A walk in the park: leash walking tips for you and your puppy

By Joan Hunter Mayer

Walking together is one of the most basic things dogs and the people who love them do together. So we would like to share some tips to help you and your dog have an easy and enjoyable walking experience.

Why do dogs shoot?

If you have a dog that pulls, splits, or drags on a leash, it may help to walk a mile on its paws and think about why this might be happening.

For starters, keep in mind that the average dog walks at a much faster pace than the average person. Many times our dogs do a lot to accommodate us humans for a walk!

But sometimes they shoot to get closer to things that interest them – “great” smells, new places, other dogs, people to meet, creatures and the occasional stray leaves. Your dog’s traction might tell you that what he is pulling towards is more motivating than you are. Or maybe he’s hanging around to avoid leaving the desired location. Running on a leash can be a sign that your dog is getting overly excited and / or lacking in impulse control, or that he is upset about something. This is fairly normal dog behavior! It’s a lot to ask your curious dog to always maintain control of himself when facing exciting and / or unfamiliar things on a walk.

Opportunities and energy enrichment could also be at play. Appropriate activities should match your puppy’s age, overall energy, and health. Let’s say Fido relentlessly shoots people and / or animals during walks. What else could be going on? Is he trying to release the pent up energy? Are you not getting enough mental and physical exercise between walks? Lack of adequate opportunities to engage in behaviors appropriate to normal species such as sniffing and socializing?

Sometimes dogs will shoot to escape something they are afraid of or dislike. So when we try to see things from our puppy’s point of view, the question changes to, “How do I stop it?” “To” How can I help him? “

Finally, dogs can pull just because they don’t know what to do instead or because it’s just for fun!

What can you do if your dog is pulling?

Even with some idea of ​​why, dogs walking on a leash can be frustrating for us humans. A dog-loving approach to teaching free leash walking is a step in the right direction! Loose Leash Walking (LLW) means your dog walks calmly on a leash next to you while still being allowed to explore, sniff, and enjoy the sun – in the length of your leash, with a relaxed, loose body, body features. soft face, often an open mouth, without pulling, pulling or rushing.

We recommend dog walking equipment

Leash – As a certified trainer and dog mom, I’m a fan of the 4′-6 ‘flat leashes that feel comfortable in your hand. They are generally light in weight, easy to hold and to clean. Note: Make sure the leash is used as a safety line, not to control your dog; try not to pull or pull on your puppy. Holding the leash at your waist, with your arms relaxed, helps you avoid inadvertent pulling on the leash.

Harness – Using a comfortable dog harness with a front clip option for leash attachment will help reduce traction as you work to develop your dog’s LLW skills. The harness should fit your dog so that he can move around freely, not encroaching on his shoulders, but also something he cannot squeeze in and out of.

Sweets – Novelty is the key, so vary what you come up with to help your puppy stay curious and engaged with you. You can use your dog’s dry food – giving him some of his meals “on the go” – and also include a variety of higher-value treats, such as small pieces of chicken or other lean meats.

Free-leash walking training

How to teach free leash walking? One step at a time – literally! Rather than focusing on the behavior you want to stop (pulling), first determine what you want your dog to do. If you had a magic wand, what would you want? Do you want your pooch to walk happily and comfortably beside you at a pace that matches yours? Once you have this image in mind, take the time to teach the necessary skills and put them into practice. Here are our top tips:

Gradually adjust 3-D: distance, duration and distractions

Distance: Reward what you want! In this case, there is less distance between you and your dog. So, use an upbeat, encouraging voice and delicious treats to encourage your dog to stay next to you. Since position is key here, be sure to deliver the treats where you would like your dog to be – by your side with the loose leash.

Duration: Duration is something that needs to be built up slowly. It’s not fair to expect a three minute walk on a loose leash from a dog who’s only ever done it for three seconds. The key is to avoid steadily and predictably increasing duration. Mix it up and reward yourself for longer and shorter walking times on a loose leash. Creating plenty of reinforcement opportunities helps your dog stay interested and engaged. You’ll soon find that Fido is spending more time on (or near) your side, with a loose leash. Otherwise, consider moving to a less distracting area.

