Loose Lead Walking
Does your dog pull on the lead? Do you dread every time you have to take them out? Are you sick of pulling and feeling sore, frustrated, and annoyed?
This article is for YOU!
Keep reading for some top tips on how to get a lovely loose lead while out walking your dog and start to ENJOY your walks together again!
Dogs pull for a whole variety of reasons, mainly because they naturally walk faster than us! Four legs are better than two and they have places to be and lamp posts to sniff!
As well as being faster than us and wanting to gather as much information from sniffing while on their walks - pulling on the lead is just incredibly rewarding for them!
Usually, you go out your walk, your dog pulls, and you continue walking because you can’t just stop and not walk them! Therefore, they get what they want AND they’re constantly being rewarded for pulling - they’re getting to where they want to go! When they feel tension on that lead, they get to the sniff they wanna smell, they get to go and see that other dog or person. They do what works and because they’re so strong, normally, we have to give in.
Now, with this in mind, you still want your dog to have the ability to do dog things like sniffing and exploring their surroundings whilst on the lead so you're not looking for a strict heel here.
You want to see a nice loose 'J' or 'U' shape in the lead whilst walking your dog (I call this the smiling lead) so that they still have a bit of space to do whatever they want without pulling your arm out the socket!
Over time, pulling can lead to muscle damage for both you and your dog, so it’s important to try to teach them to walk nicely on the lead from an early age. This can be a very difficult thing to achieve and is not going to happen in just a few training sessions!
You need to be consistent!
The main thing to remember about loose lead walking is that it will NOT happen overnight – you need to put the work in and train hard!
Also, no matter what people say, no matter how good the marketing of products are and no matter the array of equipment you try. Nothing, yes, NOTHING, will teach your dog to stop pulling on the lead other than consistent training. Not “no-pull” harnesses, not halti head collars and certainly NOT choke chains, slip leads or anything that!
Now, this equipment MAY stop the pulling BUT it doesn’t TEACH your dog anything. The reason they stop is to avoid the pain and discomfort – as soon as you remove the equipment, you can be sure they will revert straight back to pulling!
To get your dog to walk nicely on the lead, you want them to WANT to hang around near you. If you’re constantly choking or hurting them, they’ll want to get as far away from you as possible! This can cause a relationship and trust breakdown between you and your dog. There is absolutely no need for discomfort to train your dog to walk nicely beside you and here’s how you can get started:
Exercise: Crab Walking:
What is the goal?:
To teach your dog to walk nicely alongside you with a slack lead.
What will you need?:
Your dog in their harness/collar with lead attached, PLENTY of tasty treats, a treat pouch, enthusiasm and dedication!
How do we teach this?:
Start by facing your dog with a handful of treats (preferably in your treat pouch to avoid your dog jumping up to get them from your hand).
Keeping stationary, drop a treat on the floor for your dog, once they’ve eaten it, drop another one, repeat 5 times (make sure when dropping the treats, they land close to you, aim for the small space between your toes and your dog – you can place them down if easier. Always wait until your dog has finished the previous treat before dropping another one).
Now that you have their attention take ONE STEP backwards. If your dog moves to follow you, mark* the movement and feed your dog on the floor as they follow (dropping the treat to the floor will avoid your dog jumping up).
Repeat until your dog is consistently following you as you move slowly backwards - mark* and feed after every step.
Of course, the last thing you want to be doing is walking backwards on every dog walk so, once your dog has nailed you moving backwards, you’re going to slowly transition to a forward movement.
Now, change your position and turn to the side so you’re walking sideways or “crabbing” with your dog. Continue to mark* and feed your dog from the floor as they move with you after EVERY STEP. If they pull forwards, go back to the previous stage.
When you're facing sideways, you'll notice that your dog will pretty much be walking forwards. This is what we want!
Repeat until your dog is following you consistently with you walking sideways.
Okay, let’s change position – turn to face forward with your dog on either side (it doesn’t particularly matter which side your dog is on. This can be up to you).
Do the exact same as you've done previously, one step, mark* and feed. If there is any tension on the lead at all, go back to the previous step and build from there!
“Mark” means to use a clicker or a marker word (something short & clear like ‘yes’ or ‘good’) the instant your dog offers the behaviour you like. This helps your dog learn exactly what behaviour is earning their reward.
Start in your house/garden – somewhere with zero distractions for your dog. You can gradually increase distractions but make it super easy for them to start with.
If your dog begins to fail, either go back a stage or reduce distractions – always set your dog up for success. The lead should never go tight in this exercise, if it does, you need to make it even easier for your dog.
Keep sessions short and often – loose lead walking is hard! They will need time to relax and process what they’ve learned.
HAVE FUN – if you’re not having fun, end the session on a high note with something you and your dog loves doing and try again another day.
Tag us in your attempts @caninepawtential – lets see all those loose leads!
Amie Brown (IMDT)
Head Trainer & Co-Founder