Loose Leash Walking: Training Your Dog Not To Pull
The most common behavior issue that clients come to me for assistance with, in my experience as a trainer, is pulling on the leash when walking. It can seem the most difficult to grasp, yet being able to walk our dogs on a leash is a fundamental and significant skill.
No one enjoys taking a walk with a dog that constantly pulls. It’s horribly unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous. Owners of dogs commonly decide not to take their dogs on walks at all, which unwittingly contributes to exacerbating the problem. The dog becomes more excited, walks quicker, and pulls more vigorously the less often he gets to go for walks. The cycle never ends.
Any of the following variations of a dog walking on a leash are acceptable for this article, provided that there is no tension in the leash:
- Dog on the right
- Dog in front
- Dog zigzagging with his nose to the ground
- Dog on the left in the traditional “healing” position
- The ultimate goal is to walk your dog in harmony, and “checking in” is crucial to walking the kind of relationship that fosters calm walks. You can encourage your dog to constantly check in with you by checking for reinforcement of the behavior in your dog.
Suppose your dog pulls while on a leash. You should begin training him in the “check-in” behavior in an area with few distractions. Start, in other words, where your dog is most likely to look at you and succeed. Avoid starting the training when you are already walking; if your dog is excited to go for a walk, he will probably be too busy to start learning a new behavior.
Of course, there are many more reward-based methods for teaching loose-leash walking. The best results often come from combining several efficient ones. Even though it only makes up a small part of the training formula, “checking in” is an essential and beneficial component of every loose-leash walking training program.
Walking on a Loose Leash Code
Loose-leash walking has a few essentials that will make everyone enjoy the activity. If you follow these fundamental principles, you will have a greater probability of success:
– Attend! It’s worth repeating even though you’ve probably heard it before: it’s crucial to be present while walking by putting your phone away. You’re requesting your dog to control his enthusiasm for the social media he “reads” with his nose for him to feel more connected to you when you’re out for a walk. You should at least pay attention to him and be prepared to reply when he “checks in.” This is valid for times when you walk your dog with a friend. While talking with friends is fun, remember that your dog should come first, at least while being trained.
– Deliver rewards. Never undervalue the importance of a treat bag that includes at least a few delectable goodies! My dog Chili already knows how to behave when on a leash and how to check in, but guess what? I continue to bring treats with me whenever we go for a walk. Now and again, I’ll play a game of “find it” with Chili while we walk by, dispersing treats and having her search the ground for them. I maintain capturing and rewarding positive behaviors at irregular intervals.
– Let your dog go for a sniff. Few dogs walk far enough on a leash each day to get enough exercise. Humans are slowly too sluggish for it (unless you’re jogging outside with a dog, of course). However, your dog must still take a walk, as it is an essential part of their day for learning. Your dog should be permitted to follow his nose. Allow him to investigate the smells he picks up, even if it means letting him stop for a moment to look at a blade of grass.
Time to teach your dog to walk politely on a leash while keeping these essential considerations in mind by using the check-in behavior.
TIP: Trainers frequently suggest we stop moving forward when there is tension in the leash. Logically, this makes sense since stopping prevents us from reinforcing a pulling behavior. This approach is typically successful in training a dog not to pull; to move forward, he must keep the leash loose.
The check-in technique described here is another method for teaching a dog to walk on a loose leash. The emphasis is on praising any check-in behavior instead of reinforcing the dog if it pulls.
While on a walk, check your dog
In low-distraction circumstances, your dog has been offering you a check-in behavior, which you have firmly reinforced. It’s time to take the behavior on the road to increase the difficulty level by one or two notches.
Ideally, take your dog for a walk in a quiet area. I offer to take my dog on walks along quiet paths to get to know one another better. Work as hard as you can if you have no other option. Your ability to practice in a noisy part might require extra patience. Work in an area where it is more difficult for your dog to display your desired behaviors. It would help if you regularly offered him good behavior with treats. Extensive work, big reward!
