The goal for many dog parents is to be able to have a leisurely walk with their dog. The biggest factor when it comes to making it a leisurely walk is whether or not their dog is walking with or without pulling. It takes a lot of consistency to achieve this goal. Here are 5 ways to help teach a loose leash walk. 1. If you want to to make this goal a bit easier to achieve, one of the best things you can do is teach your dog when it’s okay to pull. Dogs are great discriminators so putting it on cue can work well. When I taught my dog, V, how to walk with a loose leash, I often started with my roller blades on and we went for a 10-15 minute run. He did most of the work and I went along for the ride. This works so well because most dogs really want to let loose and run. By giving him that chance to run, (and pull) it made the leash walking part so much easier. With the “legal” outlet in place, it naturally led to less pulling but also if there was any pulling, I was able to stop, get his attention back and then keep moving forward. It was a pretty smooth process. 2. If you’re not interested in roller blading, skateboarding or doing it on anything else with wheels, consider a game of fetch first. If your dog isn’t interested in chasing balls, you can toss a treat to your right about 10 feet away, allow them to grab the treat and when they look up you can toss it to your left 10 feet away. Doing this over and over will help empty their tank a bit. 3. High value treats can help keep your dog’s focus on you instead of the other motivators in the environment. The more frequently your dog is receiving the high value rewards, the more likely they are to pay attention to you. Consider treating every couple of steps you take and gradually adding more steps in between rewards. 4. Sometimes routines are helpful while other times they can be harmful. One example is when someone always tries to walk in the same direction and their dog starts pulling right out of the gate. Instead of attaching the leash and just going, try making the walk seem like there is no actual direction you’re going in. This means, start walking one way and then after 20-30 steps, switch directions. Doing this while paired with high value food will give your dog something to focus on besides getting to the old finish line. 5. Environmental rewards are all over the place. People, fire hydrants, other dogs and the list goes on. Try leveraging those as rewards. Meaning, the only way your dog gets to those things is with a loose leash. To do this, start walking in the direction of the reward. If the leash tightens, say, “too bad” and bring your dog back to the starting line and repeat. The more you practice this the faster your dog will catch on and eventually your dog will start doing it on the first go. Whatever you choose, just know that walking at our pace for the vast majority of dogs doesn’t come naturally. Stay patient and consistent and you’ll start to see improvements before you know it.
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