8 Steps to an Enjoyable Leash Walk

1. Be patient and persistent. If your dog has been “walking you” for some time, it is going to take awhile to teach loose leash walking.

2. Before you even start to walk, use a clicker to teach your dog the position you would like her to be in when you are on a walk together. For example, if you would like your dog to walk beside you, with her head in line with your knee, you can click her every time she chooses to go into this position. Make sure your criterion for this exercise is precise and clear otherwise she will make up her own mind and it probably won’t be what you were hoping for. If you need a reminder of how Clicker Training works please review a previous blog post: Clicker Training Overview.

3. Imagine you are the center of a clock. If your dog is on your left side, turn clockwise and if your dog is on your right side, turn counterclockwise. Click and treat at noon, then turn and repeat the click/treat at 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, and so on until you have done a full turn of the clock. Then place your dog on the other side and go around the clock in the other direction. To keep your dog from leaping across your body to receive their treat, it is important for you to give the treat with the hand that is closest to your dog. This will also ensure she stays in the desired position at all times.

4. Now that your dog is familiar with the position of being at your side and is comfortable on both sides, take one step and then click and give a treat. Now take two steps and click/treat and so on until you have taken ten steps in between clicks. Now you can repeat the process with your dog on your other side.

5. If your dog starts to pull ahead, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I made my criteria easy enough that my dog can succeed?
  • Are my criteria clear to me and am I ensuring it is clear to my dog?
  • Am I asking too much of my dog? Is she ready for this step?
  • Have I chosen reinforcement that is valuable enough and has not been satiated recently?
  • Is the environment I have chosen for this training exercise fit for learning or are there too many competing motivators present to keep my dog focused?

6. Whatever you do, DO NOT pull back if the leash tightens! If there were a book on how to teach a dog TO pull, this would be step one since dogs have a tendency to oppose pressure by moving into it. Go back to step 5 and ask yourself the right questions to ensure success is “full steam ahead”.

7. Be jerk free! Use a flat collar and avoid using choke collars, prong collars or e-collars when you are training. Reward for the appropriate position and connected loose leash walking rather than resorting to frustration and punishment for the undesired responses. Progressively increase the level of difficulty through proofing with distractions but always ensure that your dog will be successful otherwise they will not learn what it is that you want them to do.

8. Keep your dog’s interest by making the training fun, interactive, and fast paced. Dogs like to have fun and on their own they learn through role-play and mock-style combat that is very interactive. If you are boring in your training practices your dog will most likely not pay attention and you will have a hard time keeping them focused, especially when there are competing motivators present such as other dogs playing. Choose valued reinforcement, play games, have fun, and always keep things positive! Click and treat!

by Niki Perry, CPDT-KA, KPACTP, CEMT, Release the Hounds Board Member

Niki’s website: The Beloved Beast


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