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

Most Recommended
1 Vote
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.
Recommend training method?

The Treat 'Heel' Method

Effective
0 Votes
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.
Recommend training method?

The 180 Method

Effective
0 Votes
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.
Recommend training method?
author-img

Written by Olivia Draper

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

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

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

How long should I be walking my puppy?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
819 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

Add a comment to Bear's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Brownie
Australian Shepherd
10 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
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
819 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

Add a comment to Brownie's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Ruby
Australian Shepherd
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
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
104 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!

Add a comment to Ruby's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Charlie
Australian Shepherd (Standard, Toy or Miniature)
11 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
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
819 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

Add a comment to Charlie's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Emma
Mini Australian Shepard
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Emma
Mini Australian Shepard
6 Months

Right now trying to get her not to pull on a leash, all basic commands, not to growl at people, she did like people at first.. Now Im Not sure?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
819 Dog owners recommended

Hello Vicky, It sounds like she would really benefit from you joining a basic obedience class for the socialization aspect as well as obedience - which should include heel in a good class. Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Zach George - other commands: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZzFRKsgVMhGTxffpzgTJlQ Recruit friends and family pup doesn't know to walk past them while on leash. Watch pup's body language and have the person stay far enough away that pup stays relaxed. As the person passes pup and pup is reacting well (don't reward while aggressive or acting fearful), then have the person toss several treats gently toward pup's paws and continue walking. Have lots of different people do this in lots of different place - without approaching pup after. You want pup to begin to associate the people with something fun happening and take the pressure of petting away at first before pup is ready for that part. As pup improves, have the people gradually decrease the distance between them and pup. Once pup can handle people walking right by and dropping treats, practice the protocol from the video linked below, keeping pup's leash short enough that if pup were to lunge while practicing this, they won't be able to get to someone to bite. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIJoEJfTS-E Finally, during all of this, practice desensitizing pup to handling and touch using their food. As often as you can, feed pup their meals one piece at a time. Gently touch pup in an area while feeding a piece of food. Touch their should - feed a piece. Touch their back - feed a piece. Touch an ear - feed a piece. Touch their collar - feed a piece. Touch their paw - feed a piece. Touch their belly - feed a piece. ect... Do it gently and start with areas pup is most comfortable and work up to the other areas as pup improves. When pup enjoys your touches, add in other people pup knows touching, like family members. When pup can handle that add in gentle strangers once pup has completed the other training and is more comfortable with strangers. Don't rush these things but do practice very often and with lots of different people. Watch pup's reaction and go at a pace where pup can stay relaxed - the goal isn't just for pup to act good but actually feel better about people - so pup staying relaxed and happy around people is what you want to reward, which will mean going at the pace or distance pup an handle. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Emma's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Diesel & Dobie
Miniature & full Australian Shepherd
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Diesel & Dobie
Miniature & full Australian Shepherd
2 Years

When we walk our Australian Shepherd's they pull as if their life depends on it. They try to be the first in line of the walk and practically race the entire mile & 1/2 that we walk.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
819 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kimberly, Check out the Turns method from the article linked below. Pay special attention to the steps on turning directly in front of pup as soon as their nose starts to move past your leg - don't wait until his head is all the way past your leg to turn in front of him or this will be hard to do. It should look like pup sitting beside you, slightly behind you so that head is behind your leg, step forward and as soon as he starts to move ahead of you, quickly turn directly in front of him. You will probably have to be fast at first and may bump into him until he starts to learn this. Practice in an open area, like your own yard, so that you can make lots of turns easily. You want pup to learn that he should stay slightly behind and pay attention to where you are going and where you may turn, instead of assuming he knows the way and can forge ahead. The turns keep him guessing and more focused. Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Practice with each dog separate first. Once they can both heel separately, then practice in a calm location again with them together - expect to return to the basics with it again when you first put them together - a second dog walking with them will cause them to feed off each other and try to pull again typically. You will then follow the steps for turning with both dogs together until they can do it together - then work up to more distracting locations gradually again with both together. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Diesel & Dobie's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
archy
Mini Australian Shepterrier
12 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
archy
Mini Australian Shepterrier
12 Weeks

he is shy and so good that he pulls backwards when i am trying to not pull the he yelps in pain when i am trying to prevent this

