Updated: Apr 12, 2018
We've all been through it at one time or another. We are walking our dog and it soon turns into our dogs walking us. You're struggling to control your dog and all you want to do is enjoy a nice stroll with your pup. You pass your friendly neighbor from down the street and he says "So who's walking who here?" GOOD ONE. Never heard that joke before......
If that sounded all too familiar to you, then you'll love these simple, EASY steps to teaching your dog how to walk nicely on a leash.
Step 1. Be Prepared
Always, always, ALWAYS bring treats on your walk. Until your dog can walk nicely 100% of the time, you will need treats. Walking outdoors is 10x more rewarding to your dog than your attention, especially if they don't get to go out often. What you are offering has to be better than sniffing a tree that has been peed on by 50 other dogs in order to get your dogs attention.
Step 2. Decide Where You Want Your Dog to Be.
In order to teach your dog to walk loosely on the leash, you need to decide how far you want your dog to go from you and where you want them to walk. For me, I allow my dogs to go the distance of the leash and I don't care which side they walk on as long as there is no tension on the leash. You can have them walk any distance from one foot to the length of the leash, and either walk on the right or left side if that's what you prefer.
Step 3. He Pulls. You Stop.
Let's say you want your dog to walk on your right side and never have tension on the leash. Make sure to have his favorite treats in your pocket or treat pouch. Begin walking with your dog on your right side. The second there is tension on the leash, stop immediately. Do not pull him back to you, simply stop.
Step 4. Treats
After you stop, your dog should turn around to look at you to see why you stopped; reward him immediately. If your dog does not automatically turn around, call his name a single time and use a treat to lure him back to you and reward him.
Step 5. He Stops. You Go.
Once tension is released from the leash, begin walking again.
Step 6. Set Him Up for Success.
Your dog may not be able to handle every distraction on a walk yet. If you cannot get his attention whatsoever because he is too focused on a nearby distraction, he is passed his threshold (meaning he is no longer able to focus on training) and you need to distance yourself from the distraction. Calmly turn around and walk the other way.
Things to Note:
*Consistency is Key.
If you allow your dog to pull sometimes, he will always pull because he is receiving mixed signals about how he is supposed to be walking. If you are not in the mood to train him during a walk, then do not walk him. Take him to a small area to go potty and then go back inside. Even then, you will have to practice getting to the potty area unless it is close to the front door or in your backyard.
* Pulling is Self-Rewarding
If pulling gets your dog where he wants to go every time he does it (i.e. to the bush he wants to sniff or the stray cat under a car), he will keep pulling. If he only gets what he wants by walking nicely, then loose-leash walking becomes the rewarding behavior.
*Patience is a Virtue
This exercise WILL be frustrating, especially the first couple times you do it. You might only get a total of 5 feet in the span of 30 minutes. This is okay. You're dog will catch on, and he will learn to walk nicely. Just be patient with him.
*Use Real-Life Rewards
Real-life rewards include things like continuing the walk, saying hi to another dog, and sniffing a spot in the grass. Only let your dog engage in these things when he is walking nicely. This also comes in handy if your dog isn't food motivated. You can use real-life rewards to motivate him.