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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Issue the command
When you feel him tug on the leash, issue the command ‘heel’ and tug slightly in the opposite direction.
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.
When he’s walking alongside you again, make sure to give him lots of praise. Positive reinforcement is always more effective than negative.
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