Loose Leash Walking: Tips to End Pulling

Loose Leash Walking: Tips to End Pulling

Puppy On Leash

Tip #1: Start With The Right Setup

Loose leash walking can be a challenging skill for many owners and dogs. There is a lot going on when trying to train your dog to walk nicely next to you. First you have to learn to hold the leash and the treats, usually while your dog is pulling you everywhere. Not to mention, your dog’s focus is elsewhere as they sniff every blade of grass and pull towards every dog and stranger they see. But fear not, there are several humane training options that make your life easier while you and your dog are learning.

We recommend to all of our clients the Blue-9 Balance Harness, which is a front-clip harness that encourages your dog to turn towards you, instead of sticking up front at the end of the leash, when they pull on the leash themselves. This can decrease your dog’s momentum when pulling on lead and help us capture more desirable behaviors, like looking at us when on leash and coming back to us when the dog feels leash pressure.

Unlike no-pull training products, this harness when fitted and used correctly, should not cause your dog any discomfort or pain. They have a wide range of sizes so, the Balance Harness can be made to fit most dogs.

Aside from this, a few other options are a treat bag to free up your hands and if you are in good health, a hands-free leash can sometimes be helpful if you are struggling with the holding the leash and giving treats at the same time.

Tip #2: Start Indoors

While this might seems counterproductive, we see far too many students that start working on loose leash walking outside too soon. Starting indoors is the best way to go because this reduces the distractions for you and your dog and creates a better learning environment.

One suggestion we make to clients is to start inside in a quiet room in their house with no leash on the dog. Loose leash walking is merely your dog learning to walk next to you at your pace. It is that simple. The leash is only present as a safety device when you have a well-focused dog who is paying attention to you and knows what is expected of them.

By starting off leash, you don’t have to worry about how and where to hold everything. Just use your treats to calmly reward your dog for walking on the side you desire. Left or right doesn’t matter. That is just personal preference, but we will use the left side for this example.

Treats should been given every few steps at first to show your dog that the left side is where they want to be because amazing things happen over there. You should mark and feed close to your left leg, even if your dog walks ahead of you before you have a chance to present the treat. Have them come back for the treat near your left leg. Where you reinforce your dog is where they will end up and this is how we can create a close heel position over time.

Tip #3: Once Outdoors, Use Better Treats

Once you have completely trained your loose leash walking indoors, you are ready to try it out in a calm outdoor environment that is familiar to the dog, like your backyard. When making this change, it is important to bump back up to high-value treats, like boiled chicken, string cheese, or something your dog enjoys, but rarely gets.

We want to be rewarding the dog with the dog-version of $100 bills anytime we make the skill more challenging. Over time as the skill becomes easier, we can transfer to $20 bills, $10 bills, $1 bill and so on until we don’t give regular payment for this skill anymore because the dog has built a sustainable habit. We sure be willing to bet money that our dog will perform the desired behavior at least 80% of the time before we make the skill more challenging.

Tip #4: Practice Engagement and Focus Work

Some dogs never seem to “get” loose leash walking because they aren’t struggling with the concept of loose leash walking itself and that is often what their owners keep practicing over and over again to no avail. Stopping practice and focusing on how engaged your dog is with you can be important to their learning process. If you aren’t having much luck, you need to re-evaluate your training plan and your dog’s ability to succeed in that training plan.

Most of the time people have never trained their dog how to focus on them and stay engaged with them. We just hope the dog does it and well, it doesn’t quite work that way. Rewarding for eye contact while on leash and dropping all loose leash walking practice for a short period of time can be all some dogs need to get back on track and learning again.

If you see a drop-off in reliability when you move outdoors, it is more likely than not, that your dog isn’t focused on you or the training session enough to be learning much valuable information.

Thank you for reading our latest blog post and we hope you enjoyed it. Good luck on your training adventure with your dog and we hope to train with you and your dog soon!

Lauren Tsao