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Your German Shepherd is the perfect family pet. He is a great guard dog and gives his fiercest bark when the doorbell rings to warn anyone off. He’s a gorgeous dog with striking markings and has a loving personality. However, out on a walk he can be a handful due to his strong build and you find it difficult to hold him back. Due to his size, if he is not taught how to be obedient when out and about, you will run into many problems.
Do not let this deter you from taking him for walks as German Shepherds need a lot of exercise. Taking him out for regular walks will keep him happy and healthy and help keep his abundant energy levels down. It is important that you train him to walk patiently beside you while out on walks and only when it is safe to do so, you can let him have a run around.
If your Shepherd were to pull away from you on a walk and run into a road or even attack another dog, you could be left with a disastrous situation. Leash pulling is not an acceptable behavior and training him to walk beside you will solve this problem. If you can train him to walk at your will and pace, he will learn that you are in charge. Having a good basis of obedience commands such as ‘sit’ or ‘wait’ will serve you well in this training.
If your dog is a puppy, he should pick up learning to walk beside you in a couple of weeks. If he is an older dog and has years of experience going out for walks and not having to stay by your side, his bad habits are going to be a lot harder to rectify and replace with new behaviors.
Before you can start training, you will need to get your hands on a few key items. First, you will need a leash around 2 to 3 feet in length or an extending one. You need the leash fairly short as he will need to get used to walking close to you. You may also choose to purchase a harness, which you will be able to get fitted in any reputable pet shop. You should also have a generous supply of his favorite treats at the ready. If you have all this, you are ready to start!
The Leash-Free Method
Take off leash
Once your German Shepherd is an expert at walking patiently beside you on the leash, you can work on teaching him to walk beside you even when off-leash.
You may want to try this training in an enclosed area such as your yard or a small park at first to limit distractions and to make sure he will not get too excited being taken off the leash.
To start off, position your dog to the side of you, preferably the same side you use while leash walking. Make him stand still or sit beside you until you decide you are ready to walk. Keep a treat in your hand for the first few times.
You can now slowly start to walk in a straight line, with the treat in hand. Your German Shepherd should naturally keep looking back at your hand for the treat and keep in time with you.
After a few paces, stop walking and give him the treat as a reward if he has stayed by your side for the short walk. If he has strayed away, be sure to stop immediately and start again.
Eventually you can try this treat free however it is a good idea to have them in your pocket to lure him close if he starts to stray away or just to give him an occasional reward.
The Harness Training Method
Start off your training in a quiet space such as your house or your yard so that you have his full attention and there are few distractions.
Attach his harness around him and attach the leash to it. If he is not familiar with a harness, give him time over several days to get used to wearing it before attaching a leash. Have your dog start by sitting beside you.
Once he is sitting patiently, start to walk slowly a few paces, keeping a short leash at all times.
Give the command to ‘stand’, ‘heel’ or whichever he recognizes as the command to stop. Give a slight pull back on the harness if he needs it.
As soon as he stops, be sure to give him a treat and lots of praise.
Continue to repeat these steps and increase the distance you walk when he starts to get the hang of walking beside you.
The Leash Training Method
With either a collar or harness, you will introduce walking on the leash. You can either try this inside or you can take him out on a normal walk. However, beware that out on a walk there will be added distractions.
Position your dog to the left or right of you and keep the length of the leash short so that he is close by your side.
Make yourself a tree
Start to walk along slowly. If he starts to pull away from you which he will most likely do, then you need to stand as still as you can and refuse to move. Your dog will be forced to stop also. When he does eventually come back to you, make sure you give him a treat.
Once he has settled by your side, you can now start to walk again. If he starts to pull, repeat step 3 until he gives up pulling.
If your German Shepherd has been walking calmly beside you for a few paces, give him a treat and praise.
By Lola Hobbs
Published: 03/09/2018, edited: 01/08/2021