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If your arm is tired of getting yanked out of its socket because your dog pulls on leash when you start walking, you've come to the right place.
Welcome! We've all felt your pain and are here to help you leash train your dog so walking with a loose leash beside you becomes the norm rather than a dream.
Leash Manners in the Walking Channel on Dogly breaks down leash training in seven guides. Each guide is from dog training sessions with force-free certified trainers sharing how to start leash training your dog to walk nicely by your side.
We'll share an overview of each loose leash walking guide but when you're ready to begin practicing with your dog, I highly recommend going through each guide in Leash Manners. There are things to do and try along the way and the Dogly Training Advocates are here to answer any questions that come up.
And with that, let's get into the first loose leash walking guide...
Loose Leash Walking Guide 1: Learn what NOT to do when you start leash training
Before we get into the to-dos of loose leash walking, let's talk about the to-don'ts. Learning what other pet parents tend to do wrong to ensure you don't do the same is the ultimate inside scoop. Knowing what to look out for will make your leashing training much easier.
Here are the 5 most common loose leash walking mistakes as seen by Dogly Training Advocate and professional trainer, Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie:
- Too much walking, too soon.
- Using punishment when your dog pulls ahead rather than positive reinforcement
- Being inconsistent with your dog leash training on your dog walks
- Not understanding sniffing on walks is great mental stimulation for dogs
- Not using distance to your advantage on your daily walks
Tressa explains what each of these mistakes means here and gives you ideas to try with your dog when leash training to avoid having them happen to you.
Now on to guide two in leash training your dog...
Loose Leash Walking Guide 2: DO use these exercises & pro tips to teach your dog not to pull
You've no doubt figured out firsthand that pulling on leash comes quite naturally for most dogs. More than 80% of dog parents say they're struggling with it, so you're in good company. As you and your dog get started learning how to not pull on leash, how can you set up your dog for success?
First, 6 pro tips to help you and your dog become loose leash pros from Dogly Training Advocate and professional trainer Melissa Dallier:
- Use a high rate/frequency of reinforcement AND high level treats.
- Exercise pre-walk to work out extra energy and help your dog focus on the walk itself.
- Reward your dog's attention & check-ins on walks.
- Be patient with your dog & yourself. Learning takes time - have fun!
- Go at your dog's pace on every walk. Remember, it's your dog's walk!
- Mix in sniffing walks with training walks.
You'll learn the why and how behind each tip as Melissa takes you through them in the full guide.
And 2 exercises you never knew you needed to enjoy walking your dog (without pulling!)...
Melissa shares two of her favorite exercises to do in a distraction-free space to teach your dog that focusing on you is highly rewarding (more than pulling toward something else).
Leash walking exercise 1: "dancing with your dog"
You'll learn the 7 steps to enjoying this exercise with your pup in the full guide with Melissa also demonstrating step-by-step on the accompanying video.
Leash walking exercise 2: figure 8 circles
When you and your dog are totally comfortable with your first exercise, you're ready to learn and practice the 5 steps to doing figure 8's together.
You'll get all the details in the full guide here as Melissa shares the specifics and demonstrates both exercises, with all her pro tips and tricks for you and your dog. Once you've set your dog (and you) up for success, you've got a great foundation for the step three in loose leash training...
Loose Leash Walking Guide 3: Start with the dog leash training basics
Most dogs pull on leash. Sorry, but it's true! Pulling is easier than not. Especially when the world is really super interesting. It's important to start with the basics of what to do if your dog starts pulling on leash. That includes keeping training sessions short and easy. It also means starting off with the right equipment.
To start your dog leash training you will need:
- Treat pouch
- Harness (much better than using your dog's collar)
- Your dog's leash (ideally 6ft leash length & never a retractable leash)
- An already conditioned marker
- And your dog!
Tressa goes into specifics for each of the needed pieces of equipment here but this gives you a general idea of what you'll need for a successful leash training session.
Now that you have the essentials, here's an overview of the five tips to start training your dog on the basics of how to walk on a leash politely:
- Start in a distraction-free area like your house.
- Figure out how you're going to give your dog yummy treats, hold the leash, and have a place to put your hand when it's not treat time.
- Position your dog on your preferred side - crossing from left side to right side while you practice walking can get tangly. Tell your dog "let's go!" and walk forward and immediately click and treat.
- Give your dog lots of treats for good behavior and continue rewarding often! Continue to walk and every few steps, click and reward your dog with a tasty treat.
