Our Training Tips series has provided dog owners with a solid introduction to a variety of training methods out there. First, we touched on How Dogs Learn, then we progressed into practical information about teaching tricks with clicker training. Now that we’ve laid a foundation to help you get your unruly pup in line, BestBullySticks wants you to get out there and put that knowledge to use!
The Loose Leash Walk
One of the most difficult things dog owners struggle with is being able to take their dog on a leisurely walk. All owners should train their dogs to go on a “loose leash walk.” This type of walk is simply one where the dog does not pull. There are many benefits to training your dog to do this.
First, dogs who pull exceptionally hard on the leash can injure themselves — especially if they’re not wearing a harness. Pulling on a collar can injure your dog’s trachea and neck. If your dog does pull, invest in a harness to help reduce the physical stress of walking. Retractable leashes should be avoided as well. Not only to they offer little to no control while walking, the thin cords of these leashes can injure owners when trying to wrangle their dogs! We recommend a heavy duty leash like Krebs Reggie 6’ Leash. Thick and easy to grasp, it will make loose leash training way easier!
Second, dogs who pull are generally just excited to be outside. While they might be having fun, they are unable to remain focused on their owner and if they get loose, the chances of being hit by a car or running off increase dramatically. Loose leash walking will increase your dog’s focus on you (the owner) and put you more in control.
Practice Makes Perfect
Just like with any other form of training, practice is key! Many owners don’t realize it, but if their dog pulls on the leash, chances are they have unknowingly reinforced the dog to do so. Time to break this bad habit! Make sure you’ve got your clicker ready. Don’t forget to grab some healthy training treats like our Dried Bison Liver treats.
Begin loose leash training inside or in the backyard and with as few distractions as possible. The more distractions around, the harder it is to grab your dog’s attention.
1. Leash your dog and stand still. Wait until your dog pulls and the leash goes taut
2. Once your dog moves back and releases the tension, click and offer a treat
3. Remain still and only when your dog offers eye contact, click and offer a treat
4. Once your dog begins to seek eye contact, begin tossing treats closer and closer to your right foot
5. Begin walking slowly, click and reward when your dog maintains pace with you
Achieving results with these 5 steps won’t happen overnight. So don’t get frustrated right away if you can’t get past step 2. Only advance to the next step if the previous has been mastered otherwise you run the risk of confusing your dog.
Taking the Show on the Road
Once you feel your dog has the 5 basic steps of loose leash walking down, it’s time to hit the road. A new environment will distract your dog but by remaining consistent with the previous training sessions, things will get easier.
If your dog does pull once outside, come to a dead stop once the leash becomes tense. Don’t resume the walk until the leash goes slack and your dog comes to your side. Click, offer a treat and resume the walk. During a slow walk you can even place treats at your feet to help your dog maintain an even pace. By refusing to be led by your dog, he/she will begin to understand you’re the one in charge. Before you know it, going on walks will less stressful and way more fun!