Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Loose Leash

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August 22, 2023
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How to Teach a Dog Loose-Leash Walking

To explain what loose-leash walking is, we’d like you to picture a dog who is taking its owner on a walk, instead of vice versa – you know what we mean! 

It’s when a dog is constantly pulling, tugging, and fighting with their leash. And, meanwhile, the owner has to endure the whipping, yanking, and overall body strain as the leash lashes about.

It’s not a pleasant situation for anyone involved. 

Instead, with loose-leash walking, a dog is attached to a leash that has a certain amount of intentional slack. Loose-leash walking is a trained skill where a dog learns how to walk with its owner without any tension on the leash. The point is that the dog is controlled – it’s an ideal thing!

So, if you have a new pup or a more mature dog that needs to learn some leash manners, keep reading to learn the ins and outs of how to teach a dog loose-leash walking. 

10 Training Steps to Follow for Loose-Leash Walking

To start, choose a place to train that has limited distractions. Feel free to walk in circles when you are just beginning – maybe walk along a wall line for even less distraction. 

While training, pay attention to any cues your dog might give off (whining, huffing, staring, etc) to indicate their state of mind. This might mean their training limit has been reached. 

And above all, take things slowly and remain consistent! Don’t allow even the slightest pulling – if you do, the dog will fall into the behavior trap of thinking pulling is an acceptable walking behavior. 

So, here we go with the steps:

1 - Grab a handful of your dog’s food. 

2 - Think about what side of your body you’d like your dog to walk on. Put some food in that hand. 

3 - Put the leash in your opposite hand. If your dog is on your left side, you should have a handful of food in your left palm with the end of the leash in your right hand. 

4 - Take one step & then stop. Immediately feed your dog a nibble of food. Keep this quick and short: follow the seam line of your pants (or imaginary seam line) and give your dog a treat from that point. Big celebrations (positive reinforcement) can happen here so your dog realizes this position – right by your side – is a good one! Your dog should be in the desired position now. 

5 - Repeat this process: Take one step + give a nibble of food from the seam line + stop + repeat.

6 - Your dog is likely getting excited at this point – there’s food! This means you have your dog’s attention. Now up the game by doing two steps instead of one. 

7 - Your dog might keep pulling ahead. If so, stop walking immediately. You can turn your body around to signal that the walk will not proceed until the dog corrects the behavior (coming to your side).

8 - Call your dog back to you or lure the dog back by showing some more food nibbles. Don’t give out the food, yet!

9 - After the dog comes back to you, take two or three steps forward and then give the treat. 

**You have to do this to reframe their thought pattern. Treating them right away incorrectly teaches them to associate pulling with a treat. Instead, by having them come back, then taking some steps, then getting the treat, the desired association is made of walking by the owner means a treat**

10 - Once the dog has found that groove again, take some more steps between every food offering. To increase the loose leash walking training rigor even more, you can make a quick dash to the left or right. 

Conclusion - How to Teach a Dog Loose-Leash Walking

Training experiences are meant to be short-lived. You do not want to exhaust your dog, nor do you want to lose your patience. Keep things positive, and when you feel like a limit has been reached, stop the training exercise and begin again later. 

Loose-leash walking carries great importance. It brings a welcomed sense of control and comfort to the owner and walks become an enjoyable escape!

At Minnesota Canine Consulting, we believe in consistency, repetition, and positivity. It’s a winning training combination!


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