Whether your dog is still a pup, or an adult you definitely want to teach him how to walk on a loose leash.

All dogs love to be outside and they need daily physical exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. While your dog definitely enjoys himself on his walks, can you say the same about yourself?

Is your dog pulling on the leash? Do you know, why this is happening?

The answer is simple:

Dogs pull on the lead mainly because they want to go and explore the environment, just like small children.

Their human companions are not ideal walking partners, as dog’s natural and comfortable walking pace is much faster than ours!

Leash pulling, when allowed is a self reinforcing behaviour, simply because the dog goes where he wants to go when he’s pulling

Exploring the environment is a natural part of being a dog and it wouldn’t be fair to discourage it. Instead you have to add a structure to this activity and let your dog know that he’s not supposed to pull you on the leash.

In order to teach your dog loose leash walking you will need few things.

  1. Good leash. My favourite, and the one I’m using everyday  is made by Halti. It’s double-ended, 2m (6.56 feet) long, and it gives you 3 different length options. You can buy it here.
  2. Good harness or a collar. I recommend using a harness. My favourite one is IDC Powerharness. It has a very useful handle and luminous changeable side labels, but if your dog pulls like a train I recommend buying a front clip harness like this one.
  3. Clicker and treats.

You should never use a prong collar or a pinch collar! If you want to know why, check this post about prong collars.

If you have everything you need let’s get started!

Step one

Before you start teaching your dog how to walk on a loose leash it’s important to show him, that being on the leash is a positive thing.

As always start in a place without distractions.

Put your dog on the leash, and start walking slowly, frequently changing directions. Whenever your dog moves with you click and treat. If your dog doesn’t want to follow you and is pulling in a different direction don’t yank on the leash! Encourage your dog to follow you by talking to him, or clapping your hands (if he likes you doing it), if it doesn’t work you can apply gentle pressure on the lead. The moment he decides to move with you click and treat.

The idea here is to get your dog to be comfortable being guided by the leash. You should never pull your dog or yank on the leash to force him to follow you.

When your dog is following you reliably, guided by the leash, your next training exercise is as follows:

 Ask your dog to sit by your side. If you didn’t teach him to sit by your side yet, you can lure him into position. Make sure that the leash is slack and start to walk in a straight line. Try to click before your dog gets ahead of you and reward him for walking by your side. This will make him stay next to you while taking the food that you give him.

Before you move to an environment with more distractions practice this until your dog stays next to you all the time.

Step two

I said before that pulling is a self reinforcing behaviour. If your dog is pulling you, and you follow him, he automatically gets rewarded (by being able to do what he wants – explore the environment).

That is why you should never walk while there is any tension on the leash, or you might be teaching your dog to pull.

There are 3 techniques that you can use in order to teach your dog not to pull on the leash.

  1. When your dog pulls, stop. Pretend that you don’t have your dog with you and wait until your dog backs up or turns to you. Click and treat your dog by your side, and move forward again.
    If this doesn’t work, you can try the second method:
  2. When your dog pulls, turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. When your dog caches up with you click and treat. Than turn around and continue walking in your original direction.
    If this method doesn’t work try this one:
  3. If your dog pulls, move away at a random angle that is not 180 degrees. Wait for your dog to catch up, than click and reward. Than simply turn around and continue in your original direction.

Summing up!

  1. Stop or change direction if there’s a tension on the leash.
  2. Encourage your dog to follow.
  3. Reward for the return.

That’s all there is to it. Keep in mind that you might be stopping or changing directions pretty frequently at the beginning. Your dog will need time to figure out what you want from him, so reward him for every return he makes.

Couple of things that you should keep in mind.

  • Whenever you go on a walk with your dog, remember that it should be a nice and relaxing time for both of you.
  • The walk starts before you leave the house. Make sure your dog is not getting over excited the moment you pick up his leash.
  • You don’t want your dog to pull you, and that’s OK, but remember, that by letting your dog to explore the environment on a loose leash, you’re reinforcing him to walk on a loose leash.
  • Remember, that dogs have their needs, and that walking to heel is not the same as walking on a loose leash. Don’t expect your dog to be glued to your leg all the time, give him some space ;)That’s it for today!

Keep it positive and remember to leave a comment to let me know that you enjoyed reading this post, or if you have any questions.