6 Tips to Help Your Dog Master Loose-Leash Walking
What is Loose Leash Walking, and how is different from other kinds of walks?
When it comes to talking a walk with your dog, Loose Leash Walking is a great tool to have in your kit. Whether it's pulling when they're overexcited, or running haphazardly along the sidewalk as they explore, every dog struggles with walking on leash from time to time. Learn more about Loose Leash Walks below, and remember to practice regularly.
Unlike a heel, loose leash walks are more relaxed and, well, loose! With a heel, your dog is meant to keep their attention on you as they go, and they'll aim to keep in line with the back of your leg. Heel is a great tool to use when your dog passes something that triggers them, like another dog, a bike or stroller going by, or a squirrel running away. But for times when you don't need your dog's focus, and want to feel more relaxed — loose leash walking is the move for you. It's also a very valuable behavior to master if you plan to have someone else walk your dog during the work day, or watch them when you're away.
Even though it sounds so nice and easy, loose leash walking with your dog is a skill that takes time and patience to develop, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Not only will your walks be more enjoyable, but it'll help to improve your dog's overall behavior.
Here are some tips for teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash:
1. Start with a properly fitted collar and leash.
Make sure that the collar fits snugly around your dog's neck, but not too tight. Follow the ‘two finger rule’, meaning that you can comfortably fit two fingers between your dog’s neck and the collar. A leash that is too long can be difficult to control, and potentially unsafe, so choose a leash that is appropriate for your dog's size.
Pay special attention to your dog's breed and build when picking a leash and collar. Smaller dogs might be easily injured if pulled by a collar vs a harness.
We recommend Fable’s Magic Link with a built in collar or slip lead option for practicing your walks. The Magic Leash does not have the same collar option, so it'll need to be clipped to your dog's regular collar or harness instead.
2. Practice in a controlled environment.
To set them up for success, you need to help them gain confidence and comfort to build up to more stimulating walk routes. Practice in a controlled environment. Before you head out on a walk, practice loose leash walking in a quiet, enclosed space like a hallway, at home, or a private yard space. This will allow you to focus on training your dog without distractions, and give them an opportunity to become used to training together.
If you have a new puppy that is waiting on their first vaccines, don't wait to start using the leash. This is the perfect time to practice in any indoor or outdoor private space.
For older rescues, introduce the leash slowly if they've never walked on a leash before. Try a lighter leash they can wear at home, so they get used to the feeling. They'll feel safer and prepared once you start bringing them outside and leading them.
3. Always use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior.
Whenever your dog is walking on a loose leash, be sure to acknowledge it and reward them with treats or praise. This will help them understand that walking on a loose leash is a good thing, and it’ll strengthen your bond as you two work together.
If your worried about overfeeding, cut your pup's treats into bite size pieces, or replace the treat bag with a portion of their breakfast instead. Another option is a pouch of their favorite pet-space spreadable treat, letting them get a lick for every good behavior.
4. Use a clicker or a specific word to mark the desired behavior.
Remember that repetition is key. If you want to give your dog praise, grab a pet clicker or choose a word like "Yes" or "Good" to mark the behavior. Use that same word or click every time, in the same tone and intonation. This will help your dog understand that they are doing the right thing when they hear your chosen sound.
The same sound should be used throughout all areas of training, and avoid using it in other situations around your dog.
5. Stay consistent.
It's important to be consistent with your training to help your dog understand. Don't allow them to pull on the leash one day and then correct them the next. By using repetition and being consistent, you'll be more likely to see progress in your dog's behavior, and avoid mutual frustration.
6. Patience, Patience, Patience.
Gradually increase the difficulty and be patient. Once your dog is consistently walking on a loose leash in your controlled environment, you can gradually increase the difficulty by introducing more distractions and walking in more challenging environments.
There may be setbacks as you make changes, and that’s okay! Stay patient, use positive reinforcement, and help your dog feel confident and comfortable.
Remember that you're both learning and training together. If something is new to your dog, then it's new to the two of you together.
Loose leash walking takes time and patience, but with consistent training, your dog will be a pro in no time. Not only will your walks be more enjoyable, but you'll also be helping strengthen their overall training and behavior.