Loose Leash Walking: How to Stop Pulling
Loose leash walking, or in other words, putting a stop to pulling on the leash, is by far one of the most common goals among our clients who seek dog training. This basic skill can transform frustration into adventure-filled friendship, but for some reason, it eludes many dog owners. The good news is, loose leash walking is an absolutely achievable goal if you’re willing to put in some training effort. It’s nothing difficult or complicated, it’s just about learning the techniques and practicing them consistently. We’re confident you’ll be out for a walk in the park with slack on that leash before you know it!
First, let’s dive in to the psychology behind pulling. Why do dogs pull? The most common reason is because it allows them to get where they want to go faster. It’s that simple. If you’ve allowed your dog to pull in the past, this reinforces the behavior. Previously, pulling allowed them to go where they want to go, sniff that tree, get to the car, FASTER. It worked, so they will continue to practice this behavior.
At the Lodge, our Elementary School class tackles loose leash walking among other basic obedience skills. Our trainers work with every student to help them overcome individual challenges and to find techniques that work for your specific dog using positive reinforcement training. We understand that your dog is your best friend. At Cold Nose Lodge, we never suggest any training methods that cause fear or pain to your dog. Our fear free, positive reinforcement training isn’t just a band-aid for bad behavior. It builds upon the strong bond you have with your dog, without painful methods that endanger that relationship. We won’t be able to cover the wealth of knowledge you are able to learn in a class in one blog post, but want to share a few techniques and tips to help you get started:
Here’s the bottom line: to stop pulling, you need to make not pulling more rewarding than pulling. How?
Here are two techniques:
- When your dog pulls, stop completely. Be patient until their attention is back on you. (Our Elementary School class goes into detail on ways to do this and techniques to use.) Once your dog is composed, reward them by resuming walking. You can reward them doubly with a treat! If you are laughing when imagining your dog achieving composure, we understand, but be patient, they will get there. You may only get a few steps at a time, but your dog will learn that they don’t get to go where they want to go if they pull.
- When your dog pulls, change directions. On your walk, if your dog is pulling toward something specific like an animal, a tree, the dog park, change course. Again, show them that pulling does not get them what they want.
Here are a few tips:
- Reward the behavior you want your dog to repeat. If your dog is by your side, even just for a few steps, or looks to you for direction, reward them! Praise is essential, and treats really do work at a catalyst for achieving the behavior you want to see.
- Choose which side of your body you want your dog to walk on and hold the leash with the hand that is on the opposite side of your body. The leash should cross your body. Your open hand will be the one closest to your dog. This way, it’s easy to give them treats as close to the behavior you are rewarding as possible. You don’t want to be fumbling for a treat when your dog is doing something good only to get it out when they are pulling again. There are two things that also help with this:
- A treat pouch for quick and easy access
- Clicker training so that you can communicate to your dog the exact moment when they are practicing the behavior you want them to repeat. We use clicker training in Elementary School.
- Use a Freedom No-Pull Harness. A Freedom No-Pull Harness is a great tool to help train your dog to walk nicely on a leash. Its design gives you control of the strongest point of your dog at their center of gravity so that they are no longer able to use all of their force to pull you. You can also configure it so that if your dog pulls, they will turn and face you instead of moving forward. This harness is especially helpful for large, strong dogs. Best of all, it is a kind, pain-free tool. You can read all about the harness and how to use it in another one of our blog posts here.
- Perhaps most important of all: be patient. Moving only a few steps at a time with a dog who just wants to pull can be irritating. Put in the time now to avoid this frustration later. Take it one step at a time (literally). If you are consistent, you will make progress.
Good luck on your loose leash walking journey! We know that with just a little patience and practice you can achieve slack on that leash while walking. For more detailed guidance and to iron out specific challenges when working toward your goal, take our Elementary School class. *For puppies under 6 months of age, Puppy Kindergarten is a great place to start! Call Cold Nose Lodge at (610) 965-3647 to enroll.