If your dog walks in front of you while on a lead, he is actually taking control of the walk and reinforcing, in his mind, his status as pack leader. In the pack dynamic, the leader goes first, goes ahead and takes charge. In fact, the dog is not relaxed because he is on a mission and has the responsibility to lead the pack. The walk is actually stressful for him. Plus he does not get proper exercise. This can lead to many behavioural issues which are often wrongly attributed to the characteristics of the breed or the dog’s personality.
It is important to realise that it is not just the act of having the dog walk to heel that consolidates your position as pack leader. Who leads the walk?
Does the dog pull? Does the dog follow you? Does the dog watch you? Does the dog feel where you want to go? Does he understand your body language? Does he want to go and sniff? The dog is smart and can feel your weaknesses. So stay focused and calm and don’t dither and don’t give the dog the opportunity to lead.
Armed with this knowledge, I set off with Ozzy in the forest yesterday. Here is the account of how it went:
· Get out of car after my command. “Wait”.
· Set off with Ozzy on the lead. Ozzy is glued to my left leg, his right shoulder touches my left knee.
· Ozzy is desperate to relieve himself. I don’t let him. Walk on a bit.
· Let Ozzy off the lead so he can relieve himself.
· Ozzy goes back on the lead and we walk on with Ozzy to heel. Did this for a bit. We make a few left turns, a few right turns, a few full turns.
· Took out a new ball and played with him. Throw, retrieve the ball and bring it back to me. Did this for a bit.
· Call Ozzy to heel. Meaning Ozzy has to come to my left and sit beside me.
· Walk to heel without the lead this time. Did this for a while.
· Took out the ball and played with him. Did this for a bit.
· Decided we had had enough. Took the ball away from him and put it I my pocket.
After a period of walking off and on the lead, of playing with the ball and doing some exercises, I decided we had had enough. I let him run around and sniff and roll in the leaves.
As we were walking back to the car, he came beside me and walked all the way to the car to heel and off the lead without being asked!
I was in charge the whole time. I decided when we stopped, when we walked on, when to play with the ball, when to find a nice bush to cock his leg, when to get in or out of the car, when to change direction, whether we were walking fast or slow. I did not give him any opportunity to stray. Ozzy was as good as gold and a model dog although some exercises need to be perfected but we’ll get there.