Teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash

When put on leash many dogs pull, right? Some people mistakenly think it has to do with dominance, that’s highly unlikely. It is far more likely due to one or more of the following factors:
• It works (doggie pulls, handler follows, dog is reinforced for pulling — he gets to go where he wanted to go in the first place!)
• Dogs walk faster than we do (even little dogs often walk faster than their handlers)
• Dog gets distracted by something and reacts (he goes toward it or away from it)

So what’s an owner to do? Apply a few basic guidelines to leash walking:
• Make sure your dog is well exercised BEFORE you ask for loose leash walking (LLW) — a highly energized puppy doesn’t have a hope or prayer of walking calmly on leash.
• Start training the behavior with a food lure. Often called the “magnet method” place a few tasty treats in the hand on the same side as your dog (leash is in your opposite hand). Hold the tasty treat at your dog’s nose (not above — or your dog will jump) and say something like “let’s go”. Take a few steps, if your dog’s sniffing the treat & walking with you mark the behavior with your “Yes”, stop & feed. Repeat every few steps. Practice in a low distraction area for the first week. If your dog starts to pull, just STOP all forward movement until he turns back to you. (If he doesn’t turn back after 10 seconds or so you can say his name, to help prompt the turn.) When he turns toward you mark the behavior, lure him back to your side, feed and say “let’s go” and try again.
• Set realistic goals. If (after the 1st week) you’re out on a walk don’t assume your dog can do LLW for the whole distance of the walk, that will be too much. Instead make sure he’s had a little exercise before you even go out the door and then set up a “goal” i.e. we’re going to LLW 100 feet to the tree over there. You can feel free to use a food lure if it will help (gradually working away from using the lure over time). If your dog starts to pull — you’ll just stop & wait him out. If he doesn’t pull you can mark “Yes” release him “OK” when you get to the tree where he can either sniff (a life reward) and/or get a treat.

See my earlier post for more tips:

Therapy Dogs International Testing Part 4

Enjoy your walks 🙂

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