Loose Leash Walking – What Is It And How To Train Your Dog To Do It

We’ve discussed in a previous post about the importance of training your dog to master what is known as loose leash walking as a pre-requisite to teaching your dog to run with you. 

But how do you get your dog to the point where he is not pulling on the leash and walks beside you calmly with the leash loose instead of pulled taut with your dog pulling ahead?

You will need a buckle collar that is flat, a six foot leash and a good supply of small treats. Don’t use a harness as these can encourage your dog to pull. You’ll do this in two steps with step one being off leash work done outside in a fenced area, or if that is not available then inside the house in a hallway.

First you walk around and totally ignore your dog. Then while sounding very excited, call him to you and when he comes to your side, treat him. Then continue to walk all the while talking to your dog in in an excited upbeat voice. Every few steps reward him with a small treat.

After you have taken 15 steps or so, then ignore him again and let him do whatever he wants. In a couple of minutes, call him back to you and go through the same routine. In this way, your dog will quickly learn good things happen when he walks by your side. 

After a few days of off leash work, it’s time to go for a walk on leash outside. As soon as your dog pulls forward on the leash, stop and take several backward steps. At the same time, in an upbeat voice call him to you can reward him as soon as he returns to your side.

Now move forward again. As long as your dog continues to move forward at your side, reward him every three or four steps. If he begins to pull forward once more, stop and step backward and repeat the procedure above. Soon your dog will realize that he has to stay by your side and not pull on the leash in order to move forward.

Once he is doing well with this, begin to increase the number of steps you take prior to rewarding him for staying by your side. As he is consistenly now walking by your side and not pulling, you can continue to reward him, but only do so at random intervals. This is known as random reinforcement and is very effective at motivating your dog to continue the behavior.

The one thing you have to remember about this training method is that for it to work, you must stop and step back every single time he pulls on the leash. If you don’t, and allow him to pull at times, he will become confused and the training will not work.

Happy walking!

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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