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Loose Leash Walking Training: 5 Tips to Stop Pulling | Pupford

October 19th, 2023

Filed under Training

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Here’s the thing about walking on a leash: dogs aren’t born knowing how to do it. That’s why dogs pulling on their leash is such a common problem among pup parents and why loose leash walking can be so challenging!

But it’s really important for our dogs to learn how to properly walk on leashes – in some cases, it can be a matter of safety.

So what can we do? A lot actually! With the right technique, a little patience, and a lot of practice, you can stop your dog from pulling on the leash and master the art of loose leash walking.

If this is you, read on…

WHAT IS LOOSE LEASH WALKING?

It’s exactly what it sounds like!

Loose leash walking is when your dog walks calmly at your side, with no tension in the leash and no pulling.

Not only is it a more comfortable way for you to walk your dog, it plays a huge role in reducing leash reactivity and improving overall leash manners.

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for our 100% free online dog training class, 30 Day Perfect Pup, to improve leash behavior. Sign up here! 🐶

5 TIPS FOR LOOSE LEASH WALKING TRAINING

If you relate to that GIF, you’re not alone. And if you’re sitting here thinking “there’s no way I can get my dog to walk nicely at my side,” you’re also not alone.

But you’d also be wrong. There are ways to teach leash loose leash walking and other leash manners – here are 5 tips for doing so:

  1. Use the right tools
  2. Practice Figure 8 walking
  3. Use the Treat Drop method
  4. Reward check-ins
  5. Introduce structured walks

Let's look at each one in detail below. 👇

1. USE THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR LOOSE LEASH TRAINING

tools needed for loose leash walking

You wouldn’t start fixing a car engine without seeing if you have the necessary tools on hand, would you? The same should go for addressing your dog’s leash behavior.

Before you start loose leash training, take some time to gather everything you’ll need, including:

We do not recommend using aversive tools like prong collars or shock collars since they can cause injury, fear, and/or aggression.

The Leash Walking Course, part of Pupford Academy Plus, gives more details on tools to use, including how to hold the leash and fit a harness properly.

Once you have everything you need for a positive reinforcement approach to leash walking you'll be ready for the rest of the tips!

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for our 100% free online dog training class, 30 Day Perfect Pup, to improve leash behavior. Sign up here! 🐶

2. PRACTICE FIGURE 8 WALKING

figure 8 method for teaching dog loose leash walking

“Figure 8s” is a drill that can help with a number of leash walking issues, including pulling on the leash.

Here’s how to do the Figure 8 method:

  • Place two cones (or other markers) a few steps apart to serve as the ends of the figure 8
  • Start walking slowly, ensuring your dog is at your side and making frequent eye contact
  • Walk in a figure 8 pattern, leading your dog through the inside and outside turns with a treat to keep them at your desired side
  • Repeat, reducing the frequency of rewards until your dog is able to walk the pattern with little or no assistance

You can use Figure 8’s to teach loose leash walking, or in the moment when something distracts your dog and causes pulling. Figure 8 walks also strengthen communication and focus, two important factors for better walks!

Note: You may also hear the term “circle method,” which is similar but will have you always walking with your dog in one direction and staying on the outside of them at all times. More on the Circle Method here.

3. USE THE TREAT DROP METHOD

The Treat Drop method is another great way to keep your dog at your side and focused on you. Here’s how it works:

  • With your dog on their leash, hold a treat out in front of your dog’s nose
  • Give them the treat or drop it on the ground in front of them (whichever you prefer)
  • Take a step or two forward and repeat
  • Gradually take more and more steps between treats
  • Tip: if you notice something that is about to distract your dog, like a person walking by or another dog, get their attention and drop a treat in front of them to keep them on task

With this method, it’s the focus and attention that matters the most – not how far you can get your dog to go.

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for our 100% free online dog training class, 30 Day Perfect Pup, to improve leash behavior. Sign up here! 🐶

4. REWARD CHECK-INS

reward your dog for check ins on walks

A key component of loose leash walking is that your dog’s focus and attention are on you rather than the distractions around them.

You can build better focus through moments of eye contact known as “check-ins.”

The idea here is really simple – reward your dog for remaining near you and making eye contact during walks. Vary the length of eye contact needed to give the reward so your dog stays engaged.

Also, be sure to pair the reward with a marker like “good” or a clicker sound so your dog doesn’t always rely on a treat to signal that they are doing the right thing!

Learn all about how to teach your dog to check-in here.

5. INTRODUCE STRUCTURED WALKS

having structured walks to work on loose leash walking

Letting you in on a little secret: not all walks are created equally. Some walks are for exercise, some are for sniffing, decompression & exploration, and some are for adventure.

So what is a structured walk for?

Focus, attention, and loose leash walking.

During a structured walk, you will guide your dog to walk loosely on a leash near your side for the whole duration of the walk (with the exception of bathroom breaks, of course).

You can signal to your dog that a walk is a structured walk by staying completely focused on the walk yourself (yes, that means you have to put your phone away!) and asking for frequent eye contact. You both will work together to ignore distractions and stay on a controlled path.

Structured walks should only make up a portion of your dog’s walks! Give them plenty of opportunities to take walks that involve exploring, sniffing, and seeing new things, as they are super important for mental enrichment.

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for our 100% free online dog training class, 30 Day Perfect Pup, to improve leash behavior. Sign up here! 🐶

HOW LONG DOES LOOSE LEASH TRAINING TAKE & IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE?

Loose leash walking is certainly possible! It won’t happen overnight, but consistently putting these training tips into action will lead your dog (no pun intended) towards successful loose-leash walking.

Remember though, that you may need to change the way you approach walking. Set goals based on your dog’s attention, focus, and calmness, rather than trying to tackle a certain number of miles. Remember, an hour of leash training is an hour-long walk, even if you never leave your driveway!

As for how long loose leash training takes, it completely depends.

Some dogs are more of "velcro dogs" and just naturally love being by your side. Other pups love to explore and loose leash walking is a major challenge.

For many dogs, you can expect to work on loose leash training for anywhere from 6-18 months. It all depends on the time you put in, how consistent you are, and how quickly your dog is able to learn!

RECAP OF LOOSE LEASH WALKING TRAINING & TIPS

Teaching a puppy or dog to walk with a loose leash takes time, patience, and persistence. Here's a recap of 5 tips and techniques for loose leash training:

  1. Use the right tools
  2. Practice Figure 8 walking
  3. Use the Treat Drop method
  4. Reward check-ins
  5. Introduce structured walks

For extra help with leash training, be sure to sign up for our 100% free online dog training class, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Sign up here!

What else does your dog need help with when it comes to loose leash walking? Drop your leash manner questions in the comments below.

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for our 100% free online dog training class, 30 Day Perfect Pup, to improve leash behavior. Sign up here! 🐶

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