"Loose Leash" walking

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"Loose Leash" walking

This is a discussion on "Loose Leash" walking within the Training and Behavior Stickies forums, part of the Dog Training and Behavior category; Training your dog to walk on a loose leash can be a real lesson in patience for even the most even tempered person. Personally, I ...

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Old 09-21-2009, 04:53 PM
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"Loose Leash" walking

Training your dog to walk on a loose leash can be a real lesson in patience for even the most even tempered person. Personally, I can watch my dog do just about anything “bad” and not react...including relieving himself in the house and chewing up my belongings, but let him start pulling me down the street and I quickly lose my cool. Leash manners are very important if you plan on enjoying time with your dog, and being able to safely escort him to places you need or want to go, especially if you would like to be welcomed back again. Here are some tips to help you learn to walk your dog on a loose leash.

Let’s start with the equipment. What you choose to use for your dog is going to depend on you. In this thread I am not going to recommend choke chains or prong collars because they are used to make leash corrections. Correction methods need to be used properly in order to be effective, and are very difficult to explain in a thread like this. If you feel that you need to use correction methods to leash train your dog, please get instruction from a qualified trainer. The following is a link to a website that will give you a basic rundown on the types of collars available followed by pics of some different styles of harness that are available, and a head halter
http://dogs.about.com/od/toyssupplies/tp/collarsandalternatives.htm









The first is a step in harness which I prefer over the second, standard harness, because it is very easy to put on your dog, harnesses are recommended because they don’t put pressure on the dog’s throat, but may encourage some dogs to pull. The third is a front clip/no-pull harness. It works by making the dog off-balance whenever he pulls. The fourth is a no-pull harness that tightens and inhibits the dog’s movement when he pulls. The final pic is of a head halter which works on the principle that the dog’s body will follow her head. If you decide to use a head halter, you will need to get your dog used to it before you actually use it, most of them come with instructions on how to do this. You also need to be careful when using this type of equipment because it can cause injury to your dog if you are yanking and pulling his head around. It is highly recommended that you use a double ended leash with one end attached to a harness and the other attached to the head collar or a secondary, smaller leash attached to the halter and primary leash attached to the harness, so that if the dog does lunge, his weight goes into the primary leash, not the halter.


This no-pull equipment is a tool that you can use to walk your dog when she hasn’t yet been trained to walk on a loose leash. This equipment does not magically train your dog not to pull anymore, but it can make walking your dog less frustrating for you while you work on your leash skills. You can find this equipment at most pet stores or online. Leashes are made out of all sorts of materials and thicknesses, you want to be careful to buy one that is big enough around that your hands don’t fatigue from gripping it. 4-6 feet is a good length leash and it will depend on the size of your dog (a small dog will need a bit more length for the leash to reach them on the ground). I recommend going to a pet store and looking at your options and handling them before you buy anything. Because of their bulkiness, retractable leashes are NOT recommended for leash training.

The key to successful training, of any behavior, is to set your dog, and yourself, up for success in the first place. Don't expect yourself to be a saint, full of patience if you've had a rough day at work or a disagreement with your spouse. Wait until you are calm and less likely to get frustrated. Don’t try to get your over excited dog to focus on you when he has excess energy to burn, play ball or something with him for a bit first to take the edge off. Practice leash training in a familiar place, that doesn’t have enticing sights, sounds, and smells…like inside the house or the back yard, before you expect perfect manners out in the big world. Basically, if you want your dog to learn to behave on the leash, you need to show her what you expect before you expect it of her.
Methods are explained in the next post

Last edited by fawkese1; 10-27-2013 at 04:58 PM. Reason: fixed the photos.
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Old 09-21-2009, 04:55 PM
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Remember, with any of these methods, consistency is key.

The most popular method you'll find on the web is called "be a tree"

Basically, every time the dog is about to reach the end of its leash you stand still and rigid...hands at your side (you may need to use both hands to hold the leash on a big dog however) what this teaches the dog is that him pulling makes the walk stop. Every.Single.Time. Opposition reflex is the principle that when you pull back on your dog, he pulls forward against you, it is a reflex. The same thing happens if you push against your dog, there is a good chance your dog will push back against you. This is why you see dogs pulling at the leash and choking themselves on their collars. The lesson here, do not pull back on the leash, no matter how natural that may seem just hold it until the dog reorients back to you. Then you can either continue the walk, or treat and then continue the walk…

Som' dogs get this game pretty fast, but IMO it takes an extra bit of patience since you may have to become the tree every step or two at first... and som' dogs will take several minutes to reorient to you.

That brings me to the second method...changing directions...every time the dog is about to pull you change directions...walk the complete other way. The goal of direction changing is not to jerk the dog around. That would be more of a correction. The idea is move at a pace that keeps your dog’s interest and to change directions to get the dog to focus on you. She can't be pulling you down the street and prepared for you to change direction at the same time. You want to really get her excited about you and make it game for her.

