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Your Shih Tzu, Buster is a gorgeous little bundle of fun. He’s playful and loving - and has even taught himself to sit up with his front legs in the air! But one thing Buster just isn’t getting on with is his leash. He pulls on it, tugging you along to a faster walk that you would like. How can such a little dog cause so much arm strain?!
He fights the leash and jumps up to lean on it - it’s as if he doesn’t know how to act with it. Your fresh morning walks just aren’t how you imagined. This is a common problem if dogs haven’t been trained to walk on a leash. It’s not always doggy instinct, but luckily there’s something you can do. Training your dog to walk comfortably on a leash requires a little patience and a lot of love. But soon, you’ll be strolling along nicely – just as you had always intended.
The main command you’ll need to use to keep Buster walking alongside you on his leash is ‘heel’. This is a common term used by dog owners the world over. It’s short and sharp – the perfect intonation for dogs to learn.
Shih Tzus are great companion dogs. They love to be by your side so it shouldn’t be difficult to train him to walk near you. They are pretty intelligent, making your job a whole lot easier. If you’re looking to train him as a puppy, this should be an incredibly simple task. Puppies are extremely quick learners and often eager to please. Relax and enjoy yourself – this one will be fun! If you’re looking to train an adult dog, it may require a little more time and effort. But as a breed, Shih Tzus tend to be reasonably easy to train – you’ve got this one in the bag, no problem.
To get started, you’ll first need your leash! If he’s a puppy, you may want to try a training leash. These are shorter than a standard leash, meaning you can keep him closer to you, and away from distractions. Once he is used to a short line, it should be easy to progress to a longer one. If he’s an adult dog, there’s no need to go out and buy a new leash – your normal one can work just fine.
You’ll also need some tasty treats. Shih Tzus, like all dogs, respond well to positive reinforcement. It’s important not to punish a dog for bad behavior, this can lead to anxiety and aggression. Get ready to give him lots of verbal and physical praise when he does well. But as a dog lover, this should come naturally!
The Get Used To It Method
Try the leash on for size
If he’s a puppy and he’s reacting badly to the leash, it may be that he just isn’t used to it and doesn’t know how to react. Start by putting the leash on at home so he can recognize what it feels like.
Create a calm environment
If he’s getting too excited about his walk, he may act out. Often Shih Tzus will jump up and try to grab the leash, this isn’t because they don’t like it, it’s because they just can’t wait to explore. Instead of shouting "WALKIES!" when you leave the house, act calm, cool and collected. This demeanor will help your fluffy one also be calm.
Prevent door jumping
Often Shih Tzus will jump up at the door before a walk – not great when you’re trying to open it. If he does this make a sharp ‘AH’ sound, and move away from the door. Once he is calm you can try again. If he continues to jump, repeat the process. Give lots of praise when he doesn’t jump.
Stop bad behavior before you've even left
If he begins to pull before you’ve even left the house. Stop dead in your tracks and wait for him to return. He will soon learn that pulling gets him nowhere.
Reward good behavior
Make sure to give lots of praise when he completes a well-behaved walk. This reinforces good behavior, as he associates pleasure with acting correctly.
The Treat Lure Method
Begin your walk
As normal, put him on his leash and begin to walk. It may be useful to keep the leash short at this point, so that he is close and can listen intently to your commands.
Grab those treats
Hold a treat by your side where you would like him to walk. Make sure he’s aware it’s there. You can do this by calling his name and holding it close to him before moving it into position.
After a short distance, if he has stayed close and not pulled, you can reward him for the correct behavior. Use verbal and physical praise to reinforce the correct actions.
Repeat the process, but this time extend the distance between rewards. You should make the length between each treat longer and longer. If he takes his eye off the treat, but stays close, that’s great! He’s learning.
Remove the treat
Eventually you should get to a point where he stays by your side throughout the walk. When this happens regularly, you can start to remove the treat from the process. Make sure you carry on giving verbal and physical praise for this behavior. He needs to know he’s been a good boy.
The Turn Around Method
Begin your walk
Start the walk as normal. Have your little guy on a close leash. For this method you may want to have him on a harness as you’ll be tugging on the leash, which could hurt him.
Wait for the offending behavior
Walk until he begins to pull as normal. Make sure you stay focused. It’s important not to be sporadic with the training. Be aware of the behavior, and act accordingly.
Issue the command
Once he pulls, say ‘heel’ firmly and tug slightly on the leash. Don’t take an aggressive tone, but make sure it’s clear you are in charge, and requesting the dog's attention.
Immediately turn and walk in the opposite direction. Once he follows you, tell him he’s a good boy, in a lighthearted tone. This will indicate that he has completed the correct behavior.
Every time he pulls, repeat the process and walk in the opposite direction. You may initially feel like you’re walking back and forth. But trust the process, and eventually the time between pulls will get longer and longer.
Written by Olivia Draper
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 03/23/2018, edited: 01/08/2021