Loose leash walking a dog

How to train loose leash walking

It’s no fun when your dog takes YOU for a walk!  Plus, pulling while wearing a collar can actually damage your dog’s throat. It’s important to train loose leash walking to spare your arms—and your dog’s trachea. Since our dogs spend most of their time outside on-leash, training them to walk without pulling is better for everyone.

Why do dogs pull?

Dogs pull on the leash to get to whatever is out ahead: Great smells, other dogs, open spaces, fun and adventure.

Pulling gets dogs to what they want faster. As a strategy, it works. This is why it is best to teach dogs loose-leash walking as early as possible. Pulling is rewarding to the dog, so the more he does it, the harder it is for him to give it up. If you have an expert puller, however, don’t despair. Any dog can be taught loose-leash walking.

How to train it:

Step 1: Your dog learns to stand calmly next to you without pulling away.

Load one hand with treats.
Praise and treat when your dog is calm and/or looking at you.
If your dog pulls away from you, don’t yank the leash and don’t reel him back in. Stand still and wait until he returns to you. If he is very distracted, call his name.
When he comes back to you, praise and treat.

Step 2: Your dog learns to stay close to you while walking.

With your dog standing calmly next to you, say his name and, “Let’s go.”
Praise and treat after the first step, as long as your dog doesn’t dash forward.
Keep walking and praise/treat every other step.
Gradually increase the number of steps in between rewards.
If your dog starts pulling, stop and wait until there is some slack in the leash again. Then take a step with him and reward him quickly for walking near you.
Keep him guessing. Sometimes reward after 1 step, sometimes after 5, then again after 2, then after 7.

Contact me for more help

A dog that has already learned how to pull on the leash will be more difficult to train than a young puppy. But don’t despair, it can be done with some consistent training. Contact me to set up a private training session to practice loose leash walking with your dog.

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