Leash training is an important step in any dog’s training. You’ll use leashes in more areas of your Havanese’s life than just walking; such as grooming or recall training.
Collar or Harness?
Havanese, like any small dog breed, are best walked on a harness for their own safety and well-being. Some force being applied to the collar or harness is inevitable, and with a collar, this force is focused strictly on your dog’s neck. Harnesses equally distribute the force across the dog’s torso.
Collars should be worn for identification purposes but caution should be taken when leaving a collar on an unattended dog. They could catch the collar on something and injure themselves. For this reason, collars should not be left on when your Havanese is left alone in their crate. Harnesses neither should be left on when the dog is unattended.
Whether you choose collar or harness, leash training is all the same!
Retractable leads are a bit of a controversial item in the dog world. They can possibly snap, and the leash part itself can fray and break, or even cause injury to dog or person by wrapping around them.
Retractable leads expand when your dog reaches the end and pulls forward. Therefore, they may teach or encourage your dog to pull. Retractable leads can be used safely and without causing or exacerbating behavioral issues, but caution should be taken regardless.
Loose Leash Walking
Dogs pull because they want to move in the direction they are pulling. If you give in and allow them to walk in the direction they’re interested in going, then they learn that pulling gets them what they want. Therefore, the simplest way to teach your Havanese loose leash walking is to simply teach them that pulling does not get them what they want. If they pull, then you should come to a complete stop. Wait for the leash to become slack and your dog to return to your side. Reward your dog for returning to you and then proceed with your walk. Repeat this process if your dog pulls again. Otherwise, reward them intermittently for walking nicely at your side.
Remember that with any type of training, patience and consistency are key! Allowing your dog to pull you to a spot or object of interest even once will put you several steps back in training.
Teaching your Havanese to heel (walk beside you) on command can be helpful for loose leash walking and general navigating of the world.
Traditionally, dogs are taught to heel on your left side. However, you can teach your Havanese to heel on your right side if you please, but if you plan on participating in dog sports like Obedience or Rally then you should teach them to heel on your left side.
Start off-leash in a low distraction area, such as a quiet room in your house. You’ll want to use treats of a moderate value to your Havanese. Your treat hand should be on whichever side you want your dog to heel on (so if you’re training a traditional left heel, then you should use your left hand to hold and dispense treats). This will prevent your dog from leaving the heel position on your side to get the treat from your hand.
Call your Havanese to you, pointing the treat hand at the floor where you want your dog to stand. Once your dog comes up next to you, click your clicker and reward them. Repeat this several more times and then stop calling your dog to you or pointing at your side and instead wait patiently for them to come stand beside you by choice.
Once your Havanese is reliably coming to your side, you can up the ante by taking small steps, turning in place, and so on until you are ultimately walking across the room with them in a heel position. Eventually you can add a cue word to this such as “heel;” say it when your Havanese steps into the correct position.