Show Cocker Field Cocker mixI have just been to a much more straightforward case though one that could take a while for the desired result to be achieved. Beautiful Archie – a mix of Field and Show Cocker Spaniel – has seldom needed to be walked on lead as they live in a country area and he never runs off. Now his young lady wishes to take him on holiday with her and needs him to be walking on lead without nearly strangling himself.

Teaching a dog who is used to being on lead, albeit pulling, is a different story to teaching a dog, who over five years has always free-lanced and had freedom to run and sniff where he wants, to accept the restraints of a lead .

Loose lead walking, therefore, needs to be less about ‘training’ than about learning a new game to play. It involves the young lady motivating her dog to walk beside her because he wants to and not because he’s being restrained, even when she is in competition with the normally freely available environment.

At home she can encourage him to anticipate what she wants of him without using commands. If she stops and waits, what does she want? If he usually sits before food, she can wait for him to work it out for himself. If he jumps at the door before she opens it, she can step back and wait for him to work it out. So, if the lead goes tight and she stops – he will know he has to work something out for himself.

It’s a bit like learning to drive a car, it will take plenty of practice. While the lady gets confident with the technique the dog will learn the rules of the game. These rules are simple really: No Go if the lead tightens, the lady decides The Moves – which direction they go in, and Bonus (food reward) for walking nicely or for coming back to her side.

Very short sessions are best, in non-stimulating environments and after he has been exercised, finishing while he’s doing well and before boredom or silliness sets in. She should engage with him and use food – making it as much fun as possible. The lead needs to be long enough to allow him choice and some freedom and the type of harness is very important. (‘No Pull’ harnesses are all about forcing the dog not to pull, and that’s the opposite to what we want).

When loose lead walking is established the lady can add walking to ‘heel’ beside her as a sort of training trick for use only when needed in towns and near to traffic.

I’m sure with time and patience she will be able to take her happy, lively and friendly dog on holiday to places where dogs must be kept on lead.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Archie, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).