(Loose) Leash Walking
Teach manners and walking calmly with you without pulling!
The answer should be simple: because they won’t to go to fun places! Remember back to the lesson on WHAT MOTIVATES DOGS – your dog really just wants to sniff things, play with other dogs, eat, and have fun! And right now, pulling you on the leash is the best way they know how to get these things! Right now they may look something like this, but how do we change it??
“I pull my dog back and he keeps pulling me forward!”.
The problem we are dealing with when this happens is something called:
Basically, if you keep pulling your dog back, and they want to go forward, their body will keep pulling you forward. Think of it like standing up straight and somebody pushes you to the side – your body will push back against them on its own. You want to learn to use the leash without constant tension.
Before we start, these items will make leash walking much easier and more enjoyable, especially in the early stages of training. A few extra tools will save you hours of frustration with your dog, poor results, and stressful walks. You'll thank us later!
A good leash for proper walks with good training should be very simple. Your leash should be sturdy and easy to roll up to be shorter or longer when you needs it. Nylon is a good material and biothane is stronger than leather but very affordable. Bungee and retractable leashes are too confusing for dogs and ruin your communication with them. Lastly, a long leash can be used for relaxing walks or training in large areas.
A good treat pouch holds all your treats on walks so you can hold single treat in your hand at a time. It’s also very convenient to have a place to store things like poop bags, water bowl, and even your phone! A good pouch makes it much easier to be prepared on walks, which makes it much easier to do good training. Look for strong strap to go around your waist and wide top to grab treats easily.
Your goal will be to walk your dog nicely on leash without any treats at all, but in the meantime you’ll want to use them as you are teaching this new behavior. You’ll want to have something very stinky and easy to break apart into small pieces.
You want to use the type of collar or harness that gives you the most control with your dog while also being able to communicate through your leash. Collars and harnesses have a range of how much control they give you. Maybe our dog is very large or pulls a lot. Maybe your dog has a sensitive throat. Choose the option that best suits your situation and training needs.
Practice this first part IN YOUR HOME to start off. The one rule that must always be followed when your dog is on the leash is that they shouldn’t pull the slack out of the leash to pull you around. You will build up to this kind of walking in no time!:
The first step is to hold the leash with a “J-curve”. This means that it hangs loose in front of you. Trainers teach owners to hold the leash on the OPPOSITE side from where the dog is. So if you want to walk your dog on the LEFT side (which is the standard way to do it) you should be holding the leash in your RIGHT hand
Use a treat to bring your dog over to your side. The traditional way this is taught is on the left, but either side is fine as long as you’re consistent. Make sure that the treats come from the same side that your dog is on, and the leash is in the opposite hand.This makes is easier to give your dog treats without having to bend your body too much to reach over.
When you bring your dog over, give them a few treats and then tell them “OK!”. You want to “load up” the value of being on your side when your dog is on the leash.
You must pay close attention to where and when you are rewarding your dog with treats and praise. Wherever your dog knows they should be when treats come, is where they will want to “hang out” whenever they can. We can actually use this to our advantage in leash walking, crate training, and lots of other commands!
For example, when training leash-walking, you should use the same hand for treats on the side of your dog, because if you give them treats in front of you, they will want to cross in front of you when walking.
The next step of leash walking is to teach your dog to make eye contact while walking. If they make eye contact with you, it’s much easier to keep focused while walking and not run off. Remember that leash walking takes a lot of work to teach in the beginning!
When training things like leash walking, there are only 3 places you should be holding the treats:
Holding the treat anywhere else, like a few inches above their face, will cause them to want to jump up at it!
“Show” your dog to their nose that you have treats, then quickly bring the treat up to your chest. This will “trick” them into looking at your eyes! After a few seconds of looking at you, they can get the treat for a job well done!
Dogs communicate much faster than humans are used to, and you’ll need to reward your dog for focusing on you a lot of the time. A happy, silly voice will help a lot with showing your dog that they are doing the right things and that there’s nothing to be stressed about. You may feel silly, but your dog’s happiness and good training is much more important than anything else!
While you’ll be giving your dog treats as often as you can in the beginning, you need to keep their attention between the treats.This is where you need to TALK to them! Slightly silly, calm, and encouraging! ENGAGE with your dog!
Now that you have your dogs attention, you can start walking very slowly while engaging with them and giving lots of treats for every few seconds of eye contact.
Now that you know the basics of how to REINFORCE good leash walking and focus, you'll want to take it to the next level and go to more distracting places (like outside of course!). When this happens your dog will definitely pull a little bit, so you need to know what to do to DISCOURAGE them from doing this.
The only form of “punishment” we need to use is a small tug from your wrist when your dog pulls the slack out of the leash and tries to pull you. This should not be rough at all, just an “annoying” tug on the leash whenever they try to pull you.
Whenever you are using both positive reinforcement and light corrections (like in leash walking!), it’s very important to wait 5-10 seconds after any correction before giving a reward for the right behavior.
Think of it like this: if your dog does something bad (like pull you on the leash), then gets a correction (like luring them back to your side), and then a treat immediately, what are they learning? That’s right, they learn to pull you again! Instead do this:
wait 5-10 seconds after a correction to reward
this rewards for the 5-10 seconds of GOOD behavior, instead of rewarding immediately, which rewards the BAD behavior.
Since your main form of teaching your dog is positive reinforcement, you’ll still want to reinforce them for focusing. BUT WATCH OUT! You want to wait a few seconds while walking before treating, or else they will learn to pull the leash to get treats as soon as you correct them!
Here’s what the final product of all your hard work should look like. Remember this won’t happen immediately – it takes a lot of practice!
Behavior modification, for rude behaviors or fears, takes time and effort. Sometimes you don’t have the time to do training, so you should use management techniques and tools to remove your dog from difficult situations. This way they can’t repeat the bad behaviors and lose the good progress you’ve been making with training.
For example, if you want to have friends over, take the time to make sure your dog is rewarded for sitting politely, but if you don’t have the time to do that training, put your dog away as people arrive so they aren’t encouraged to jump up.
Remember that MANAGEMENT is an important part of changing your dogs behaviors, by making it so they can’t do anything bad. The training methods shown here should be used when you have the time, energy, and treats to do good training. But when you don’t have time, make sure to use management tools and techniques dog to not ruin all the hard training you’ve done!
The best management tools for leash walking help you by limiting how hard your dog can pull you. A trainer should help you decide which is the appropriate option for you. The Easy Walk front harness is the right choice for most dogs. A gentle leaser will provide more control and a martingale collar will provide less control.
Remember: The harness should be used TOGETHER with training, or eventually your dog will learn to pull you with the harness too!
To walk nicely with you, your dog will need to learn to CONTROL their movement to match yours! To test this, you should try to warm up before a walk (or as a training exercise) by walking around in “random” directions you can do all of the following:
Once you’ve gotten comfortable using the wrist “tug” to communicate what direction you want to move in, try this exercise where you walk around in a random pattern with your dog, only using the feeling in your wrist to know if you need to jiggle the leash and show your dog where you’re going.