Training your dog to walk on a loose leash is a simple exercise that can seem tedious. But that’s because most dog owners forget the number one rule …
The key to loose leash walking is consistency.
You can NEVER let your dog move forward on a tight leash. Never!
If you never let the leash get tight your dog won’t learn that he can pull you.
And what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him or you.
So today I’m going to show you how to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash in 6 steps.
Step 1: Train Your Dog To Stand Still On A Loose Leash
First, you want to train your dog to remain on a loose leash while you stand still.
To start, grab a treat and hold it in your hand.
Put your dog’s leash on and stand in one spot. If you can, use a clicker. Clickers help you mark the positive behavior more precisely.
When your dog releases tension on the leash … click and show him the treat in your hand.
Let him see you place the treat on the ground by the outside of your left foot or feed him behind your left knee.
Once he eats the treat, move to the end of the leash so it’s taut. Stand quietly.
When he moves towards you to release the tension, click and show him the treat. Reward him by your left foot.
Don’t worry about eye contact at this stage.
What you want to teach your dog is that you will reward him for releasing the leash tension.
Do this many times.
Once he gets the hang of it … you’ll train your dog to stay on a loose leash when there are distractions.
Step 2: Add In Low Distractions
Now you want to train your dog to stand by your left leg with low distractions.
Stand with your dog on a loose leash. Toss your treat right past your dog’s nose. You want it to land about three feet away.
When your dog eats the treat and comes back to you looking for more … click and reward him by placing the food on the outside of your left foot.
Move away from that spot and then toss another treat … again about three feet away.
Repeat until he’s comfortable returning to you.
Step 3: Loose Leash Train Your Dog While You Move Around
Next you want to get your dog to race to be at your left side while you move around.
Toss a treat right past your dog’s nose.
This time, when your dog finishes eating it and turns around to come back to you … turn your back and start walking.
Take only a few steps in the beginning.
When your dog catches up to you (but before he gets past your leg) click and treat. Repeat.
This is the warm-up.
Next you’ll train your dog to walk beside you on a loose leash.
Step 4: Train Your Dog To Walk Beside You On A Loose Leash
Your goal is to have your dog walk on your left side while you move around.
With your dog on the leash, turn away from him and start walking. The first few times, let your dog know that you have food in your hand.
Your dog should follow.
As your dog catches up to you, click and feed beside your left leg. Stop when you treat your dog.
You can also add eye contact at this stage. To do this, wait until your dog looks you in the eye before you reward him.
Once he’s finished his treat, start walking again.
Show him the treat and then turn and take a few steps away from him. Walk until he catches up, then stop and feed beside your left leg.
Step 5: Add In More Steps
Now you’ll work up to taking 10 steps while your dog walks besides you.
Don’t feel like you have to start with 10 steps. Work towards walking more steps each time before you reward him.
But remember … never treat your dog if he has gone in front of you.
At this stage, you can either reinforce while he’s next to you or … you can toss the treat way behind you, so the dog has to hunt for it. Once he catches back up to you, click and give him a treat to reinforce the good behavior.
As your dog gets better at this, you should be able to walk a good distance without him pulling and forging ahead.
Don’t forget to give intermittent rewards.
Your dog has to believe there’s a better chance of good things if he sticks near you than out in the wide world. Otherwise he’ll start to pull.
Step 6: Head Out Into The Real World
Now that your dog knows that a loose leash pays off, it’s time to take it on the road!
Start with mild distractions such as a new neighborhood.
Be prepared to feed more often in new environments or with new distractions.
If it isn’t easy to keep your dog at your leg, then the distraction is too hard for your dog!
If this is the case, have him sit or lie down, or play a game with him until the distraction is gone … then continue with your loose leash walking.
It takes time and patience to train your dog to walk on a loose leash.
But if you follow these steps and make sure your dog’s comfortable with each stage before you move on to the next … you and your dog will soon walk together without the frustration and pulling.