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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.

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
 

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Remember, with any of these methods, consistency is key. And, it can help to not think of it as going for a walk, but rather as a training exercise. So if you only manage to get 50 yards, that's fine.

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…

Some 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 some 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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