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Training Your Dog to Walk on a Loose Leash

One of the biggest pain points for dog owners is a dog that doesn’t walk properly on a leash. A dog that pulls on a leash can be a minor inconvenience to downright dangerous. Leash manners are something all dogs (and owners) should understand.

I recently had that honor of appearing on Home & Family on the Hallmark Channel to discuss the basics of leash training.

Leash Training Tips

Use these leash training tips to change your dog’s walking habits. Remember to keep training sessions short and be patient. Do not use any punishment and only focus on rewarding desirable behavior.

Don’t Use a Retractable Leash

While retractable leashes can appear as an attractive option for dog owners, they do not work when it comes to training your dog to walk properly on a leash. More importantly, they do not fulfill the intended purpose of a leash, which is safety.

Your leash is a safety tool. It prevents them from running into the street, meeting an aggressive dog, or getting into danger.

Instead, use a fixed-length leash. I usually use a 5-6 foot leash. However, if you have a smaller dog, or if you are exceptionally tall, you may need a longer leash. My go-to leash and collar are from Atlas Pet Company.

The Perfect Collar and Leash For Your Dog

Use an Easy-Walk Harness

To take your walks to a new level, incorporate an Easy Walk Harness into your training and walks. I LOVE the Easy Walk Harness. If you don’t have one – get one!

When you get your harness make sure you attach the harness and collar to the leash. All three should be connected. This way, when your dog pulls on the leash, the harness and collar will naturally redirect your dog back to you.

Which Side Should You Walk Your Dog On?

Either side works. However, pick a side and stick with it. I prefer walking my dog, Callie, on the left side. Once you pick your side, we’re ready to start the training process.

Tire Your Dog Out

The first step is to tire your dog out before you put a leash on. A tired dog is a happy dog, and a tired dog will be less likely to display undesirable behavior.

If your dog will fetch, that is a great way to get your dog some exercise before you begin training. If your dog isn’t prone to fetching, then a simple play session will usually do the trick.

The other benefit of this step is that it will bond you closer with your dog and hopefully increase the amount of attention your dog gives you! A dog who wants to pay attention to you is easier to train. 😉

Start Leash Training Inside

Most dog owners want to start training their dog to walk on a leash outside because, obviously, that’s where they walk their dog. However, by starting the training inside you lower the number of distractions your dog faces and see better progress in a less amount of time.

  1. Simply put your dog on a leash inside your home. Remove all toys and distractions.
  2. When your dog is by your side, the leash is loose, and your dog is looking at you, say “good,” and then reward them with a food reward.
    that they only get for being on good on a leash.
  3. Take one step forward. If your dog doesn’t pull and stays on your side, say “good” and reward with food.

Continue these steps and add your own variations until your dog is walking calmly with you on a leash around your house.

Once you have success here, (in a few days for most dog parents) you are ready to go outside!

My 3 Pillars to a Better Dog

Leash Training Outside

Once you take your dog outside, repeat the training you started indoors. This time, however, be even more exciting to your dog.

If you are interesting and exciting, it is more likely your dog will pay attention to you than other dogs, animals, cars, or people they meet on their walks.

If you start your training outside and find that your dog is too distracted, then take a step back to indoor training and give it a few more days.

During this training period, try to get your dog exercise through play and fetch, rather than walks. If you must walk your dog, incorporate the training as much as possible. View these walks not as exercise for you and your dog, rather, view them as training sessions. If you put in the work now you can have a dog that doesn’t pull and walks nicely on a leash for years to come.

how to train your dog to walk on a loose leash

Look for that “J” shape in the leash. That is a sign of a dog walking on a loose leash and something that should be rewarded by you with food and praise!