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Loose Leash Walking

Walking together is a very enjoyable activity for you and your dog. It's great exercise for both of you as well. But, it can be a nightmare if your dog is choking at the end of the leash and dragging you behind. The ability to walk nicely on a leash can be the difference in a dog who never sees the world beyond his back yard and one who can go anywhere!
Relationship based dog training philosophy

Belly the Black Lab on leashTerms to Know

Control Position: Control position is a manner of holding the leash (with your dog attached) that gives you the most control. When you are in control position, your dog is on your left facing the same direction. The loop of the leash is in your right hand, and your right hand is against your right hip. The excess leash is held accordion style in your left hand, giving your dog just enough leash so that it hangs loose, and your left hand is against your left hip. You may even hitch your thumbs into your waistband for more control. Holding your hands against your body instead of out in front of you gives you greater stability so that your dog doesn't pull you off your feet.

Heel: Heel is a position, not an action. In heel position, your dog is on your left facing the same direction with his head and shoulders in line with your hip. Your dog can Sit, Down, or Walk with you in this position.

Loose Leash Walking: With loose leash walking, your dog can be anywhere in relation to you as long as the leash is loose and you aren't tripping over him. That means that he can walk on either side of you, behind you, or ahead of you, but not directly in front of you - as long as he doesn't tighten the leash. He does not have to remain in Heel position. This allows him to sniff around and enjoy the walk even though he's tethered by a leash.

IMPORTANT: Work on loose leash walking in your yard before venturing out into the distraction-filled world.

Exercise I

  1. Give your dog all of the leash.
  2. Say "Let's Go" and start walking. Walk at a normal pace.
  3. The instant before your dog hits the end of the leash, repeat "Let's Go" and make a 90 degree turn to your right.
  4. Continue in this manner for a few minutes. You will essentially be walking a rectangle.

Exercise II

  1. Start in Control Position.
  2. Say "Let's Go" and start walking. Walk at a normal pace.
  3. Walk in a wide circle, circling towards your dog. It's helpful to use objects of reference to walk around, such as trees. If your yard doesn't have trees, create your own obstacles.
  4. Continue in this manner for a few minutes.

Practice these exercises for about 15 minutes a day. The first exercise gets your dog used to maintaining a loose leash. The second exercise gets him used to paying attention to you when you're walking together.

Once you and your dog are cooperating well with loose leash walking in the yard, it's time to take the show on the road. Then, it's just a matter of practicing. There are a LOT of distractions out there that can make him forget about the loose leash. Your job is to keep reminding him by keeping the leash loose. It takes two to pull on a leash. If he starts to tighten the leash, turn and walk the other way. This will remind him that 'Oh, yeah! I'm supposed to keep that loose.' Then, you can say "Let's Go" and get back on the trail.

ideaIt's helpful to start with a shorter leash at first. After he has the hang of loose leash walking, he can graduate to a 6' leash.

ideaDon't try to teach your dog loose leash walking with a flexi lead. Flexis work best for dogs who are already trained.

ideaIf your dog has trouble with people or dogs passing by, simply move to the side and have him sit until they have passed by. It avoids a scene with him lunging at the end of the leash and you desperately trying to reel him in.

ideaIf you have more than one dog, practice with one at a time at first. After they have the hang of it individually, then you can work on them together.


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