Half halts are a source of power and communication.
Many of you might know the concept from riding horses; riding at any gate, you can ask your horse to slow down for a few steps as if to stop, only to then continue moving forward with energy. This brings their hind legs under them, collects their body, and brings their attention to you. Just as you can’t really do too many transitions when riding, the same goes for half halts.
What many don’t know, is that the same concept applies to working with dogs. It’s an amazing tool to have in your tool box for many reasons, the most important being to teach a dog to walk next to you.
When we are riding, we can’t ask a horse to do a correct half halt if we can’t stop them effortlessly. Stopping them effortlessly means that, at any gate, you can stop them without over-using your hands or legs – preferably neither. Ideally we just sink our seat down and our horse stops.
Again, the same goes for dogs. If a dog is walking next to me, I want her to stop when I do. I don’t want a dog who heels nicely but, when I stop, ends up walking ahead because she didn’t stop when I did – pulling me for a few steps. We should be stopping together. If they don’t stop, I push the dog backwards (so that he is standing behind my leg in a heeling position) and repeat.
When you’re out walking with your dog on the leash, slow down as if you’re about to stop (your dog should do the same – anticipating a halt if you practiced well enough). When your dog slows down, you speed up again and continue walking. This is an amazing check to see if your dog is “with you” and paying attention. They also can’t do this well if they are in front of you, which is why it’s a great way to reinforce “heel” without having to say, “heel!” constantly. A half halt naturally brings them to your side. It also brings their attention back to you if they’re distracted.
Half halts are something you can never get enough of…