Say, “Let’s go!” while holding your dog’s six-foot leash and a treat pouch full of delectable treats in readiness, giving your dog the cue to begin walking with you. Since the goal is for the leash always to be loose, follow the guidelines below to teach your dog the game times.
1. Start reinforcing your dog reinforcements right away.
Take it at the moment! When your dog is still near you, before he gets a chance to run forward and tighten the leash, say “Yes!” and offer him a treat. Instead of stretching the joy out to your dog, deliver it close to your body. Why start with a treat? As the leash was still accessible during those initial few seconds, don’t miss the goal to compliment the dog on its exemplary behavior.
2. Consider rewarding your dog as they move.
Even if it means traveling very slowly, I like to mark and provide a reward while I’m still moving. It can feel a little strange until you get acclimated to the coordination required to keep, compensate, and walk all at once. If it’s a little challenging to juggle at first, it’s OK to pause and provide the treat. But to work things in motion, you have to make forward. After all, your dog wants to move forward, so stopping constantly for treatment could make him unhappy.
3. Talk to your dog while you’re out walking
While taking your dog on a walk, talk to them using your voice. The dogs I train are likelier to cast me a sidelong glance when they hear my voice. While we are walking, I might inquire in a cheerful tone, “Where shall we go today?” Instead, if the dog has found something interesting to sniff, I can use a phrase like “Ooh, whatcha got there?” to encourage a response from the dog. If I see a tail wag or an ear flick, I’ll take it as a sign of interest and increase the volume. That frequently causes someone to look at my glance and presto! I need to reward and mark something.
If you want your dog to look at you as you go ahead, feel free to whistle or make a kissy noise. If he succeeds, mark it with a “Yes!” and reward him with a treat. Repeat often—preferably every six to ten steps—and try to stay in motion while doing so. Every time you deliver your dog a treat, tell him to “Let’s go!” so he can continue walking and sniffing.
Try creeping if you’re unclear whether you’ve produced loud noises to get his attention. If he calls you of his own, you’ll know he’s caught on. The walk is still arranged, so Mark should treat his spontaneous check-ins with respect (“Let’s go!”).
Continue training your dog.
I’ve already stated that when we walk together, I continue to give my dog treats for behaviors I reward enjoyable. She is no longer in training, but I still reward her with food or give her some words of encouragement as a thank you for checking in.
Checking in is a polite behavior comparable to what we already do when walking with a friend. While our friend speaks, we periodically turn our heads to the side to look at her. We are paying attention since we are connected. You’ll see a quick improvement in your dog’s leash-walking skills if you maintain that connection with him.
Common Leash Training Issues
In other words, your dog isn’t checking with you: The distractions may be too much for your dog, as was said in the post from last month if they were previously checking in with you inside your dog and at your front door. If you cannot practice in a quiet area, think about simplifying the task. Instead of traveling far, stay within a few yards and circle the same spot again. It will be simpler to gain your dog’s attention because he won’t find that area as fascinating anymore. As a result, you should have the chance to reinforce the desired behavior.
Your dog is pulling in front of you too quickly. When walking your dog on a leash, change your direction frequently to get him to focus more on you. While doing this, the leash should never be abruptly yanked. Teach your dog a cue to use whenever you change directions, such as “This way.” Say your line and start to slow down. Before continuing, wait for your dog to turn around and check why you stopped walking. Be patient; it can take some time. As he turns to face you, mark the check-in with a “Yes!” Then, start moving in the new direction as soon as your dog comes up to you to walk his treat. When he catches up to you, deliver him the joy and say, “Let’s go!” Repeating this exercise slowly and repeatedly is advised. Once he understands that you’re about to change directions by saying, “This way!” your dog will more readily check in with you.
Oh no, your dog is checking in way too often. Your dog has taken the check-in behavior seriously and is now walking with his head tilted and peering at you. This is a little overdone, even though we want our dogs to feel connected to us while we walk. Let’s go!” is your cue for forward motion. Say it to encourage your dog to start walking normally again. If you keep walking forward, this cue will finally indicate that no reinforcer is available.