I have bred, trained and worked Labradors for the past 35 years, but have a problem with a seven-month-old labrador dog puppy. Biddable and responsive in all other respects, he will not walk to heel. On a lead or choke chain, after nearly three months’ heel work, he still pulls like a horse. Can you advise me, please?

A:

I never teach a dog heelwork with a lead tight around the top of its neck, but insist that it moves on a slack lead right from the start.

I begin by teaching the pup to sit and watch me intently, and then I make it stay as I move a step away.

On the command ‘heel’ – I let it move to my side, and give it a reward for looking up at me. I am teaching the puppy to watch me for guidance – until this is established it will not walk at heel.

Increase the lesson over time, so that instead of the puppy sitting when it has moved one step, I will move another step away, let it follow and then stop.

Even the boldest dog can be calmed and taught self-control as long as the trainer is patient.

This training method may take several weeks of 10-minute lessons twice a day, but success is achievable with a positive one-step-at-a-time approach.