Begin training in a place where your dog is comfortable. There should be minimal distractions, such as your back yard, front porch or even your living room. Before taking a walk outside, it can be very helpful to exercise your dog before the walk a bit. A game of fetch or tug (or whatever activity your dog enjoys) is ideal. This way, the dog will have burned off some initial excitement/energy.
What you will need:
- One dog
- A 3-6 ft leash. Preferably a sturdy nylon or leather. Chain leashes can snap or hurt us humans and retractable leashes are not ideal for teaching loose leash walking. This is because retractable leashes work on tension and make it difficult to maintain control.
- A properly fitted collar and or training aid. Recommended collars are : flat buckle, no slide, or martingale. Recommended training tools: Easy Walk Harness(clips in front, across chest) or Gentle Leader Head Collar.
- A portion of your dog’s kibble or healthy recommended treat. This will give the opportunity to reward good behaviors, while eliminating excess calories that can pack on the pounds.
MAKE LIKE A TREE
This method is simple yet effective. Begin the walk, the moment your dog pulls, simply make like a tree. Tugging on the leash will only encourage pulling, due to the natural instinct that animals have, termed “opposition reflex”. This simply means, when tension is created on the leash, the dog instinctively will pull. Stop moving, and do not tug back on the leash. The moment your dog stops pulling, use your marker word (such as “Good! or Yes!”) and reward your dog. Repeat the process any and every time your dog does this. You may only go two steps at a time, but soon your dog will learn that any time he or she pulls, the enjoyable walk is put on hold. The less he or she pulls, the more he or she gets to walk. Always remember not to create tension on the leash. A three-foot lead may be ideal to ensure your dog does not have too much leeway.
FIND IT AND THIS WAY
This game makes walks fun! Start your walk out and have some small, healthy treats or kibble in your pockets, bait bag or training apron. Toss the food on the ground, in the direction that you are headed and tell your dog to” find it”. When the dog finds the food reward, say cheerfully “This way!” And move backwards a few steps. Reward your dog for following you from your hand. This is a two part system that allows dogs to have fun but also requires the dog to check in with its handler. Dogs really enjoy “tracking” things, so the “Find It” cue is allowing them an appropriate way to sniff and explore on cue. After, when the “This Way” cue is given, it requires the dog to check in with the handler.
All in all, a win/win way to teach a dog to walk nicely.
SIT FOR EVERYTHING
Adding a sit cue throughout a walk is one of the fastest ways to ensure the dog is checking in with their human. A dog who is constantly checking in will be a very polite leash walker. This exercise is simple and begins the moment you are about to put the leash on your dog. Bring the leash out and give the sit cue. Once your dog is sitting politely you may put on the leash. The act of putting on the leash and preparing to take the walk is the reward. Before opening the door also require a sit. Immediately upon exiting the house require a sit. This is important, because at this point your dog is now outdoors, a place where it is more difficult for your dog to focus on you. By requiring a sit, your dog is now able to check in and offer good behaviors. While on the walk stop every 5 feet at first and ask your dog to sit. When they do, be sure to use a verbal marker (“Yes!” or “Good”) and reward. As your dog catches on to what is expected on walks, you can make the times and distance you require a sit more random. You can also vary the rewards, sometimes giving one, four or none. This will keep your dog wanting to work for its reward.
Please keep in mind that your dog is learning a brand new behavior. Be patient and do not get frustrated. Thus far, they have had a lot more practice at this point offering behaviors on a walk that we don’t care for, so it may take a time to learn what us humans expect from our dogs!