Our client asked, “How do I teach a young Malamute to heel and walk beside me, when the dog is wired to pull and run in lead?”
Let’s make this a bit broader with our answer and base it off any dog who is inherently bred to do pulling and run in front. So, listeners who have any arctic breed, Malamute, Siberians, and the many mixes in between. From the beginning when you get your puppy you must teach them a “heel” command. Heel is less about it being a walking command and more about a specific position. The heel position is your dog’s shoulder aligned with your knee and tucked close to you in this position. When you have a dog driven to pull and be in front you want to start them learning that the word heel equals them being in a position next to you NOT in front of you and you keep as clear and as strict as I’m making it sound. There cannot be a grey area and you can’t only mean heel every fifth time you say it to your dog. Once they have really caught onto this command you may introduce an “out front” or “line out” command if you’d like your dog to do dog sports in the future that require them to use their want to pull and be up front.
(RF thoughts/comments——) How hard is it to have a dog that learned how to pull/line out first then turn around and learn a loose walking heel? (RF answer——-) I think it’s highly important to note that when you are teaching your dog and moving past obedience consistency and clear communication is still the most important.
You must set clear expectations and guidelines around those commands and not only expect your dog to follow them, but you must follow them also. A lot of the times we confuse our dogs by a lack of communication for certain situations. If you are walking around the block with your dog and you are halfway done, and the dog starts to do pulling in front you must reset them and give them their heeling command. You’ve also got to create a lot of positive association along with walking next to you, because getting to pull you and lead the way is a lot of fun for them. If this means you use a high value treat or toy do so, often these breeds are smart enough to not be tricked with items like this so you really have to work on a bond together that your dog looks for you to lead or command rather than them figuring out that you aren’t going to do the leading so they’ll do it for you, what do you think Robert?
You’ve done show type work with Siberians, it’s totally possible for them to do obedience, what is your biggest tip on getting a naturally independent dog to follow your lead as the handler?