Walking your dog should be a pleasant and relaxing experience, but for many dog owners, it can turn into a battle of tugs and pulls if your dog isn’t great at loose leash walking. A loose-leash walking technique can transform daily walks into enjoyable bonding experiences with your dog. In this blog post, we will delve into the art of loose-leash walking, offering practical tips and strategies to help you and your dog master this essential skill.
What is Loose-Leash Walking?
Loose-leash walking refers to walking your dog without tension on the leash. It allows your dog to explore his surroundings while maintaining a comfortable distance from you. Instead of feeling like a struggle, loose leash walking promotes a sense of harmony and cooperation between you and your canine companion. Your dog will learn that when his collar or harness gets tight, he should slow down or stop to relieve this pressure.
Establish a Strong Foundation
There are a couple of games that I teach before starting loose-leash walking. First, I ensure my dog is comfortable with me grabbing his collar. I pair this with treats so it becomes something the dog looks forward to.
Once my dog is comfortable with collar grabs, I will start guiding him to go forward by pulling very gently on the collar. As soon as my dog moves, I mark the movement and reward the dog.
Here is a video showing how I train collar grabs.
As the dog learns to yield to the pressure, I gently pull the collar backward. If the dog sits, backs up, or otherwise relieves the pressure, I will mark and reward the dog.
Soon your dog should be able to back up with the slightest pressure on his collar. This translates to backing up or slowing down when he is on a leash and feels the pressure on the collar when he pulls.
Another game I teach my dogs is that being at my side is a fun place. When thinking about loose-leash walking, I am careful to reward at my side rather than out in front of me. I call this the “magic cookie area” and offer my dog many rewards for staying there.
Choose the Right Equipment for Loose-Leash Walking Training
I do most of my loose-leash walking training on a flat collar. I am careful to react each time my dog pulls on the collar; I will not move forward with my dog pulling. When I’m not actively training, I prefer using a no-pull harness. After many years of testing, I have found that the Freedom Harness, by 2 Hounds Design, has had the best results. I carry these harnesses for my clients.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is key to successful loose-leash walking. Reward your dog for walking calmly by your side. Use treats, praise, and affection to reinforce the desired behavior. Consistency and patience are vital in this process.
Start Easy with Controlled Environments
Begin training in a calm, controlled environment like your backyard or a quiet park. Minimize distractions initially to help your dog focus on you and the training exercises. Gradually increase the difficulty level by introducing more challenging environments as your dog becomes proficient.
Distractions are part of the real world, so teaching your dog how to cope with them is essential. Once your dog is doing well with loose-leash walking, gradually expose him to distractions such as other dogs, squirrels, or passing cars.
In this video, Gaia is learning to walk on a loose leash around other dogs.
Incorporate Directional Changes
Surprise your dog with sudden turns and changes in direction during walks. This exercise helps teach him to pay attention to your movements and stay close. Reward your dog with treats and praise whenever he responds promptly to your cues.
Be Patient and Consistent
Remember that loose-leash walking takes time and practice. It’s natural for your dog to pull or get excited, especially in the beginning. Stay patient, and reinforce good behavior consistently. With persistence and regular training sessions, your dog will eventually grasp the concept. During our Basic Manners and Advanced Manners classes, we work extensively on loose-leash walking. If this is a behavior that you struggle with, please join us!
Loose-leash walking is a valuable skill that enhances the walking experience for you and your dog. By implementing positive reinforcement techniques, providing consistent training, and gradually increasing the difficulty level, you can teach your furry friend to walk calmly by your side. Happy walking!