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If you and your dog are struggling with loose leash walking, rest assured you're certainly not alone. More than 80% of all dog owners say they're having a hard time with their leash skills.
That's why I love these exercises when I'm teaching loose leash walking. With the right practice, we can all learn to share a solid focus and connection with our dogs, end dog pulling behaviors, and become loose leash walking pros together.
As you go from frustrated walker to partner with your dog in relaxing, fun walks, keep these dog walking tips in mind to support both you and your pup along the way:
In other words, have a lot of treats on hand, and be ready to give them to your dog frequently - at least in the beginning stages. The rewards should also be something your dog gets really excited about. This could be his/her favorite toy, or even better - a treat your dog only gets during walk time.
If your dog is particularly high energy, get your dog out for some regular exercise or playtime before you walk your dog. This way your dog will be able to focus on walking at your side instead of running ahead!
Give your dog lots of treats and praise when he/she looks at you or stops pulling. Be sure to do this consistently so your dog knows he/she is being rewarded for good behavior walking politely at your side.
Learning anything new takes time, so be patient with your pup (and yourself!) as you work on developing loose leash walking skills. Remember, walking your dog should be fun for both of you! Keep working on your dog walking training and soon walks will truly be something to enjoy together.
This is an important one! Make sure you're walking at a pace that's comfortable for your dog. If your dog wants to go fast, let him/her lead the way. If your dog wants to stop and sniff, always let your dog sniff!
Let your dog sniff - it feeds dogs' souls (and brains for mental stimulation). Make sure to mix in some "just for fun" walks with your training walks so your dog doesn't associate walking on a loose leash with only working hard.
And always end dog walking training sessions on a good note! Give your dog lots of yummy treats and love for walking nicely on leash. Dogs love positive reinforcement just as much as we do, so don't hold back!
Walking your dog can be one of the great joys in life, but it's not always easy. If you and your dog are struggling with loose leash walking, I've got some great exercises that can help.
Distractions are the biggest reason a dog and dog owner struggle with pulling on leash - from seeing other dogs, bicycles, or squirrels to even walking by the dog park). It's all just too interesting! Let's teach your dog the basics of dog walking in a low distraction environment to help transfer those dog walking skills to your everyday walk!
We'll be teaching the skills your dog needs on a walk starting from inside the house, the back yard, and long before the actual walk begins to set your dog up for success.
You can also watch me take you through the step-by-step exercises below in the accompanying video. It often helps to see these steps in action!
The very first exercise I like to use when teaching loose leash walking is called "dancing with your dog."
This exercise is especially good for those with a brand new pup or any dog who tends to lose focus easily. You'll want to use your dog's leash and harness as you practice "dancing with your dog" together. (As always, use your proper harness and a traditional leash - avoid retractable leashes. As we've noted before, a retractable leash not only doesn't help you maintain control, it can also be dangerous to both your dog and you.)
You want to use the equipment you'll use on a real, out-in-the-world walk - your dog should begin to recognize that when his/her front clip harness goes on and the leash clips in, it's not a reason to get crazy excited and not pay attention to you.
Use this exercise to teach your dog to pay attention to what your body is doing and it will teach you a bit about engagement.
Once your dog has shown a good comfort level and ease with the first exercise, we're ready to move on to the second: figure 8 circles. (If you feel your dog isn't quite ready yet, repeat exercise 1 until you're both comfortable. Always go at your dog's pace!)
For our second exercise, we're going to practice walking in a figure 8. This is about walking more in a line with your dog, having him/her next to you but not yet walking in a straight line which is more difficult in dog training.
You'll be walking in a figure 8 or even a circular pattern with your dog. I use cones to create our path (as you can see in the video) but you can use a couple of chairs or whatever you have.
That frees the hand closest to your dog for immediate treating. As you walk together with your treat hand on your "dog side," your positive reinforcement treats will be in a close, direct line to your dog's mouth. By having the treats on your dog's side, you also avoid tempting your pup to cross over in front of you for treats, which can trip you up and generally throw off the flow of your calm, happy walk/reward learning in action.
Continue practicing your figure 8s, reinforcing with high frequency and high-value treats to fortify your dog's focus.
After these exercises, the next time you clip on the leash, your dog should know it means focus and good things ahead instead of time to turn into a Tasmanian Devil!
Choose how you’d like to view this guide’s video.
Now that you're a confident dog walker with a focused dog in a distraction-free space, next up is taking your skills out into the world to different environments! Jump to the next guide here or learn how to teach your dog how to not pull in distraction-filled environments, and how to walk nicely beside you even with a second dog.
Hop over to the Walking Channel if you'd like to ask any of the Dogly Training Advocates who are all certified dog trainers a question in the Community discussion.
And if you ever need more personalized training help, please reach out to work with me one-on-one here on Dogly!
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.