Top Tips For Walking Nicely on a Leash

One of the most common problems people face with their dogs is pulling on the leash on walks. One of the reasons this is so difficult to address is that it is easy to undermine our own training. It takes a relatively long time for a dog to learn to walk nicely on a leash, and in the meantime, we just need to exercise our dogs. This can set up an unfortunate situation where we sometimes allow our dogs to practice the bad habit of pulling before they are fully trained not to because the alternative is to not walk them at all.

What are my top tips for getting your dog to walk nicely on a leash?

  1. Teach the dog to walk nicely on a leash inside the home before taking the skill ‘on the road’. Attach the leash to your dog, but do not hold onto it at first. Just let it drag behind your dog. Load one hand with treats. Reinforce focus on you – say “yes”, and feed a treat every time the dog looks at you.
  2. Go ahead and begin walking with your dog (you can either hold on to the leash at this point or just continue to let it drag). Reinforce following you for one step, then for two steps, then for three steps… (you can initially walk backward if it helps) It should look like: “Yes”, treat, “yes”, treat, “yes”, treat… Gradually increase the number of steps you walk forwards. Remember to practice in lots of non-distracting (quiet) environments before gradually building to busier (more distracting environments).
  3. Once the dog can follow you for ten steps with lots of praise and treats, then say “Let’s Go”, and take one step forwards with the dog at your side. Reinforce by feeding a treat straight down the side of your leg.
  4. If the dog pulls, do not walk forwards. Stop walking and wait until there is some slack on the leash and the dog refocuses on you. If they are not focusing on you, call them to you, and then reward them. With your dog standing calmly next to you, say his name and, “Let’s go” and start walking and reinforce down the side of your leg.
  5. Reward generously while your dog is first learning. The more you reinforce down the side of your leg, the more inclined the dog will be to move into and stay in this position. A high rate of reinforcement when a dog is first learning a skill is very beneficial; once they have a basic grasp of the skill changing to a “variable reward schedule” (eg, a “slot machine” approach to rewards) helps solidify the skill quickly. Rewards are not limited to food; they can be a toy, letting them sniff what they were trying to get to, etc.
  6. Engage the dog by paying full attention to the dog. Put down your phone and enjoy your walk with your dog! Talk to your dog, telling her how good she is! The more your dog views you as “fun”, the more likely they are to listen to you and focus on you. If the dog struggles to focus on you, you probably need to move to a less distracting environment, make the exercise easier, or increase the “value” of your reinforcer (treat). Communicate with your dog. Let the dog know when you are about to change direction: “This Way! Yes” -> treat. A positive interrupter, such as a ‘kissy’ noise, can also be used to get the dog’s attention.
  7. Teach nice leash walking skills, but also give the dog opportunity to investigate, take in his surroundings, and use his nose!
Does your dog embarrass you when out walking? Do other people walk the other way or cross the street when they see or hear your dog coming? 😬
Do you wish your dog walks could look more like this video, but you don’t think it’s possible?
Let me help ease the stress of walks and make them more enjoyable! 😀
Comfort Zone Critter Care offers several ways to help with problem behaviors. Let’s find the right one for you!

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