I love this exercise for so many reasons, not least because it’s something that you can easily do at home in the warm!
It’s called “Heel, 1, 2, 3, Treat!” and is exactly what it says on the tin.
This exercise builds directly on Exercise 2.5 we did last week where we introduced the verbal cue “Heel” in our loose lead walking practice.
The exercise is really simple and in it you take three steps and count out loud to your dog as you do so and then say ‘Treat’ as you stop and ask the dog to sit.
The first behaviour I use in this exercise is always a Sit as it really helps to develop an Automatic Sit when you stop moving but as you progress you can practice any behaviour at the end, it could be a Down, a Spin, whatever.
This exercise is wonderful to get your dog working in a rhythmic pattern of behaviour so it becomes very predictable for the dog. He/she knows what to expect next so this is a great exercise for any sort of building focus, attention and improving lead behaviour.
As we move on from Exercise 2.5 this exercise very easily allows us to start extending the duration of the 'Heel' behaviour before we finally release the dog with our release cue at the end.
Practice in an easy location indoors to start off with and then progress gradually to the garden, outside your front door and on your driveway before moving to more challenging environments.
Keep in Mind
It takes lots of practice to obtain good lead walking skills, so commit to not moving forward if your dog is pulling and practice, practice, practice! Don’t worry about your dog not getting his daily walk for exercise. You will find that you will be taking just as many steps teaching him how to move and turn with you as you would going around the block. You will also get the extra bonus of your dog getting lots of mental exercise during your training and your dog will be much more tired as a consequence.
Problem Solving: My dog does fine in the house or the garden, but once we get off my property he pulls in front.
Many dogs lose their minds the second they walk into the big wide world - and unfortunately when your dog is that aroused, not much learning can take place. This is an issue of the behaviour not being strong enough before exposing the dog a distracting environment.
Rather than trying to go for a walk after such great success in the garden, commit to training this exercise just outside the front door. Go back to standing with your dog on-lead and reinforcing for Eye Contact. Don’t worry about going for the walk, just go back to building the foundation of being able to pay attention to you in that one spot.
Once you are getting more focus from your dog, take a break, then come back to that spot and train again. Raise your criteria slowly. If you train as though he has never done this exercise before and train him well before moving from that spot you should see marked progress!