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Loose-Leash Walking

Posted: 5/18/2009 | Updated: 3/3/2011

Loose-Leash Walking

With the weather warming up it is now the time that most of us start taking those long daily walks with our dog again. Even the most well-trained dog may have forgotten their proper walking etiquette if they haven’t done it for quite a few months over the winter. So, how do you teach your dog to walk nicely beside you without pulling you down the sidewalk? This can be one of the hardest things to teach a dog, even harder than potty-training as it goes against their natural urge to run when they get outside.

The key is to start teaching them in short easy to learn steps at as young of an age as possible. Most puppies are introduced into their new home at around 8 to 12 weeks of age. This is the perfect time to start teaching them about the leash. Start by letting them sniff it and get used to it so they will not be afraid when it is attached to their collar. You may want to do this over a few sessions spanning a couple of days. Be sure to continue this training inside or other area with minimal distractions. Starting outside immediately will overwhelm the puppy and make training harder.

Once the puppy is okay with the leash lying on the floor take their collar and hook the leash to it. It is important to never use a choke or pinch collar on a puppy. If they get scared just calmly sit down with them and let them get used to having it attached to them. If they are okay start walking slowly and see if they follow you. If the pup sits or lays down or doesn’t want to follow you don’t try to pull or drag them this will only cause them to fight you more or scare them of the leash altogether. Try making a clicking’or kissing sound with your mouth or patting your leg. This will usually get the puppy to follow you. If they attempt to go in your direction reward them with praise and a treat.

Continue these steps over the next few days. If the puppy is getting more comfortable with having the leash hooked to their collar and wanting to follow you when you walk gradually increase the amount of steps you are taking. As the puppy continues to follow you, you can continue to increase the distance you walk before turning around. If the pup gets distracted or is not following you be sure to make your noise and tell them 'follow me' or 'let's go'.

Once your pup can do this consistently in the house you can move to another area with very few distractions like a garage or driveway. Continue increasing the distance and duration of the sessions. Once your puppy has mastered this new area, move to the sidewalk in front of your house. Continue increasing the distance and eventually you will be walking up and down the sidewalk of your street.

Loose-Leash Walking Tips

  1. If your pup doesn’t want to walk with you try holding a piece of food or treat in front of them encouraging them to walk.
  2. If your puppy likes to pull on the lease stop and wait for them to stop pulling a give a little slack in the leash then continue walking
  3. If your puppy continues to pull change directions and give them your ‘let’s go’ cue. If you pup starts to pull again repeat. Eventually your pup will start listening to you and not charging ahead.
  4. Remember to reward your puppy often if they are walking nicely beside you. Gradually increase the distance between treats and you will decrease the amount of treats you have to use on a walk.
  5. Remember to start in a location with no distractions and gradually build up to being outside where there are tons of distractions for your dog.
  6. If your dog needs is having trouble with any of the steps go back to the previous step and start again. It is very common for puppies to need a refresher course throughout training.
  7. Be patient and happy. Getting frustrated with your dog will only hinder your training effort. Dogs don’t like to listen to us when we are frustrated any more than we like to be frustrated so have fun with training.

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