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Teaching one dog to walk politely on a loose leash can already be challenging, but for dog owners with two dogs, adding another dog (or more) to the mix, things can get crazy fast! So how can we best work on loose leash walking with two dogs or, for dog lovers with multiple dogs, with small groups of dogs?
One of the most useful things I was ever taught in my KPA certification was the value of planning in dog training. Getting a clear picture of not only what you want, but how you plan to get there, is huge and can help us be much more clear and specific with our training. When it comes to walking two dogs, the mechanics become really important. The last thing you want is juggling two leashes/two dogs on the fly and ending up with a tangled mess!
Where do you want one dog and the other? How will you reinforce each dog - specifically which hand will be delivering treats and where? What equipment will you use? Remember, no retractable leashes!
Make a plan. Write down what you want from your walk. Which side of your body will each dog be on? Will you have a treat pouch? Which hand will hold the leashes and which hand will reward the dogs for good behavior on your walk? What if one dog pulls? Visualize the walk and write down every step to make it a success.
Holding one leash in each hand is really limiting for me. As a positive reinforcement trainer, being able to deliver reinforcement is really important! So I like to use a waist leash. This leash has clips on both ends, so one end is clipped to the dog, the other is wrapped around my waist and then clipped to itself. For the second dog, I use a four foot leash. I insert the waist leash into the hand loop of the shorter leash before I clip it around my waist, so that the second dog is also attached to me. This provides each dog with a similar length of leash.
This isn’t the best set-up for everyone!
For me, I feel that having the dogs attached to my mid-body is comfortable and I feel confident in my balance. Some people may feel unsafe with the same set-up, depending on the size and temperament of their dogs, and their own balance. The point is not to do as I do, but rather to figure out what works best for you.
Figure out which equipment is best for you when walking two dogs. You could use a leash splitter or dog leash coupler - this is a little two-pronged doodad that you clip on your leash. These types of items generally keep the dogs in pretty close proximity, and since they’re attached to one another the movement of one affects the other, so this is only appropriate for dogs who are super comfortable with one another. If not, you'll find that dogs dislike couplers if they're not at ease with each other and have a similar walking style.
You could even just hold both leashes in one hand if that seems easiest.
I know that sounds silly, but miming how you plan to hold the equipment and deliver the treats will be way easier without excited pups in the picture. At first, until you practice, it's surprising how awkward it can feel until you know which hand is handling dogs vs treats and it becomes something you can do naturally in the moment.
Before putting the leashes on your two dogs, practice holding the leashes while delivering treats. Are both leashes in one hand? Is one leash in each hand? How do you juggle the treat? Get your rhythm down without the dogs first.
Turns out the key to successfully teaching two dogs to walk on leash politely is actually teaching one dog to walk on leash politely twice.
You will want to leash train your dogs individually on separate walks to really know each of your dogs' walking personalities and get them as rock solid on leash as possible.
That’s because the presence of the other dog TOTALLY changes the game! By taking the time to practice walking each dog separately first, you’re setting them up to succeed by creating a strong reinforcement history (with their favorite reward - aka high-value treats).
Leash train each dog individually first before walking them together. If you haven't yet, start at the beginning of this loose leash walking training series with each dog one at a time.
Once you have worked with each dog, starting with lower distraction environments and working up to “real world” setups, you can start training with both dogs. BUT as always, when you’re increasing difficulty in one way, it’s important to make it easier in other ways. So start again in those lower distraction settings and practice together. Build back up to “real life” walks!
Start walking with your two dogs together but go back to the easier environments. Maybe start in your house, then when you and your dogs are comfortable and seeing success, graduate to your backyard. Start out with short walks. Keeping in mind your dogs' being successful is more important than getting from point A to B.
This may not be applicable for you, but in the video below, I’m training both dogs and have a baby on my chest. Adding the baby to the picture is another game-changer, and I highly recommend doing some more practice work to get the dogs used to the changes.
Whether you plan on baby-wearing, or using a stroller, those are big changes that are worth rehearsing before the real deal arrives. Using a stuffy or doll in the wrap is one way to mimic baby-wearing. Pushing an empty stroller is a great way to practice, too. This practice is not only for your dog, but also for you! The presence of a little one totally changes the mechanics, so you can make sure you’re delivering smoothly by working on it ahead of time.
Have fun with your double (or more) dog walks!
Note: I am using the verbal marker "yes" in this video instead of a clicker.
Choose how you’d like to view this guide’s video.
Congrats! Your dog now knows the basics of loose leash walking, how to not pull in distraction-free and distraction-filled environments, and how to walk nicely beside you even with a second dog. If you haven't gone through all of the guides in the Walking Channel here on Dogly yet, I highly recommend you do that.
Start your training in the Walking Channel or sign up to work with me 1-1 if you need more personalized help.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this website and community is based on the research, expertise, and views of each respective author. Information here is not intended to replace your one-on-one relationship with your veterinarian, but as a sharing of information and knowledge to help arm dog parents to make more informed choices. We encourage you to make health care decisions based on your research and in partnership with your vet. In cases of distress, medical issues, or emergency, always consult your veterinarian.