Loose Lead Walking: Why You Should Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Loose Lead

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Posted On January 11, 2023

Jasmine learning loose lead walking at Pontefract Race Course
Jasmine learning loose lead walking at Pontefract Race Course

Dogs pulling on the lead is an issue that many dog owners have and find frustrating. Walking at our speed doesn’t often come naturally to dogs but walks can be really unpleasant if your dog is really dragging you. It can be really uncomfortable and cause injuries. If we want our dogs to walk at our speed we need to teach them.

A recent article by the British Veterinary Association Journal, reports that being pulled over when walking your dog is the second most cause of non-fatal dog-related injuries in the UK.

It also states that lead pulling can become a welfare issue as research also shows that when dogs pull heavily on lead they are walked less often by their owners.

Lead yanking can also negatively affect the relationship with your dog and dogs who are yanked on the lead are more likely to suffer from frustration, anxiety, stress, elevated heart rate and damage to the neck.

My Top Tips to Improve Your Dogs Loose Lead Walking

Start training in a low distraction environment at first such as your house and garden. This will make it easier for your dog to focus.  If there are too many distractions they will lose focus and pull away from you.

Hold your lead on the opposite side that you want your dog to walk on, this is so you can reward down the side of your leg. This will help your dog learn to walk at the side of you, rather than coming around the front to receive a reward. Your lead should have a loose bend in it.

Use rapid reinforcement when beginning training loose lead walking. Your dog will learn quicker and it will also reduce the chance of them losing interest. You want to make it easy for your dogs to succeed, the more they are rewarded in the correct position the quicker they will learn.

Reward any natural check ins with you and anytime the lead is loose. As your dog improves you may start to leave bigger gaps between each treat.

Stop thinking about the distance you are walking, destinations and routes, just spend time focusing on your training. This way you won’t get frustrated if you don’t get to where you want to go in your head. Regular 10/15 minute training sessions can often be more productive at first than trying to do a 30 min long walk where you expect your dog to loose lead walk the whole way.

Use a well fitting Y shaped harness, harnesses are kinder to your dog as any pulling around the neck can cause discomfort and/or damage to your dogs delicate neck area.

If your dog gets ahead of you, gently turn in the opposite direction and begin rewarding once they are back near your side. By changing direction they will learn that being near your side is more rewarding than pulling ahead.

Once you have achieved a high standard of loose lead walking in your low distraction environment, it’s time to increase the criteria by moving to a slightly more distracting environment. Such as around the front of your house and close to home. When you move up in criteria you will need to increase your rate of reinforcement. Check out my video for a method of increasing the criteria in your loose lead walking training.

Make sure your treats are motivating to your dog, especially once you are working in more distracting environments. Also make sure your walks feels fun and engaging. You can do this by interacting with your dog, letting them know they are doing a good job and giving them plenty of time to do the things they like too, such as regular sniff breaks.

If you want any help with loose lead walking training with your dog either get in touch via email or book in for a phone consultation on my website.

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