Day 10: Loose Leash Walking

As a continuation of yesterday, we’re going to discuss how to teach your dog to walk politely on a leash. There are several good ways to teach your dog to do this. I prefer to teach using Helix Fairweather’s method because it has an initial high rate of reinforcement and really breaks down the steps.

Loose Leash Walking Tips:

So the first step is to make sure the pulling is managed. It’s really hard to teach your dog something new if they are practicing old and bad behaviors. Remember old habits die hard. So make pulling impossible by using a tool we discussed yesterday.

Leashes… Use a 6 foot nylon or leather leash. DO NOT  use a flexi lead. Flexi’s are not only inconsistent with their length but they can be dangerous for many reasons. While training you want to be as consistent as possible, so stick to the basic 6 foot FIXED leash.

Holding the leash, clicker and treats can be a huge feat. So make sure you have a treat bag for your treats. Practice holding your leash by folding it in half to make a loop, place your thumb into the loop and grasp the two “tails” in your fist (do not wrap it around your wrist). Now place your clicker in your leash hand with your thumb just off to the side of the clicker button.

Holding the lead 1Holding the lead 2

Next, if you don’t want to be married to a head halter or front clip harness for the rest of your dog’s life, clip your leash to your dog’s collar. Wait didn’t you just say manage the pulling? Yep, loose leash walking is very training intense. The process is exhausting for both handler and dog. In a single session you may only travel from the front door to the sidewalk (or not even make it out of the house if pulling is severe). So train on the collar, then reward yourself and your dog by clipping into the halter/harness and go for a good walk. Always train first, the walk is a great life reward for your dog.

Loose Leash Walking Training Plan:

  1. Start facing your dog. Wait for your dog’s attention. Click and Treat. Repeat.
  2. Take a step backwards so your dog has to follow you. As your dog moves with you, click then stop and treat him. Repeat.
  3. Take a few steps backwards so your dog has to follow you farther. Again click while you’re moving together and then stop moving and treat him. Repeat.
  4. Okay, the tricky part! Decide which side you’ll want your dog on. Place your treat pouch on that side and your leash with clicker in the opposite hand. This time as you step backwards you are going to pivot so your dog ends up on your treat pouch side. It’s good to practice this step a few times without your dog, use a chair instead. Now, step backwards and pivot. As you pivot your dog will stay with you, click and treat. The treat should be delivered at the seam of your pants. Repeat.
  5. After you pivot, take a step forward. As long as your dog stays by your side, click, stop, and treat on your pant seam. Repeat. If your dog shoots ahead, sniffs the ground, etc. Freeze and wait for him to check back in. Then try again. If your dog fails 2 times in a row move back to the previous step before advancing again.
  6. Add steps after the pivot before clicking, stopping and treating. Repeat. You may start to vary the number of steps (1-3-2-3-1-2-4-1) between click/stop/treat. Varying the number of steps is encouraging to your dog so sometimes it’s easy and sometimes he’s gotta wait a bit longer. Eventually, the numbers will become much higher for example 10-4-7-3-5-12-3-9-7-2 and so on.

If you’d like to see video with a much more detailed approach I’d highly recommend Helix Fairweather’s method on Vimeo. She has a three part video that explains and demonstrates this method very well. Below each video is a description of the steps.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Great Job today! You now have the tools to teach your do where you’d like him to walk.

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