Loose Leash Walking: 9 Dog Training Tips for Chill Strolls

Happy Czech mountain dog loose leash walking

Tired of your dog pulling you around like you’re the sled in a one-dog race? You’re not alone. Many dog owners struggle with loose leash walking, but fear not! This dog training guide will turn those chaotic walks into calm, enjoyable strolls.

Key Takeaways:

  • Consistency is crucial to successful leash etiquette.
  • Start training in a low-distraction environment.
  • Reward your dog frequently to reinforce good behavior.
  • Gradually increase distractions and duration.

Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Loose Leash

Follow these professional dog training tips to nail down your dog’s leash walking training.

1. Consider Your Training Tools

When it comes to loose-leash walking, the right training tools can make a big difference. You’ll want to get started with the following tools:

  • Treat Pouch
  • High-Value Treats
  • 6-Foot Leash
  • Poop Bags (be responsible!)
  • Training Collar

Here are some common tools and my thoughts to consider:

  • Flat Collar: I’m not a fan of flat collars because dogs can easily slip out of them.
  • Martingale or Slip Collar: This is my preferred collar as it prevents dogs from slipping out and bolting.
  • Harness: Generally speaking, harnesses are not great if you’re trying to combat pulling. If you’re not careful, you could end up rewarding pulling with this tool.
  • Front-Clip Harness: While they may be slightly more effective at preventing pulling, a willful dog can still pull through it. Even without pulling, the design can limit the dog’s movement and negatively impact their gait.
  • Head Halter: This is more ideal than a harness as you have significantly more control and can prevent pulling. However, some dogs really don’t like having something on their face. You should work with a trainer if you want to use this tool.
  • Prong Collar: This is a good option if your dog is an adamant puller and you need clearer communication, but you should work with a trainer when using this tool to ensure proper use.
A man walks a small rescue dog in the neighborhood on a leash

2. Pick a Side

Before you start, decide which side you want your dog to walk on—right or left. Stick to this choice to avoid confusing your pup. Consistency is key here.

3. Choose a Low-Distraction Environment

Puppies and untrained dogs tend to have short attention spans. Start training in a quiet place to help them focus. A calm environment minimizes distractions, making it easier for your dog to pay attention to you.

4. Start at a Standstill

Before you get moving, reward your dog for standing next to you and making eye contact. This sets the stage for good behavior on the move.

5. Keep Your Leash Handy

Hold the leash in the hand farthest from your dog. For example, if your dog walks on your left, hold the leash in your right hand. This keeps your other hand free to drop treats to them quickly.

6. Start Moving

Take a single step and immediately drop your treat-holding hand to guide and reward your dog for stepping with you. Begin with one step at a time and slowly increase to a few steps between treats. The goal is to teach your dog that staying close to you when you start walking leads to rewards.

7. Name the Command

As your dog gets the hang of loose leash walking, you can give it a name! Simply give the verbal cue – such as “heel,” “walk,” or “with me” – as you start to walk. Don’t forget to mark and reward!

8. Increase Duration and Distractions

Once your dog masters the basics, gradually increase the time and introduce more distractions. Always engage and reward your dog to keep them focused. If your dog prefers toys over treats, use a toy they know how to “drop it.”

If treats and toys aren’t very exciting to your dog outside of the house, get creative! If they love to sniff, use that as reinforcement by releasing them to sniff their heart out after walking politely for some time.

Puppy dog pulling on the leash walking with the owner

9. Prevent Pulling

If your dog starts pulling, stop or change direction. Letting them tug on you reinforces the behavior. Stopping or turning around shows your dog that pulling gets them nowhere, and they’ll feel less inclined to go full-sleddog on you.

Anchor yourself by standing still and waiting for your dog to return to you. When they do, reward them with treats or praise. This teaches them that staying close is more rewarding than pulling.

If rewards aren’t working and your dog keeps pulling, consider one-on-one training with a professional dog trainer. Sometimes, a little extra help can make a big difference.

Meeting Dogs on Leash

I do not recommend allowing your dog to meet strange dogs on leash. This practice can create rude behaviors, as your dog will start expecting to meet every dog they see. This expectation can be detrimental to your dog’s focus on you, which is crucial for successful loose-leash walking.

Even if your dog is friendly, meeting other dogs on leash can lead to issues like leash reactivity. Your dog might become frustrated when they can’t greet every dog they encounter, resulting in barking, lunging, or other reactive behaviors.

It’s better to keep walks focused on you and your dog. If you want your dog to socialize, arrange playdates in a safe, controlled environment.

Loose Leash Walking: Bottom Line

Teaching loose leash walking doesn’t have to be a drag—literally. With patience, consistency, and lots of treats, you’ll be strolling in harmony in no time. Soon enough, you’ll be ready to show off your skills and expand into more flashy obedience, like auto-sits.

Ready to take your training to the next level? Sign up for the waitlist and keep an eye out for my affordable online dog training membership. Let’s turn those walks into a joy for both you and your dog!

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