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
220 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Here are some leash walking tips. Get him used to a collar and leash: Let your pup get used to a collar and leash before attempting to walk him. Let him drag the leash around the house attached to his collar. You want him to be comfortable with the leash, not afraid of it. Have short training sessions in familiar places: Your puppy has a short attention span, so don't expect to keep his interest in training for long. Start with just a walk around the house or the backyard— a place where he is already familiar with the smells. That way he won't be as inclined to break off in a dozen directions to smell exciting new odors. Praise good behavior: When your dog is walking alongside you on a loose leash — also called "heeling" — heap on the praise and reward him with the occasional treat. Never pull your dog along. If he resists leaving a spot, pulling on the lead can potentially injure him (or you if you're walking a bigger dog). Instead, focus on rewarding him for coming when you call him to keep walking along. If he is particularly persistent, you might have to intervene and redirect his attention back to the walk and away from the thing with all the smells. Keep a short leash: While this is often seen as a negative to humans, keeping your dog on a short leash is integral to leash training success. The less room your dog has to stray away from your side, the easier it is for him to learn to walk next to you. As he starts to get the hang of things you can let out the lead a little bit, either with a retractable leash or by giving some slack from your hands. Keep him at your side: Similar to a short leash, walking with your dog at your side instead of in front of you allows you to control his direction. When dogs are allowed to walk out in front or behind, they tend to wander off and smell everything. This will also help prevent the leash from becoming tangled underneath him. Again, you can start to be more lenient with him as he becomes more trained, but it's best to keep him close while still a puppy. Remember dogs are pack animals. If he sees you as the pack leader, he will eventually fall in line and become the perfect walking partner. Give him time to do his business: For many dogs, a nice long walk is a chance for him to relieve himself. However, dogs naturally like to mark their territory, so they may want to sniff around to find the perfect spot. If you notice that your dog needs to relieve himself, you can stop walking and give him more leash to explore and do his business. Once he is done, be sure to reward him with praise or treats (after all, you're likely going through potty training at this time too). One thing to keep in mind is that dogs do not always evacuate their bladder at once, so some dogs may look for multiple spots to urinate. It is vital that you reward him only the first time, otherwise he will start to understand positive associations with marking multiple times. This makes for a much more difficult walk. When he understands he only gets the one opportunity to relieve himself, he will start to walk better. Find a pace: Dogs are naturally curious so dogs tend to want to rush to certain spots on your walk, or linger in their favorite spots. It's important to pick a pace that is comfortable for both of you. You never want him to pull or lag behind as this is where injuries can occur. If you notice your dog struggling to keep a certain pace, stop and wait for him to come back to you and then reestablish the comfortable pace.

Add a comment to archy's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Sammy
Mini Australian Shepterrier
8 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sammy
Mini Australian Shepterrier
8 Weeks

Hi,
I m trying to walk him. He got used to the leash to go outside for potty but following me on the path way or even in my basement is not an option. I have liver threat with me to lure him and he just dont want to follow me and walk. I might get a harnest and see if it makes a difference. It might also be the cold living in Quebec with cold and snow.
Any advices?
Thanks
Eric

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
819 Dog owners recommended

Hrllo Eric, Check out ruffwear.com. If temps are below 20 degrees, I recommend an insulated dog coat made to be able to run and play in. Pup also is likely nervous about the nre surroundings. With enough insulation for both of you, I recommend simply going outside to play or sit with pup for a while in different areas of your nrighborhood (carry pup at first if needed). Try to make the experience as fun as possible ot as relaxing as possibly. Act calm and confident yourself and reward pup with treats for exploring and being curious. To help them overcome fears of the outside world and basement. I also recommend practicing the pressure method from the article below, starting in a calm, warm location, then tjr basement, then outside. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Sammy's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd