Loose Leash Walking

Oct 4, 2019   Tracey Aston   Training

One of the simplest and most enjoyable ways to spend time with your dog is by taking a leisurely walk. Walking provides great exercise for the pet parent and physical exercise and mental stimulation for our 4-legged walking partners. When pet parents were asked the reason they didn't walk their pets more frequently, the overwhelming behavioral reason was leash pulling and lunging. Who wants what is supposed to be a fun bonding exercise to turn into a tug of war and risk being pulled to the pavement? No one I know! In addition to the pet parent risking an injury, a pet can cause neck and throat injuries by pulling while wearing a collar and chest and shoulder injury while pulling wearing a chest harness. Thankfully, our furry friends are not only cute, but they are intelligent and can easily be trained to walk politely on a leash. Enter loose leash walking. 

Loose leash walking is as simple as it sounds – it's teaching your dog to walk by your side on a loose leash without any pulling or tension on the leash.  Loose leash walking can be taught as soon as you get your dog or puppy. While puppies can be taught early, it's important to remember to keep training fun, engaging and in short burst intervals. Don't allow your pet to pull sometimes and other times be expected to walk loose leash, that will only confuse them. Remember to stay consistent. Never yank jerk or pull on the leash. Doing so could make the dog associate the leash with negative stimuli and it could risk injuring your pet! Using the proper equipment will go a long way in helping both you and your dog during training. If you have a strong puller or you're just starting to train for loose leash walking, never use regular collars, prong collars or shock collars. Doing so could result in injury to your pet or behavioral problems and redirected aggression and won't give you the proper control of your pet. We suggest using a harness, such as the Freedom Harness or E-Z walk harness, as a tool to help train your dog for loose leash walking.  

While training, remember to allow your pet to stop and sniff. This provides great mental stimulation for them and allows them to learn the environment around them. Loose leash walking is a great tool to keep both the walker and the pet safe, but is not meant to be a march down the road to get the walk over as quickly as possible. 

To begin, leash your pet and give the sit command with your pet at your left side. The reason for keeping a dog on your left side is to protect them from traffic when out walking. This protects both the walker and the pet. Get your pet's attention so they are looking at you and give the cue word such as “let's go” or “ready” and start walking. If your dog starts to pull or lunge, immediately stop walking.  Don't yank the dog back to you, wait until the leash relaxes or the dog focuses on you.  Get your dog's attention back by calling their name in a cheerful voice and click, treat and praise when the dog looks at you.  If you are not familiar with using a clicker, our article Clicker Training can get you started. If your dog is not treat motivated, attempt using praise or their favorite toy. You know your dog better than anyone and know what your pet likes as a reward.  The great aspect to using the above mentioned harnesses is if the dog continues to try to pull forward and do hit the end of the leash, the harness will redirect them and turn them back to you. Take this opportunity to direct your dog back to your left hand side and click and treat. When teaching loose leash walking the dog should be treated when the dog is right beside you on your left hand side. This teaches the dog that great things happen when they stay at your left hand side. Start walking again, and repeat if the dog starts to pull again. If the dog continues to pull and stopping and restarting isn't working, stop completely and then turn around and go the opposite direction.   As the dog starts to learn not to pull and to keep attention and focus on you, click, treat and praise for every 3 or 4 steps they stay by your side and don't try to pull. 

It can be redundant for dogs to pay attention to just being on your left side hand. Keep your dog's mind stimulated by mixing up commands with a sit or stay.  This keeps them focused and looking at you and makes this as a fun activity for the dog. 

Always remember when your fist getting started that training takes time, consistency and patience. You may not get very far or have a long walk when starting training – little steps at a time. Again, don't lose your patience and yank or pull the dog. This will only set you back. 

Dogs want to enjoy their time outside with their favorite person, stopping to smell and engaging their minds and they don't want a tug of war during walks any more than we do.  Taking the time to train loose leash walking will make the walk much more enjoyable for all involved. 

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