Training a Doberman to Walk on Lead

Maintaining the Heel Position

The common way people walk their dogs has the dog out in front, sometimes pulling the person along. This may seem fun for the dog and is better than no walk at all, but in reality such a practice is unfair to the dog.

Being out in front, from the dog’s point of view, puts him in charge as the alpha figure. This is a stressful role for a dog to play and is why many dogs walked like this bark at other dogs and chase squirrels.

The proper way to walk a dog, especially a Doberman, is at the heel position. Aptly named, this position has the dog walking with his front paws at his handler’s standing heel. The dog does not push forward or fall behind. He will not chase anything or otherwise make an inappropriate fuss.

Not only is a well trained Doberman walking in the heel position a much more pleasant experience for his handler, it is also a much more relaxing and productive experience for the dog. Here he may walk along joyfully, knowing that his handler is in charge of all the decisions.

Training a Doberman older than six months to walk in heel position includes the use of a pinch collar. Dobermans younger than six months are not ready for this training yet.

Before using a pinch collar, the handler must understand how to properly use it.

When wearing a pinch collar, no other collar should be on at the same time. This will allow the collar to work properly and will signal to the dog that it’s time to work.

When a pinch collar is on correctly, the end of the collar with the loop, through which the collar passes, should come up from around the neck, as the photo shows. The handler must keep the dog on one side or the other. If he switches sides, the collar must be removed and turned around.

The use of the pinch collar is to allow the handler to deliver a physical correction. For puppies younger than six months, the pinch collar should NOT be used, nor should any form of physical correction. When used properly, it does not hurt the dog or cause pain. The correction imitates a mother dog’s correction when she nudges or grabs her puppies around the neck. If it’s on right, when the lead is held slack, the collar will loosen. When the lead is pulled tight, the collar will tighten.

To deliver a correction with a pinch collar, the handler firmly and quickly pulls the lead tight, toward himself, then loosens. This motion causes the pinch collar to quickly snap tight then release. For the dog, this creates a feeling of pressure around his neck, similar to what he got would get from dominate pack members in nature.

The amount of force used delivering a correction with a pinch collar depends on the size of the dog, how well he responds, and the severity of what the correction is in response to. For dogs that are very large, unresponsive, or who have small handlers, a pronged pinch collar may be necessary. Pronged pinch collars look scary, but with a dog that would otherwise require a heavy correction with a normal pinch collar, the pronged pinch collar is much safer and better for the dog.

Training a Doberman to walk in the heel position is simple but requires practice. To begin the heel exercise the handler places the Doberman at his side in the sit position. He then attaches the pinch collar or examines an already attached pinch collar to ensure it is attached correctly.

To start off, the handler takes the first step with his foot on the same side as the dog and gives the command “Heel.” This will signal the dog to exit the sit position and start walking. If the dog does not move, the handler will deliver a small correction and repeat the Heel command.

Once moving, the dog must stay at the heel position and should have his attention on the handler. If he moves forward, lags behind, veers away from the handler, or crowds the handler, he will receive a correction and be given the Heel command. When he is in the heel position, his handler will continually praise him and do his best to keep the dogs attention and head looking up. If the dog looks away, he will be lightly corrected to avoid him from being distracted.

At this stage, the handler will work on starting and stopping. When the two stop, the dog should immediately come to the sit position. If not, he will be corrected and commanded to sit.

As the two walk along, the handler will be sure that the dog is always in the heel position and that there is slack in the lead and pinch collar. If there is no slack, either the handler is pulling the lead tight or the dog is out of the heel position.

If the handler holds the lead tight, he will have no slack to pull in and will be unable to deliver a correction. This will also keep the pinch collar tight around the dog’s neck, which is not good for the dog. If it’s the dog pulling the lead tight, the handler must quickly give enough slack to administer a correction then deliver it.

Under a skilled handler a Doberman, and most dogs, will learn this exercise quickly and need little correction. A handler having difficulty should examine his technique. He may need further assistance from a more experienced handler. A handler should never blame the dog.

Once basic heeling is learned, the handler will begin changing direction and speed. Often when the dog does not stay in the heel position, it’s because he’s distracted. Ignoring distraction is part of learning to heel. When training a new dog this exercise, the handler will be sure to keep the dog’s attention with praise and correct him for becoming distracted.

A Doberman who has mastered this exercise will truly enjoy his walks and trips around town. For the handler, such a Doberman is an absolute treat to have at his side. No more pulling and fighting, just a well balanced team building a unique and wonderful bond.