Taking your dog for a walk is an important part of their daily exercise routine, but that’s tough to do if your pup is constantly pulling.
Not only does pulling and poor leash behavior become frustrating for you, but it makes the walk a frustrating experience for your dog too. It can also be a safety hazard if you frequently walk your dog on busy neighborhood streets.
To help keep your dog safe and make walking a fun, rewarding experience, you can work on leash training with your dog. Read on to learn how to train your dog to walk on a leash without pulling.
Equipment You’ll Need for Leash Training
Before you start training your dog, there are a few key pieces of equipment you’ll need.
At a minimum, you’ll need a collar for your dog, but adding a harness can make teaching them to walk on a leash without pulling easier. There are a few types of harnesses that you can use, including:
- Head halters
- Front clip harnesses
- Back clip harnesses
- Dual clip harnesses
You’ll also need a 4-foot or 6-foot dog leash that’s not retractable, as well as tasty, high-value treats that your dog will be excited to work for.
Training Your Dog to Walk on a Leash
Here are some simple steps that you can follow to train your dog to walk on a leash without pulling:
1) Get Your Dog Comfortable with their Collar and Leash
Before your dog can work on walking on a leash properly, they need to feel comfortable wearing the collar, harness, and leash.
First, make sure that all of the accessories fit your dog properly, and that nothing is too tight or uncomfortable for them to wear. Your dog’s collar and harness should fit snug but not tight, and you should be able to place two fingers (but no more) underneath both while they’re wearing them.
If the collar and harness fit correctly but your dog is still uncomfortable wearing them, you’ll want to spend time on positive reinforcement training. When you put the items on your pup, give them treats. Over time, they’ll start to associate the treats with the harness and collar.
Let your dog get used to wearing the collar and harness inside the house before you take them outside.
2) Decide Which Side Your Dog Will Walk On
Before you start to train your dog, it’s important to know which side of your body you want your dog to walk on so you can keep training sessions consistent. There’s no benefit over one side or the other, so choose the side that both you and your dog seem most comfortable with.
Going forward, this will be the side that you offer your dog treats on, and you’ll need to stay consistent with this side to make training more effective.
3) Train the “Heel” Position
There are 2 types of dog walking positions: a heel position and a relaxed position.
When your dog is in a heel, they’re walking alongside you on the designated side that you chose. This position is helpful to teach first because it offers more control over your pup and can keep them safe during chaotic situations.
To train a heel, you’ll need to hold treats in the hand corresponding to the side of your body you’d like your dog to walk on. Then, hold your dog leash loosely in your opposite hand.
Take a step forward, stop, and then feed your dog a treat at your side to model the position you want them to stay in. Continue to repeat this pattern, taking a step forward, stopping, and then rewarding your pup.
As your dog gets the hang of it, start to increase the number of steps you take until you reward your dog. If they pull ahead of you at any point, stop immediately. Use the treats to lure your pup back into position, then take one or two steps forward and reward them if they step by your side.
Once your dog has mastered the movement, you can add in a command. This could be “heel,” “let’s go,” or any other command you want – as long as you’re consistent.
4) Work on a “Relaxed” Walking Position
Your dog doesn’t need to be in a “heel” position all the time, so it’s important to also train them how to walk nicely in a relaxed position without pulling. In this position, your dog can walk in front of you, as long as they aren’t pulling you forward.
To train this walk, you’ll want to choose a new command to represent the relaxed position. This could be “freedom,” “at ease,” or any other command, as long as you stick with it.
Once you have the word chosen, give your dog this cue and then start walking. Let them do whatever they want during this time, including walking around, sniffing, or even laying down in the grass. The only rule for these free dog walks is that they’re not allowed to pull.
If your dog starts to pull, stop moving immediately, then lure them back to you in the same way you taught “heel.” Once your dog is next to you, start walking again.
5) Repeat Training Often
Loose leash dog walking is a fundamental skill, and you’ll need to repeat this training often to make sure your dog understands.
The more you practice walking, the better your dog will get at switching from a “heel” to a “relaxed” position.
Troubleshooting Your Dog’s Leash Training
Because pulling is such a natural behavior for dogs, it can be tough to train a loose-leash walk. If you’re struggling during your dog training, here are a few things to remember.
Don’t Move Forward if Your Dog Pulls Ahead
If you notice your dog pull while you’re walking, regardless of what position you want them in, stop moving forward. This will be the biggest cue that you can give your pup that they’ve done something wrong. Don’t start moving again until your dog has come back to you.
Redirect Your Dog’s Attention with Treats
Dogs can easily get distracted on walks by everything from bikers to other dogs or even a squirrel running by.
If your dog is getting too distracted on your walk and starting to pull towards something, use treats as a distraction to lure them in the opposite direction.
Exercise Your Dog Before Leash Training
You may think of walking as your dog’s primary exercise, but it can be tough to train your pup if they’re full of pent-up energy.
If your dog seems frustrated or overly distracted try exercising them before your training session. This could be anything from playing fetch in the backyard to going for a short run.
Are You Ready to Leash Train Your Dog?
Walking without pulling is an important skill for your dog to learn, but leash training also takes time and patience. With enough consistency and lots of tasty treats, your dog will be a loose-leash walking expert in no time!