Getting out and walking with your dog is a great way to enjoy your day and give your dog mental stimulation, a chance to connect with their neighborhood by taking in the sights and smells, and a great activity for exercise! It is important that we are also having fun while walking- for us on the other end of the leash too! That is why loose leash walking is a critical life skill that all our dogs should learn. Watch our segment with KELOLAND Living here!
Prepare you and your pup: It is important to start out with getting the right equipment. Our favorite harness is the Freedom No Pull Harness. If you prefer a collar option to a harness, martingale, also called limited slip, collars are another great choice.
A nice leash option for dogs that are learning these skills are a six foot leash with a traffic handle option. This will allow us to keep our dogs nice and close if we are passing other people or dogs, and are great for busy areas. For teaching dogs loose leash walking, we do not recommend a retractable leash. Retractable leashes keep tension on the leash so it is harder for dogs to recognize when you don’t want them to pull since it is pulling on them all the time! A treat pouch that you can wear will also help so you don’t have to fumble with treats when you want to reward them!
Understand how they learn: Have a clear picture for what you want your loose leash walking to look like. This may be a little different for each person. Our picture is a dog that is not pulling us forward, but is able to have some leash to explore and sniff. Keep this clear picture in your mind while you are on your walk. You want to reward your dog consistently for doing what you want and interrupt what you don’t want. This is key to helping your dog understand exactly what it is you are expecting.
Plan ahead: While you are training loose leash walking, it is very helpful to get your dog’s energy levels down before the walk so they can focus on what we are teaching. A game of fetch or tug is a wonderful option to get the wiggles out!
Start out together: If during the walk your dog is near you or looks at you, praise them and give them a treat! This will teach your dog that good things happen near you, and not all around in the world, they will begin to check in with you and pay more attention to where you are, which will help them to stay close and not pull. Dogs learn very quickly what does and doesn’t work. But if you keep your training consistent, you and your dog will be well on the way to happier walks together!