Here is a copy of a recent post I submitted in a Gundog training forum. The owner was having trouble teaching a young pup to “heel”.
I do things a little different. I approach training from the dogs point of view. What I’ve learned from the dogs over the years is that they don’t spend a lot of time telling each other what TO do. When it’s important, their natural instinct is to tell each other what NOT to do. Don’t come near my bone, Stay away from my bed, Get out of my yard, etc. They don’t tell each other to sit, stay, come, heel, roll over, play dead, shake, etc.
What the dogs know is group dynamics. The most important aspect of this, the way they decide where they fit in the flexible canine social structure, is by the claiming of space and things. I teach a dog to walk with me by simply claiming the space out front. He chooses to walk with me because it’s the only option I left for him to choose. He sees it as “free will”. In his mind, if he chooses to do it, he feels more confident and in control. This is the cornerstone of the Higgins Method, building mutual trust. He walks with me because I showed him that when I ask, the space out front belongs to me. Strange, but it is really that simple.
Here is a video of a young dog that had no leash training. I have her happily understanding and walking with me in about 10 minutes.
There are many ways to make dogs do things. I find that if I can discover the way that makes the most sense to them, using their natural instincts, we’re both happier.