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Nylon webbing leash, a common style

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever seen someone who is being walked by their dog instead of the other way around?  I have.  It’s kind of funny unless you are the one getting walked (aka dragged along) by your dog.

Loose leash walking is not the traditional Heel exercise that requires your dog to be at your hip a certain way.  That will come later.  Loose leash walking allows your dog to walk ahead of you and sniff or explore as long as they don’t pull on the leash.

This exercise will be much more difficult for you if you have used a retractable leash up until this point.

The Tools You Will Need:

  • 6′ leash in nylon or leather
  • Soft Treats
  • Treat Bag (optional) or pocket full of treats

Teaching your dog to walk with a loose leash can be an exercise in patience, depending on your dog.  One of my dogs walked on a loose leash after our first practice session.  Another of my dogs still needs a refresher course occasionally, especially when the surroundings are new or very interesting (ex. an abundance of squirrels).  I’ve found that hunting breeds can be slightly more difficult to train in this behavior.

Here is how we are going to teach our dogs to consistently walk on a loose leash:

  1. Prepare your pea sized soft treats
  2. Make sure your dog’s identification tags are on its collar
  3. Put the leash on your dog
  4. While inside, begin walking with your dog
  5. When your dog pulls on the leash say “NO” and turn and walk in the opposite direction.
  6. When your dog has walked a few steps with a loose leash give him a treat.
  7. Repeat for 10 minutes every day for a week.

Ok, now your dog has the basic idea of what is expected.  Keep in mind you can practice this while you are watching your favorite TV show, listening to your MP3 player, etc.

Next we are going to take your dog out of the house.  Begin in the area directly in front of your home, even your driveway will do, depending on how well your dog has mastered loose leash walking so far and how susceptible he is to distractions.

Repeat the steps above in your driveway or on the sidewalk in front of your home.  Practice in a small area for 10 minutes every day for the next week.

Gradually, increase the distance that your dog is expected to walk on a loose leash.  Remember to give him a treat every 5-10 steps of walking successfully.

Yes, your neighbors may look at you like you have lost your mind when you are starting this exercise outside.  Don’t worry about it.  Soon, you will have a well-behaved dog able to walk calmly on a leash while they are still being pulled along behind theirs.

Remember to be patient with this exercise.  Don’t yank or jerk the leash when you turn and walk the other way. You don’t want to injure your dog with this exercise.  You simply want to teach him that he will never get where he wants to go unless he behaves the way you want him to.