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How to Teach Loose Leash Walking in 4 Steps

Author
Matt Fleming
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at
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January 12, 2024
June 27, 2023
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5 minutes
Updated By
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Expert Reviewed By:
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June 27, 2023
June 16, 2023
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5 minutes
Updated By
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Discover effective techniques for achieving loose leash walking with your dog. Learn how to teach leash manners and enjoy stress-free walks together.

There’s not much dogs love as much as a long, enjoyable walk with their human handlers, giving them a chance to sniff around and explore their world. But when your canine companion starts pulling on their leash, walking becomes more of a chore than a stroll. The best way to combat this bad habit is with loose leash dog training — teaching your dog to walk next to you without pulling. Let’s take a look at how to train your dog to walk with a loose leash and how Pettable Academy can make it easier for both the human handler and their furry best friend.

What is Loose Leash Walking?

As you travel down sidewalks and trails, your dog might tend to pull away from you, which can harm your animal and cause you undue frustration. Loose leash walking is when your pup stays by your side as you move along your path, keeping the tether between you slack. It bears similarity to the “heel” dog command, where your canine stops close to you with a word, but in movement. Even then, loose leash walking is not as strict as the heel command. When it works, loose leash walking enhances the experience for both the dog and the human.

Loose Leash Walking Supplies

To start your loose leash walking training, you’ll need a few supplies:

  • Collar or Harness — flat collar, Martingale (limited-slip), head halter, or front-clip harness
  • Four- or six-foot leash (non-retractable)
  • Training treats

How to Teach Your Dog Loose Leash Walking

Whether you’re a professional trainer or not, you can teach your dog to walk next to you with a loose leash. If you feel like you do need some professional assistance, you can choose to use online dog training courses, but if you follow these steps and exercise plenty of patience, you can train your dog in loose leash walking.

1. Start in a Controlled Environment

Before you try loose leash walking down the sidewalk, you’ll need to give your dog a calm, distraction-free setting. The easiest way to get started is to begin in a controlled environment, such as your living room or personal, fenced yard. The outdoors can be overstimulating for most dogs, so beginning training is most effective in a space where your pup can focus on learning. This makes it much easier for them to pay attention to and learn your vocal commands. Practice using the “stay” command to get started and move forward from there.

2. Use Positive Reinforcement

Let’s be honest, nobody likes to be yelled at — whether human or canine. Negative reinforcement should never be used in dog training; it can create fear, anxiety, and discomfort for your naturally lovable companion, and it is poor behavior for a human dog-lover. Positive reinforcement is the best way to ensure that your pup pays attention, learns, and even enjoys its loose leash training. Use training treats, beloved toys, and vocal praise as rewards when your companion does a good job listening and behaving.

With your dog leashed, take a step forward, and if they follow you forward without pulling, give them a reward. Feel free to reward your dog frequently at first, giving them training treats whenever they follow your lead or command. Consistent praise will also tell your pup that you are pleased with them, which is a great motivator for your canine companion.

3. Add in a Release Word

If your dog is responding well to a command such as “come,” “let’s walk,” or “with me,” then adding a release word will also be effective for training and future compliance. A release word lets your pup know that it can move about freely. Reward your dog for following this release command and it will learn the word or phrase in no time.

4. Practice in a Real-World Environment

Now that you have gotten positive results in your controlled environment, it’s time to take the loose leash training into the real world. You can use structured walking to focus on the act of moving forward with your dog by your side without stopping for distractions. Take it slowly, be patient, and gradually take your pup for longer loose leash walks — practice takes time, but loose leash walking creates a stronger bond between the human and canine.

How Long Does It Take to Leash Train a Dog?

Now that you have learned these steps, you may be wondering, “How long does it take to leash train a dog? Well, much of it depends on you and your dog, but for most, a week of practicing for 5-10 minutes each day can do the trick. Remember, patience is crucial, so if it takes a few more days of practice, don’t give up on your canine companion — dogs are smart, and they are bound to get it right.

Common Loose Leash Walking Challenges

Of course, no matter how well you train your pup, there are bound to be some challenges while learning loose leash walking. Some common obstacles include:

  • Slow walking —if your walk is too slow, your dog might get too eager to move ahead, so consider picking up the pace.
  • Walking in a straight line — instead of going forward in a straight line, practice moving in zigzags or figure-eights to keep your dog engaged.
  • Excessive distractions — when you are early in training, avoid excessive distractions like heavy traffic or too many other dogs.
  • Human frustration — training your dog can be a challenge for you as its human handler, wanting to keep a balance between trainer and best friend. Stay patient and show your pup love, and they will learn quickly and effectively.

Online Dog Training Courses - Pettable Academy

If you’re interested in getting professional assistance in loose leash training your dog, contact Pettable Academy, where our experienced and friendly professionals can be your guide. Our online training program is flexible and easy for you and your pup, and with our assistance, you’ll strengthen your bond as you learn. Begin your online training immediately — just take our online assessment to get started!

Meet the author:
Matt Fleming
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Matt is a Midwestern-based writer and devoted dog dad, living with a sweet mixed-breed pup named Robin. A life-long dog lover, he had the pleasure of growing up with several German Shepherds, a Cocker Spaniel, and a Black Labrador. He is a full-time editor, as well as a musician and poet, who loves basketball, birdwatching and listening to The Cure and Nick Cave.

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