Walking your pup is a great shared physical activity that offers significant health benefits for both pet and owner. Dog walkers may even live longer. However, if your pooch is constantly dragging you down the street or jerking you in various directions, your stroll may be anything but pleasant. Allowing the leash to tighten while walking gives your dog the opportunity to pull you along.
There are many factors that contribute to this canine behavior, but often it’s due to excitement or being stimulated by the environment.
If your pooch is straining at the leash, you can train it to relax and walk politely at your side by consistently practicing loose leash exercises. Here are two techniques you can use — and several rules to keep in mind — to help your pup master the perfect loose leash strut.
What you’ll need for training:
- A flat or headcollar
- A six-foot, nonretractable leash
What Is Loose Leash Walking?
This training style means your pup walks politely at your left side, slightly in front or in back of you. The goal is for the leash to remain slack at all times. It’s imperative to teach your pooch to walk courteously on a leash to maintain safety. If it doesn’t learn this skill, your dog could suddenly yank you in another direction or excitedly jump on a child or other person, causing injury.
Leash training can be introduced to dogs of any age, from 8-week-old puppies to full-grown adult dogs. Consistency is key, and each training session should last only five to 10 minutes. Be sure to always end every session with playtime — you want to use positive training and reinforcement methods. Rewards for good leash manners can include treats, food, praise and getting to play with a favorite toy.
Techniques for Training Your Dog to the Leash
Practice these loose-leash training exercises with your dog to encourage relaxing walks:
Off-leash work — In your yard or another fenced area, begin by walking around while ignoring your dog. Then say your pup’s name in an excited voice and once it arrives at your side, reward it with a small treat. Continue to walk and speak to your dog in an upbeat voice, encouraging it to stay at your side. After every couple of steps, reward your pooch with a treat.
Once you’ve taken about 10 to 15 steps, ignore your canine once again and let it go back to frolicking around the yard. After a few minutes, repeat the process. By practicing this off-leash technique, your pup will eventually associate positive reinforcement with walking by your side.
When out on a walk — With your dog on a six-foot, nonretractable leash and a well-stocked treat pouch at the ready, give your dog a cue to start moving forward with you. Say “let’s go” or a similar command and begin walking. If your furry friend starts pulling at the leash, stop and take a few steps back while saying its name in an upbeat voice. Reward your pup when it returns to your side. By doing so, you stop the dog from moving in the forward direction and allow the leash to become slack. Move forward again and if your canine maneuvers with you, reward it every three to four steps. If the leash tightens, stop to avoid reinforcing the dog’s pulling behavior and repeat the above steps.
By practicing this method, your pooch will likely learn that it must not yank the leash if it wants to press forward. In order for this technique to work, pet owners must do it every time their dog pulls.
Remember that your job doesn’t end when your dog begins to get the hang of walking on a leash. Here are some loose leash rules to follow during your walks:
- Give a command — Choose a word or phrase that lets your hound know the behavior that is expected when you head out for a walk. Phrases such as “let’s go” or “with me” work well.
- Be present — Put your mobile device and headphones away and be in the moment with your dog, at least during the training period. Walking is your special time to bond. Focus on your pup’s behavior and communicate frequently to stay connected. Talking to your canine can also encourage it to frequently check in with you.
- Don’t keep the leash taut — It’s impossible for your pooch to learn how to walk on a loose leash if you keep it taut. Try not to take up the slack that your dog creates, and always avoid yanking the leash.
- Carry rewards — Don’t underestimate the power of treats. They keep your dog’s attention during training. Even when your pup begins exhibiting polite leash etiquette, continue to reward positive behavior. Also, try to get into the habit of rewarding your dog with a treat while in motion.
The goal is for your dog to tread happily and respectfully at your side, so both pet and owner can enjoy a pleasant walk together. Practicing these exercises several times a week and keeping these rules in mind can help your pooch master the daily stroll.
Author bio: Stephanie N. Blahut is Director of Digital Marketing and Technology for Figo Pet Insurance. Figo is committed to helping pets and their families enjoy their lives together by fusing innovative technology — the first-of-its-kind Figo Pet Cloud — and the industry’s best pet insurance plans.