Loose leash walking is a learned behavior for our dogs and also for us. Dogs do not naturally walk at a pace as slow as ours so it’s not only asking for behavior from our dogs but also asking them to change their nature. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t train it, but that we need to look at things more from our dog’s perspective.
I said there’s one thing, but in reality, there’s 2, so let’s call it the 1 thing with a bonus 🙂
What’s the 1 thing?
If I had to pick just one thing that is ruining your dogs’ ability to walk on a loose leash it would be that you’re not starting the training in the house.
As with anything we train our dogs, we want to make it as easy as possible, and as our dog (and us too, let’s be honest) gets better at it, we can begin to increase the difficulty level.
I do go over loose leash walking in the Beginner Dog Training Series, which is a completely free course you can grab here: https://www.trainpositivedogs.com/bdts
When we start training this behavior, we want to start inside the house without a leash or harness and simply have our dog sit by our side and reward for them doing so and looking up at us. Take baby steps, ask your dog to do the same, and return to sit by your side. Continue rewarding.
During all of this training time, we don’t want to cut out walks but understand that we haven’t gotten to the point of training outside yet, so don’t expect your dog to know what to do yet. Enjoy the walk and let your dog enjoy it too. Walking nicely by your side on a leash will come, so don’t fret about it right now.
Over time, as you and your dog get better at the training, you can begin to increase the level of difficulty by taking more steps at one time, moving into different rooms of your home, adding your dog’s harness, and then adding the leash as well.
Once you feel that you and your dog are walking well loose leash style inside your home, then you can begin to work outside!
Moving outside with any training is a big step! You will oftentimes feel that you are starting from scratch, and in some ways, there is a lot of truth to this.
Dogs are very situational, so when you move outside or even to another room in the house, your dog may not understand that you are expecting the same behaviors as you did in another room or another house, etc.
Fortunately, dogs are also very quick learners, so be patient and calm with your dog.
The 2nd thing (or the bonus!)
Since it’s my blog, I can add a second thing! LOL
The 2nd thing you’re probably not doing right and is ruining your loose leash walking, and, well, everything else is that you have not made yourself the most interesting thing in your dogs’ environment.
Yes, our main goal is to be the most interesting thing in our dogs’ environment and this is how we can gain our dogs’ attention any time we need.
Positive training is great for this, but really we need to kick things up a few notches, and don’t be afraid to get wild and crazy! Interactive play is a great way to work with your dog in this way. Of course, rewards are key here too.
You should become (if you’re not already!) the source of all things good, and you should hand them out often. That’s not to say that treats should be pouring from your hands all day and all night. Rewards come in all shapes and sizes. Try petting, positive talk, playing with you, and a favorite toy. Find what your dog loves and work with it!
You’ve got this
Try these with your dog and let me know how quickly you start seeing a change. I bet you’ll find that if you put your mind to it, work on it each day and improve the relationship with your dog, loose leash walking becomes much easier!