A leisurely stroll with your dog is one of the most rewarding activities that you can do with your four-legged friend. And we have faith that you’ll master the technique of loose leash-walking in no time!
Check out our 5 steps to train your dog how to walk on a leash.
Step 1: Mindset & Expectations
The first step in our leash-walking program is to keep a flexible mindset.
You’ll need to accept setbacks or regressions in the training program that’ll naturally occur along the way.
After all, it will take time and some degree of trial-and-error to get your dog fully trained to walk on a leash at your side.
Not only that, but you’ll have to set realistic expectations, too.
In other words, don’t expect your dog to start leash-walking like a pro after the first lesson.
Training your dog to walk on a leash takes a great deal of time, effort and patience.
So, hang in there. You got this!
Step 2: Preparation
The second step is to prepare for the lesson.
Depending on the age of your dog, you might need to get her into “training mode” before you begin.
For instance, puppies are often energized and easily distracted, whereas older dogs are more relaxed and ready to work.
If your dog hasn’t outgrown her puppy phase yet, you might want to ease her into the lesson by grabbing her attention with a tug toy or a quick game of fetch.
Then, once she’s let off some steam, you can begin the lesson. But before you start, make sure to keep track of time.
You don’t want to exhaust your dog by training over long hours. Otherwise, she could lose interest.
Instead, keep the lessons short and sweet. Ten to fifteen minutes should do.
Step 3: Homeschooling
The third step is to do a trial run of loose leash-walking at home.
By starting your lesson at home, you can lessen the number of distractions that your dog will surely encounter in the outdoors.
By the way, we recommend that you train your dog to walk on a collar clipped to a 6-foot leash.
This leash length provides ample room for your dog to walk beside you, and a collar is optimal for pulling your dog away from harmful outdoor elements, such as trash they might be tempted to pick up with their mouths.
Moreover, dispensing treats to your dog during the lesson is absolutely recommended.
Try bite-size training treats like Zuke’s to keep your dog’s calorie intake in check.
Also, offer your dog a few treats as you introduce her to the leash. Let her sniff at it and encourage her curiosity by telling her “Yes!” in a happy tone of voice.
Now that you’re ready to begin the lesson, ask your dog to sit while holding the handle on the end of the leash with one hand and a few treats with the other.
Then, face your puppy (keeping good eye contact) and back up a few paces.
As you're walking backward, encourage your pet to follow you by offering her a treat. When she complies, feed her the treat and keep pacing backward while facing her and maintaining eye contact.
This exercise teaches your dog to follow your lead and it’s crucial when you’re leash-walking outdoors.
After all, you don’t want your dog to walk you. That’ll certainly take away from the pleasure of a leisurely stroll with your dog.
Step 4: Outdoor Training
Once your dog show’s a willingness to learn, it’s time to take the lesson outside.
This is when you’ll need to apply a lot of patience and determination in perfecting your dog-walking technique.
Because the outdoors are teeming with distractions, including blaring sirens from police cars and squirrels darting up trees. Not to mention other dogs that you’ll encounter on the sidewalk during your training sessions.
Thus, the key to successfully training your dog to walk on a leash outside is to command her attention.
Let her know “where the party’s at” by distracting her from the distraction.
For instance, if she suddenly lunges at a half-eaten sandwich on the curb, gently pull her away from it, asking her in a happy voice to “come.”
Get her attention by making eye contact and brandishing the treat close to her nose.
She may prefer the half-eaten sandwich to her usual treats. But you can do something that the spoiled sandwich can’t: you can offer your dog an experience while walking with you on a leash.
Remember: dogs aim to please and many of them love to work.
If you can convince your dog that your “walk party” is the best in town, she’ll ditch the sandwich faster than you can say “good girl!”
Apply this technique to all other distractions and you’ll be loose leash-walking like a pro in no time!
Step 5: Troubleshooting & Consistency
Our fifth and final step is to stay consistent with your training program and troubleshoot your dog’s shortcomings when they occur.
After all, the fruits of your labor can easily be undone by breaking from consistency.
What’s more, you could lead your dog astray by failing to troubleshoot areas in her dog-walking technique that need improvement.
For instance, if your dog pulls on her leash to remain slightly ahead of you, and you allow this behavior, she’ll want to lead the remainder of the way, taking routes that you may or may not want her to.
This can be aggravating, especially when your dog stops and refuses to move in the direction that you’d like to go in.
To avoid this common dog-walking blunder, stand still as your dog pulls on the leash.
Then, show your back to her by turning around in a 180° motion, and begin to walk in the opposite direction. Be mindful not to pull or tug on the leash too hard, especially if your dog still refuses to move.
If this happens, “get the party started,” so to speak, by encouraging her to follow you to a more “exciting” place down the road.
If you have treats in your pocket, offer them to her. Do whatever you can to command her attention pleasantly.
You’ll soon find out that your dog values your leadership more than she values distractions.
And, finally, your ability to remain calm, patient and consistent throughout your dog’s training program will ultimately determine your success.