue word
Make having the pup come to you into a game. Once he's regularly approaching you while you hold the lead, start adding a cue word that tells him this is good behavior. You may click a clicker, click your tongue, or say "Yes" in an excited voice. The point being that when he hears this sound or word, he knows he's doing good and has earned a reward.
Now walk forward
Your puppy is now a pro at coming to you on the leash when you back away. Simply turn as he comes towards you, so that you are both moving in the same direction. Now pull out all the stops to encourage him as you walk forward slowly with puppy following your heels. Say lots of "Yes" and give him treats, to encourage him to walk with you.
The Stop, Start Method
Understand the idea
This method involves the dog having to think through how to earn a treat. You will teach him that to get a treat he has to sit down whenever you stop walking. Ultimately this allows you to stop the dog when he surges ahead on the lead, and have him walk to heel waiting for instruction.
Start in a distraction-free room
In a quiet room, have the dog on a loose leash. Show him a treat but don't give it to him unless he sits down. The pup will dance around, getting excited, wanting to have the treat. Eventually, he will pause to puzzle out why it is he's not getting the treat. If he happens to sit to do his thinking, say "Yes" in an excited voice and give him the treat.
Practice makes the penny drop
Repeat this. Perhaps take a step forward to a new spot, show him another treat and wait. Let him dance around again, but hopefully being an intelligent Dachshund he'll sit down more quickly than before. Say "Yes" and give him the treat. Keep repeating.
Walk forward slowly
Now walk forward slowly, showing the dog a treat. The pup will stare up at you, watching the treat and wondering what he has to do to get it. Stop walking. If the pup remembers his previous lessons, he'll stop and then sit. At which point, say "Yes" in an excited voice and reward him.
Walk forward more fluidly
As dog gets the idea, walk forward more fluidly with him on the leash. If he starts to surge ahead, stop. As he realizes you've stopped, he'll sit in order to earn his treat. Praise and reward him. Then set off again. Take a few steps, and praise him if he walks to heel. Stop every few steps, let him sit and reward him.
The Do's and Don'ts Method
Do: Make training fun
The idea is to have a happy doxie who is eager to please and walks nicely on the leash because he feels good doing so. Be generous with praise and it's fine to motivate the dog with treats, when he does well.
Don't: Use harsh training aids
There is no place for harsh training aids such as prong collars or electric collars. For any dog, it's natural to misbehave to a certain degree. If he's exceptionally naughty then think about how you can improve communication to make the message clearer about what you want him to do.
Do: Stop in your tracks
If the Dachshund surges ahead on the leash (a common Dachshund trait) the stop walking. Call the dog to you, then praise him for returning to your side. Don't move off again until he has returned to your heel.
Don't: Jerk on the leash
Dachshunds have delicate spines that are easily damaged. Never jerk on the leash or drag the dog along, as this could do painful and permanent damage to his delicate back.
Do: Anticipate distractions
If your Dachshund is a demon for getting distracted and pulling as a result, anticipate this. Have a treat handy and spot likely distractions ahead of the pup. Then get his attention with the treat and have him focus on you while you walk past the diversion.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 02/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021