How to Train an Australian Shepherd to Walk on a Leash

Easy
1-4 Weeks
Behavior

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.

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.

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!

The Start at Home Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
5
Praise
Always make sure you reward good behavior with praise. This will reinforce the positive behavior and encourage him to continue with it.
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The Treat 'Heel' Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The 180 Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
2
Issue the command
When you feel him tug on the leash, issue the command ‘heel’ and tug slightly in the opposite direction.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Bear
Australian Shepherd
12 Weeks
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Bear
Australian Shepherd
12 Weeks

How long should I be walking my puppy?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
671 Dog owners recommended

Hello Michelle, The amount varies a lot depending on the dog and their personal endurance and build. In general, avoid super strenuous exercise until a year of age when the growth plates close. Pay attention to pup's panting and body language to make sure they don't seem overly tired or hot. Other than that, you can walk a pup as much as several hours a day, as long as there are 1 hour-long breaks between walks to rest. As a rule, I generally just recommend one to two 30-minute to 1-hour long walks, with short training sessions during the day too to help pup calm down mentally too. Adjust as you feel is needed, based on your own puppy though. For an Australian Shepherd pay a lot of attention to the need for mental exercise. Many intelligent herding breeds are very active and over excited, and would run all day if you let them. Giving mental stimulation can actually calm even more than physical exercise for dogs that have a genetic need to work and learn. Think walks with structure, focus, heeling, and other commands practiced during the walk, games like agility that require focus and thinking, training sessions where pup learns new things, slightly challenging things, and things that take a lot of focus, games that incorporate focus and thinking. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Brownie
Australian Shepherd
10 Weeks
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Question
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Brownie
Australian Shepherd
10 Weeks

Our little pup is constantly trying to herd us when we walk her on a leash! She bites at our ankles. I know this is an innate behavior. Anything in particular that you can recommend aside from the leash / heel / treat training mentioned on this page? Thank you!! Corrie

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
671 Dog owners recommended

Hello Corrie, First, I recommend teaching the Leave It command and working up to pup being able to leave body-parts that are moving alone, like the method mentions, in addition to continuing heel training. Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Ruby
Australian Shepherd
2 Years
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Question
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Ruby
Australian Shepherd
2 Years

Ruby will walk perfectly by side except when she sees runners or another dog. Even dogs in their own yard. She will then tug, pull, and jump to get to the other person/animal. How do I train her to ignore them?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the question. How is Ruby with her obedience commands? A perfect sit or heel command will keep her by your side: https://wagwalking.com/training/heel https://wagwalking.com/training/sit The Sit and Stay Method is a good one to try: https://wagwalking.com/training/be-calm-around-other-dogs. I really like the Passing Approach Method as described here: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs. This is where the Heel command works well. An Australian Shepherd thrives on direction so will not mind practicing heeling when walking; in fact, keeping mentally stimulated is one of the ways that this breed enjoys their walks the most. In conclusion, I think that making your walks into a training session each time you are out will help Ruby focus and succeed. And try the Passing Approach Method as mentioned. Lots of reading for you - good luck!

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Question
Charlie
Australian Shepherd (Standard, Toy or Miniature)
11 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
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Charlie
Australian Shepherd (Standard, Toy or Miniature)
11 Weeks

Many times he refuses to walk when we are on our walk. He just lies down and refuses to move. He will do this from the beginning. All he wants to do is sniff.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
671 Dog owners recommended

Hello Patricia, First, know that the stopping is likely related to socialization. Pup is probably stopping to observe because they are not used to all the things they are seeing. Spend a lot of time intentionally taking pup places and rewarding and praising pup for exploring new things and reacting bravely or calmly to new things. Take this as a sign pup needs a lot of socialization and is trying to figure out what to think about new things. As they get more exposure and you build up their confidence through rewards, they should be able to ignore things better. With pup in a secure harness or collar, they won't slip out of, spending extra time taking trips slow to leave time for socialization and encountering new things in a fun way, when pup stops and you need them to continue, give quick tug and releases with the leash over and over - not continuously pulling but making stopping a little uncomfortable with a quick little tug then release, then tug and release, ect...- continuous pulling will cause pup to pull in the opposite direction, and you don't want the tugs to be really harsh, just annoying. Act really excited and goofy when pup stops and you want them to continue, doing a little dance or running a couple feet away (while on a six foot leash, don't drop the leash), calling pup in a silly, excited voice. Know that when pup is stopping they are probably nervous, so you want to get your energy up and help them refocus on you, making the situation fun while also insisting pup keep walking with you. You should be enthusiastic enough that you feel silly - all good puppy trainers look pretty silly at times because that's what works best. Also, recognize that when pup keeps stopping over and over, it's probably time to head home for now. Pups can get easily over stimulated and tired, and often stopping over and over can mean pup has had enough for now. View outings as training and socialization rather than trying to get somewhere far right now. When it's obvious it's time to head home, get pup to follow you a couple more steps again and you initiate turning the walk toward home, so that pup is rewarded with heading home for following and not stopping. Know that this behavior is normal at this age, especially for pup's with certain personality types. Check out the free PDF e-book AFTER You Get Your Puppy as well. www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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