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How to Train an Australian Shepherd to Walk on a Leash

How to Train an Australian Shepherd to Walk on a Leash
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon1-4 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Dexter, your gorgeous Australian Shepard, is intelligent and lively. Always investigating, ready to get outside and learn, you have your perfect walking companion right there. But the first step to getting Dexter out and about is teaching him how to walk on a leash. Without this initial step, you’ll never have him running through parks as he would like to.

Letting him out the house off the leash could cause issues if he doesn’t have the basic training. You don’t want him running off and not coming back! Therefore, it’s important for both you and him that you get this initial doggy school completed. Australian Shepards are one of the cleverest breeds out there, so he should be able to pick this up in no time. Soon, he will be walking by your side intently, and you’ll feel confident enough to take him to the next stage of training.

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Defining Tasks

If Dexter is pulling on the leash, you’ll need to use the command ‘heel’. This works perfectly as a command word because it's short and sharp, making it easy for dogs to recognize. It’s used the world over to mean 'stop pulling and come back by my side'.

If he is acting out while on the leash, jumping up and trying to grab it with his paws, you’ll need to complete a few exercises to get him used it. It’s not always instinctual for dogs to know how to behave on the leash, so it may need some practice.

Australian Shepards are incredibly intelligent. They are working dogs and love to be out the house experiencing nature. This will mean he is likely to be eager to learn and to please. This is a basic command Australian Shepards should be more than capable of learning, so expect this to be a quick turn around. However, Australian Shepards can sometimes be stubborn, so make sure you get into the habit of good behavior early.

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Getting Started

For this exercise, you’ll need a leash. If you’re training a puppy, it may be useful to have a training leash. These are shorter than a standard one, so they are perfect for keeping your pup’s attention. If you’re training an adult dog, you can use a standard leash, but it may be useful to keep it short as well.

You’ll also need some yummy treats. These training methods rely on positive enforcement in order to create the correct behavior. It’s important that the process is a happy one. Do not act angry or tell your dog off for the wrong behavior. This can cause aggression and anxiety in dogs. It simply doesn’t work to act negatively. So, keep it light-hearted and man’s best friend will be acting like it in no time at all!

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The Start at Home Method

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1

Try the leash on

Before you leave the house there are a couple of tricks you can do get the dog used to the leash. Firstly, try the leash on for size while in the home. He may not immediately be comfortable on it. So let him get used to the feeling before you explore new worlds.

2

Be calm

A calm environment before a walk is an important habit to get into. Australian Shepherds can get over-excited by their walk and act out. Appear calm and this will encourage calm behavior.

3

Prevent door jumping

If your pup immediately goes to jump at the door, say ‘AH’ sharply and walk back down the hall. Sit down, until he seems calm again, then give him some praise. Repeat until the jumping stops.

4

Prevent lead grabbing

Sometimes, in all the excitement, the dog may jump up to grab the leash. Again, say ‘AH’ as a warning when he does this and ask him to ‘sit’. Give him praise for the correct behavior. After a while he will learn he gets his walk when he behaves correctly.

5

Praise

Always make sure you reward good behavior with praise. This will reinforce the positive behavior and encourage him to continue with it.

The Treat 'Heel' Method

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Grab your treats

Firstly, grab some tasty treats and get ready to start your walk. It’s useful to have something you can break up into small pieces. You will be rewarding him a lot in this process and large biscuits may cause him to overeat, so have some bite sized pieces available.

2

Begin to walk

Start walking until he pulls on the leash. This is the behavior you want to him stop, so make sure you aren’t distracted and are looking out for it.

3

"Heel"

When he pulls, issue the command ‘heel’ firmly but not angrily. Immediately tug on the leash slightly to indicate you would like him to stop, and stand still.

4

Reward

At this point, he may come straight back over to your side. You can give him his little treat as a reward. If he doesn’t come over, call his name and show the treat.

5

Repeat

Repeat the process every time he pulls. Remember to be consistent, a behavior cannot be learned if it’s not reinforced. Eventually, you can swap the treat for just verbal and physical praise.

The 180 Method

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Begin your walk

As normal, get your dog out of the house and on that leash. Wait for the offending behavior to occur before you make your move.

2

Issue the command

When you feel him tug on the leash, issue the command ‘heel’ and tug slightly in the opposite direction.

3

Turn 180 degrees

Immediately turn and walk in the opposite direction. This will let him know that pulling on the leash does not get him where he wants to go.

4

Praise

When he’s walking alongside you again, make sure to give him lots of praise. Positive reinforcement is always more effective than negative.

5

Repeat

Repeat the process every time he pulls on the leash. At first you may feel like you’re walking back and forth, but eventually the time between turns will get longer and longer.

By Olivia Draper

Published: 03/23/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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CoCo

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Australian Shepherd

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1 Year

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Question

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Coco just turned one year old and has a bad habit of jumping up on the couch or the bed without being invited. She will jump down right away when I tell her to get down, but then she will jump right back up within a few seconds. This gets very frustrating and I would appreciate any advice you have. Thank you

Nov. 13, 2021

CoCo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Angela, Check out the article I have linked below. I would specifically pay attention to the section on deterrents. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 15, 2021

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Zeke

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Australian Shepherd

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16 Weeks

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Question

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Zeke won’t walk on a leash. He will get to the point he will just sit and not want to walk and you have to pull him to get him going which we do not want to do. He wants to stop and lick every crack in the sidewalk and eat all the rocks he can find which are a lot, we live in AZ. Any advice helps. We are at a loss. We have tried almost everything we can think of and read online.

July 20, 2021

Zeke's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kristen, I would use a lick stick during your walk at this age. Get something long, preferably with a flat tip at the end. The long Cool aide spoons can work well. Put something sticky and tasty on it, like peanut butter, soft cheese or liver past. Whenever pup is walking with you, allow pup to lick the stick a little. Whenever pup stops, give quick tug and releases on the leash (not continuous pulling or pup will pull back against you), until pup takes another step with you again, then offer the lick stick again while walking. I would also teach Leave It at home, keep your walks higher energy, with lots of changes in speed and direction. If needed you can start the walks in open areas like fields, car-free cul-de-sacs, your yard, ect...Just to get pup walking with you better. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Keep walks high energy and fun, but short. Notice when pup really starts struggling with focus and walking anymore, even with the incentives, start turning toward home before that spot so you are ending the walk on a successful note before pup is so tired they can't focus anymore. As you practice and pup matures, their endurance in focus and energy should gradually increase, allowing you to extend the walk further. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 21, 2021


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