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This is the dream. In my dog training experience, the most in-demand behavior is loose leash walking. There are many reasons for why it is so desirable or other basic behaviors, one being that this is how most judge the success your dog training. Even if your pup can jump through hoops, sit, down, play dead, shake both paws and recall the loose leash walking is pinnacle of success in the family home setting. And it’s nice to hear about these encounters with my clients at Furbaby Pet Care!

How do you begin loose leash walking?

One of the things I like to do before commencing a walk – and to aid a little in the dog focusing on me – is running the dog through a variety of obedience commands and positions for about 2-5 minutes prior to leaving What this does is it creates the behavioral pattern of “if you work for me you will get paid (generously)!”

After you have the dog’s focus, we can now advance to the type of equipment we can use before heading on our walk, because after we have the dog’s focus as well putting on whatever tool we are going to use will be easier.

Types of equipment to try

First, we can try a harness. A harness has a lot of benefits especially for smaller dogs who can receive severe tracheal damage from little pressure. And for large dogs, we can use a front clip harness, that attaching the leash to the front chest area that pulls the dog to the side when it wants to tug forward. A little caution with this harness option, with extended us of the from clip harness it can cause spinal damage from the consistent off center pulling.

Next option is a flat basic collar. This is for dogs that will respond well to a little pressure and are not trying to pull with everything they have regardless of your attempts to redirect it.

The third option is a slip lead. This provides a little more control over dogs with more stubborn habits. It has a tightening mechanism that typically will make a dog stop pulling with all its might.

Last resort suggestions

These next two are of last resort and are options that I recommend for people who do not have the physical strength to hold their dog using any of the aforementioned options. The first is a head and nasal harness that will tighten around the nose when pulled. This option provides even further control while also providing a method to close their mouth if your dog has a tendency to bite. The last option is a prong collar. This is only required if your dog is stronger than you and is able to pull you down the street. It provides negative feed back when the dog pulls and pokes the dog to encourage them to stop pulling.

Why are you walking in the first place?

Now after you have decided on the suitable equipment, we are ready for the walk! Depending on the purpose of the walk there will be slightly different alterations. If the purpose of the walk is to simply exercise then there will be no sniffing unless we expressly say so (will touch on why later). And if we are on the walk so the dog can do his/her business, then we will still be giving the dog permission to go but still on our terms (aside: can start teaching a “go potty” command with this).

For exercise we are just going to walking and we are going to be in control over the speed and trajectory of the walk. The first method we are going to use as soon as the dog starts pulling is the start and stop method. This is plain and simple, if the dog is pulling, you stop moving until that leash is loose again or the dog acknowledges you and also relieves tension on the leash.

This next technique can be used in conjunction with the technique previously mentioned. You can offer light corrections for when your dog is trying to interact with the environment and sniffing. The reason we will do that is because when the dog is sniffing he/she is now walking you, they are going where they choose. So, just a quick tug on the leash and returning it to neutral so the dog understands very quickly what is ok and what isn’t. We want to make the distinction between right and wrong very easy to discern for our dogs.

Continuing with different movement and leash techniques, this next one is a form of punishment but not a clear form of punishment from many people’s perspective. This technique you are going to stop and turn in the other direction if they continue to pull even after stopping and issuing the light leash correction. The reason why this is a form of punishment is because as stated in B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning, when you remove something that they want, walking forward in the direction of their choosing, it is called subtracted punishment (or negative punishment but the more colloquially understood concept is subtracted punishment). This will eventually allow the dog to understand that if he/she continues to pull in any direction we will cease to continue and we will go back where we came from.

Contact me for even more advice on loose leash walking

This is a basic introduction to loose leash walking techniques. If you have any further questions if any of these strategies don’t work feel free to reach out to me at: training@furbabysk.ca , and I should be able to answer any other question you have and be able to provide nuanced strategy for your specific issues.