Distractions: Again, slow and steady wins the race. Start teaching the basics indoors, with few distractions. Next, consider moving to the back yard, then to the front, then to a familiar street, before venturing together on this busy hiking trail. Staying focused and motivated in the face of the many competing stimuli encountered during walks is difficult for dogs! So, don’t forget to start practicing in a quiet and discreet environment and be prepared to come back to that level if necessary. Add distractions one at a time, and when stepping out of your dog’s comfort zone into more distracting situations, maintain the positive reinforcement whenever you see him walking politely with a loose leash.

Building at advanced levels

With all the excitement of the outdoors, if LLW seems difficult on you and / or your curious dog, don’t worry. Instead, take a step back and consider the following:

Generalization – Dogs do not generalize this type of skill, which means that if they learn to walk on the left side in their own neighborhood, they may not know what to do when asked to walk on the left side. right side in a new location. To really hone this new skill, practice the LLW in a variety of settings, under different circumstances.


At the start of training, keep your dog motivated by rewarding him more frequently. Frequent rewards – a combination of treats, petting, play and praise – motivate dogs to stay interested, curious and engaged, rather than wandering to the end of the leash looking for something else to do . If your dog is just planting his feet or hanging around because he’s bored, that’s a signal to increase motivation. Keep in mind that when you exercise outdoors, it’s like studying for an exam at an amusement park.

Using additional cues can also help your puppy want to stay involved in training games. (More reinforcement opportunities.) If Fluffy experiences a “look at me” signal (making eye contact with you), you can report it and reward it! Initially, take every opportunity to reward Fluffy when she looks at you, whether or not you’ve reported it. As she becomes more proficient, you can strengthen intermittently. Teaching your puppy to check in with you on the go helps him remind him that you are together, which strengthens the bond you share. To get the most out of your walks together, release the love!

Use real rewards

Do you have a good idea of ​​what your dog wants to do the most on a walk? Sniff every tree and fire hydrant for minutes? Watch the cars go by? Rather than being challenged by these behaviors, you can use your surroundings as a source of real rewards! All you do is wait a few seconds for the behavior you like (a loose leash), then you can free your puppy to claim the reward – a Sniffari, stopping to watch, etc.

If this is okay with you in certain circumstances and you can do it safely, use the greetings as reinforcement! First ask your dog to do something like “look at me” or “sit”. Instead of a piece of chicken, the reward is luring you over to friends to say “hello!” (Remember, everyone involved, including other dogs, must consent first – you want to avoid doggy bowling!)

Or say you walk your dog on a leash in an area where he will be left off leash. Detaching the leash after a little LLW dynamite is another wonderful real life reward! As long as you use a release signal like “okay” or “free,” your curious (and intelligent) dog understands that you are freeing him from the behavior you prefer so he can do whatever he prefers.

Call on the pros

If you and your friend are struggling to behave on a leash, do your best to resolve the underlying issues. To help you harness excess energy more productively, try interactive food toys, sports, and other fun activities between walks. Even if your curious dog struggles with leash responsiveness (rushing, barking), there is still room to derive more fun and connection from your walks together. For these more difficult situations, it is advisable to contact a certified, powerless dog trainer or behavior consultant for assistance. Avoid aversive equipment for the purpose of harming your dog and your bond, creating a negative conditioned response. To learn more about this, please see our previous articles on Edhat.

So the next time you leave your dog on a leash to go on outdoor adventures together, be their hero with these pro tips that reward both pets and guardians.

The Inquisitive Canine was founded by Joan Hunter Mayer, Santa Barbara Canine Behavior Consultant and Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Joan and her team are dedicated to providing humane, pawsitive and practical solutions that address the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Let’s go to bark with the dogs, cheer on the humans and have fun!

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