- Click and treat your dog every time your dog gives you a visual "check-in" by looking at you as you continue walking.
Tressa goes into a lot more detail on what to do for each tip in the full guide here but the most important is that you continue to train these basics over short periods with your dog. Once you're seeing consistent success, you're ready to move on to step four in leash training...
Loose Leash Walking Guide 4: Go to the next level of your leash training dog skills
If you're feeling confident in your leash training skills in a distraction-free area like your house, it's time to take your dog training up a level and start training your dog to walk nicely in the real world. Bring on the distractions (gradually)!
Tressa shared three steps to leash train your dog to walk on a leash without pulling in real world situations at the full guide here.
Here's the recap:
- Start your leash training by opening your back door. Walk your dog inside, past your door a few times. You don't want your dog pulling you around the house or out the door. Click and reward frequently for not pulling towards the door.
- Walk your dog through the door to your backyard. Have it rain treats if he/she doesn't pull.
- Open your front door. Repeat steps one and two as you teach your dog to not pull here either.
Tressa also shared four tips to be successful with your leash walking training here. I highly recommend checking them out as they range from breaking up your training sessions with playtime to not being surprised if your dog's pulling shows itself when you go for a walk on a leash in new areas.
Speaking of new areas, the next guide covers how to help your now leash-trained dog be successful in new environments.
Loose Leash Walking Guide 5: Learn how to strengthen your dog leash training in new environments
You've done it! Your dog is now a pro at walking politely on a leash in your neighborhood. But what happens when you take your dog to walk downtown or if you want to go on a hike in your free time?
Here are four tips from Tressa to help your dog transition and be successful without feeling the need to pull on leash in new environments:
- Load up on super smelly treats. It's common for dogs to get too excited in new environments and not take just anything that represents food. Tressa goes into why this happens and what to do about it here.
- Before you start walking, take a moment to get focused with your dog and get ahead of behavioral issues before they start.
- Use the environment on your walk to your advantage. Encourage your dog to sniff without needing to pull!
- Make sure your dog has other outlets for fun. If going for a walk is the only fun time your dog gets, it's no wonder he/she is pulling. Let your dog play in an off-leash fenced-in area if possible or get those wiggles out some other way than on a walk.
With these tips, you're well on your way to success with leash walking. But if your dog is still pulling, here's what to do...
Loose Leash Walking Guide 6: Try this if your dog is still pulling on leash when you're walking
This guide is for you if you've tried everything and your dog is still pulling on leash. You could have the best leash training skills and your dog sees other dogs and poof, all your training is gone. That's ok! It happens.
Tressa shared six leash walking troubleshooting pro tips at this link but here's a quick overview:
- Don't reinforce it if your dog pulls
- Resist the urge to yank on your dog's leash, abruptly stop walking, or give any type of negative consequences to your dog for pulling
- Turn your body in the opposite direction
- Click and offer treats as you step forward and your dog follows you
- Adjust your rate of reinforcement - give lots of treats quickly as needed!
- Use distance and stay alert to help your dog to walk with success
I hope these guides have helped you feel more confident teaching your dog how to walk on a leash without pulling. The very last guide Tressa teaches in the Walking Channel on Dogly is for those of us with two dogs. You were able to master loose leash walking with one dog, but how do you do it with two dogs?
Loose Leash Walking Guide 7: Learn how to walk two dogs on leash without pulling
The first step is to make sure both dogs are well trained on walking on a leash without pulling before you attempt to walk them together. If one dog is pulling and the other isn't, it will be much harder to get both dogs to walk nicely on a leash.
Once both dogs are well trained on loose leash walking, go to this link to get started with Tressa's five tips for walking two dogs at the same time:
- Get your setup ready for walking two dogs before you start walking
- Get the right equipment - what type of leash, harness, and collar will work for how you want to walk
- Practice with two leashes before you go for a walk
- Teach your dogs to walk nicely on leash one at a time
- Start with the basics of leash training with both dogs present
Tressa also explains how to walk two dogs while carrying a baby on your chest. Ultimate pro moves. Highly recommend checking out the video she shared here.
Check out more in the Walking Channel on Dogly
Now that you know how to train your dog to walk on a leash without pulling, what's next? Check out the Walking channel on Dogly.
The Dogly Advocates are here for you. Ask any questions that come up in your training in the discussion or work with any Advocate 1-1 for more personalized training. You don't have to work on stuff alone with your dog!