Learning how to walk properly on leash will not only help to teach your dog good manners but it will save you from a sore back and arms!
Equipment-Before you get started, you want to make sure that your have the right equipment. Any dog that weighs less than 30 pounds or puppies of any size under 5 months of age, should wear a harness (preferably a No Pull Harness) when out on a walk. This is because small dogs can injure their neck if they pull excessively on a collar. Young puppies are excited to explore their new world so they often run back and forth on the leash, suddenly pull in a direction or stop quickly to smell something. If they are on a regular collar, these sudden movements could also accidently hurt their growing neck. All other dogs can use regular or training collars but make sure to consult with a professional trainer before putting your dog on a prong collar.
Set Him Up For Success– Learning how to walk on a loose leash is very difficult for dogs since they are often so stimulated by all of the other things in the environment that they can see, hear, and smell. As a result, when you are first teaching this skill, make sure to set your dog up for success by having him learn in a quiet environment first. For example, walk in the middle of the driveway and practice your skills before you walk next to the grass. Or make sure your pup is capable of behaving in a quiet environment before you take him into a pet store. Always have treats with you and heavily praise any small improvements when you begin to teach this behavior. This will make the learning process easier on your pup and keep him engaged in the training. Finally, pulling on the leash should NEVER be allowed. If you are working on loose leash walking and then you let the dog pull you so he can sniff his favorite tree, you have just undone all of your hard work. Instead, take him to his favorite tree while he is walking on a loose leash.
Walking 101– There are three main ways to teach your dog how to walk on a loose leash.
- Stick with me kid! Put the dog on your left side. Place several treats in your left hand and show it to your dog. Then close your fist but keep your hand by the dog’s nose. Take two to three steps and, if the dog stays with you on a loose leash, praise him and give him a treat. Take another two to three steps and treat again. If, at any time the dog pulls, tell him no, get him interested in the treats again and then move forward. As he starts to get better, increase the amount of steps you take before you give him a treat.
- You pull? I stop! Start out walking with your dog and, as long as he is on a loose leash, praise him lavishly and occasionally give him a treat. The moment he pulls, tell him NO and stop walking. As long as there is any pressure on the leash, don’t move. Once the dog comes towards you and loosens the leash, tell him Good Boy and start walking again. The dog will soon learn that if he pulls, you stop moving. This will encourage him to stay with you at all times.
- About-face! Start out walking with your dog and, as long as he is on a loose leash, praise him lavishly and occasionally give him a treat. Remember that being next to you should be the best place in the world for your dog! If your dog pulls (lets say towards his favorite potty bush), say NO and immediately make an about face and walk a few steps in the opposite direction. Then turn back towards the bush and start walking again. If your dog stays with you, praise him, if he pulls again, About-Face! Walking away when your dog pulls sends a clear message – “If you see something you like, we will only get closer to it if you are walking on a loose leash. If you pull, we will only get further from your goal”.