I like to say "this way" a second before the direction change. Som' people don't say anything and just change directions silently... if you want the dog to pay 100% attention to you on his own it would be preferable not to warn him of the direction change, as he will have to learn to watch you on his own, not listen for instructions.

That said, if you have a dog that is pulling hard and might get yanked if he doesn't see you changing directions...you can always start with the instruction and then fade it when the dog gets the game better. So he doesn't hurt himself.

This method I find to be less frustrating to the human (no stopping and waiting) and dog seems to pick up on it in seconds...you can always praise/treat when the dog is in the right spot but the walk itself is the real reward.

Now the third (and my favorite) method...this one works especially well with puppies and dogs that have no history yet walking on a leash.

Start in a no distraction area...don't use a leash at first ...preferably inside. If your house is a tad small (like mine) we played this game outside.

get a pocketful of treats ready (make sure the treats are out of sight) and simply walk around...if your dog follows you closely say your marker word "good" "yes" or a click if your clicker training and then toss a treat on the floor preferable far away...

As the dog is looking for the treat walk away from him...if he’s keen he will rush to catch up with you...click/treat again when he gets to your side.

Once he gets that game when he returns to you wait a second and a half or so and see if he will walk with you for a step or two... if he does click/treat....keep gradually building up the time he has to stay by your side before you reward.

as he begins to stay near you more and more you may want to think about feeding him treats at your side from you hand or for toy breeds place the food on the ground by your heel...this helps cement in the idea that "this is the spot you should be"

Once he is staying at your side reliably you can introduce the leash and start the hierarchy all over...som' dogs will not notice the leash addition and you can continue the training...som' dogs may need to back up a few steps since you have added new criteria (the leash) and he may not understand that you want the same behavior as before...at first.

Once you’re a pro inside...move outside...or move from the back yard to the front...or the front to the street...etc etc...every time you go to a more distracting location...lower your expectations...and build back up to where you were.

the goal with training it this way is the dog doesn't ever make the on leash/off leash distinction...as he never had the opportunity to pull (since you taught him to stay with you before adding the leash) you will find that the dog will focus on you and not even notice if the leash is dropped.
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Old 10-29-2009, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by fawkese1 View Post
Start in a no distraction area...don't use a leash at first ...
Thanks for the post! I would like to use your third suggestion. If I do this method what do I do in the meantime when he has to be on the leash? Should I then incorporate method 1 and/or 2 into the training. For example, when we are walking to the car or going on our walk?
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Old 10-29-2009, 01:02 PM
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Thanks for the post! I would like to use your third suggestion. If I do this method what do I do in the meantime when he has to be on the leash? Should I then incorporate method 1 and/or 2 into the training. For example, when we are walking to the car or going on our walk?
great question! you can mix up methods and use what suits you and your dog best...

for short spaces i think method 1 is best. the idea behind that is using a "life reward" moving forward is the dog's goal and he doesn't get to do that until he displays some good manners. if he gets excited about the leash being put on, have a few sessions of just making him sit patiently for that, grab the leash, if he is calm approach him or call him to you and ask for a sit so long as he remains calm, clip it on and move forward then walk to the door, if he is calm keep going, if at any moment he gets too excited, back up a step until he is calm reach for the knob, if he is calm, keep moving, if he gets excited, remove your hand and wait for him to calm down, reach again, if he remains calm open the door just a crack if he is calm keep moving forward, if he tries to dart through the door, close it, keep doing this until he remains sitting with the door open, then walk through, if he is calmly walking out, move forward, if not stop and wait for him to reorient to you when he does so, keep moving forward....

the idea of this is to teach him that he has to contain his excitment to move forward. you can just work on this w/o actually going anywhere for a while...the door thing is a good idea with or without a walk, for going outside the door or a gate or the car. this is how you teach "wait"
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Old 07-01-2010, 09:17 PM
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So I taught this to Chili and Kiwi a bit, sort of on my own because it made sense in my head...well iam thrilled to see it is a real method that has a name...This trainer calls it "silky leash". Chili is as close to perfect on a leash as I expect from a dog..which I owe to this method.... I used it from day one with him,

Kiwi, who I have struggled with LLW with, finally had begun to learn and stop pulling after starting this method recently. This is after over a year with the usual methods which all failed.

Anyway, It gives GREAT results for LLW...so here are the how to videos

silky leash

silky leash 2

Michael Ellis, another trainer I follow uses mentions this method in a few articles and videos, which is where I got the original idea... but as far as I know, doesn't give a free how to

hope you guys find these helpful
great method...

Last edited by fawkese1; 09-05-2011 at 04:44 PM. Reason: failing at fixing links/embedding video
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:31 PM
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Useful illustrations:
Loose Leash Walking- part 1 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Loose Leash Walking PART 2 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
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Old 08-04-2014, 11:36 AM
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