Master of sciences, B.V.Sc. & A.H.
18 years experience
Dogs have to be taught to walk nicely on leash. They’re not born knowing that they shouldn’t pull ahead or lag behind. Teaching leash manners can be challenging because dogs move faster than us and are excited about exploring outdoors. Leashes constrain their natural behaviors and movements. Some dogs are determined to run around as fast as they possibly can. Other dogs want to stop, sniff and urinate on anything and everything in their paths. To teach your dog to walk without pulling, it’s critical that you never allow him to pull. If you’re inconsistent, your dog will continue to try pulling because sometimes it pays off.
How to Teach Your Dog to Walk Nicely on a Leash
You’ve probably seen dogs at shows or on TV who prance alongside their handlers, staring up with rapt attention. These dogs have received extensive training in precision heeling. It’s impressive but demanding work. Precision heeling demands constant attention from both dog and handler and is not appropriate for long periods of time, like for your daily walks around the block or to the park. Even dogs trained to heel need to learn to walk on leash without pulling when they’re not formally heeling.
You can use various methods to teach dogs to walk without pulling on leash. No single method works for all dogs. Here are some overall guidelines before we look at several methods:
Until your dog learns to walk without pulling, consider all walks training sessions. Keep training sessions frequent, short and fun for your dog.
Since loose-leash training sessions will be too short and slow to provide adequate exercise, find other ways to exercise your dog until he’s mastered loose-leash walking. In fact, you’ll succeed more quickly if you find a way to tire your dog out before taking him on a training walk. Dogs pull, in part, because they’re full of excess energy. So unless you can expend that energy, your dog will find it hard to control himself. Before you train, play fetch in a hallway or your backyard, play a vigorous game of tug, or drive your dog to the park so that he can play with his buddies.
Teaching a dog to walk without pulling requires plenty of rewards. Use highly desirable treats that your dog doesn’t get at other times. Soft treats are best so your dog can eat them quickly and continue training. Most dogs love wieners, cheese, cooked chicken or ham, small jerky treats or freeze-dried liver. Chop all treats into small peanut-sized cubes.
Walk at a quick pace. If your dog trots or runs, she’ll have fewer opportunities to catch a whiff of something enticing, and she’ll be less inclined to stop and eliminate every few steps. Additionally, you are far more interesting to your dog when you move quickly.
If you expect your dog to control herself while walking on leash, you must also expect her to control herself before you go for a walk. If she gets wildly excited as you prepare for a walk, you need to focus on that first. Walk to the door and pick up the leash. If your dog races around, barks, whines, spins or jumps up, just stand completely still. Do and say absolutely nothing until your dog calms down a bit. As soon as she has all four paws on the floor, slowly reach toward her to clip on the leash. If she starts to bounce around or jump up on you, quickly bring your hands (and the leash) back toward your body. Wait until your dog has all four paws on the floor again. Then slowly reach toward her again to attach her leash. Repeat this sequence until your dog can stand in front of you, without jumping up or running around, while you clip on her leash. This may seem like a tedious exercise at first, but if you’re consistent, your hard work will pay off. Eventually, your dog will learn to stand still while you attach her leash.
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