Loose leash walking is the great white whale of dog training, everyone wants to learn how to train a dog to walk on a leash… but finds it incredibly difficult to actually pull off the task! Walking calmly on a leash doesn’t need to be a Moby Dick level task, you just need the right tools at your disposal and a good teacher to steer you in the right direction.
Start With The Right Equipment
Before diving into any behavior or training aspects, it’s important to make sure you are using the correct equipment to walk your dog. Leash walking isn’t as cut and dry as it seems, and lots of people make crucial mistakes when it comes to choosing the correct equipment for their pet. In fact, these mistakes can be extremely harmful and even fatal to your pet.
When it comes to determining how to train a dog to walk on a leash, your first and foremost duty as a pet parent is to ensure that your dog’s safety is the number one priority.
Forget the pulling, forget the barking, and first worry about if your dog is as safe as possible. Is there a chance that they might slip their collar and dash into traffic? Are you using a leash that will potentially fail and end in disaster?
These are important questions that you need to ask yourself. Let’s start with keeping your dog as secure as possible when it comes to escaping their collar. We recommend using both a collar and a harness to make sure your dog is the least likely to escape. A harness with a leash attachment in the front allows you to clip your leash to both the harness and the collar at the same time.
Not only is this attachment safest for your dog, but it also helps alleviate a large portion of your dog’s pulling power. This, of course, makes walking your dog much easier! But the harness is not the only element when it comes to training your dog to walk on leash… the leash is equally as important.
As far as leashes go, your standard six foot long leash is the safest possible option for your pet. Other lengths are ok as well, but six feet allows your dog some room to move about while still providing you with good control over your pet’s movements. However, if you take anything away from this article, it should be that retractable leashes are incredibly dangerous to your pet.
If you think your reflexes are good enough to keep your dog safe, you are sorely mistaken. All it takes is two seconds of you not paying direct attention to your dog for them to end up in the street.
Let’s face it, when you’re walking your dog it’s entirely possible for your mind to wander or for you to be distracted by a text or phone call. When your dog takes off at full speed after a squirrel, you will not be able to react fast enough to keep them out of the street. It happens all the time, and it isn’t worth your dog’s life.
One final consideration when it comes to retractable leashes is your dog’s momentum. You can use a retractable leash safely away from a street, when done with caution. However, you should absolutely be aware of the danger of your dog snapping the leash if they are running full speed or have chewed the leash at all.
You should also be aware of the danger to your dog’s trachea, or windpipe, if they run at full speed and you stop them abruptly. Especially if your dog is wearing a collar, you can do real damage to an extremely important body part when it comes to making sure your dog can breathe.
Working With Your Dog, Not Against Them
Once you have addressed the very important aspect of your dog’s safety and the equipment you use, you can step up to the actual training. When you need to know how to train a dog to walk on a leash, you have to remember that you are working with your dog… not against them! You should use your dog’s commands and their training to your advantage.
If you have trained your dog on verbal commands as we recommend and demonstrate in our Dog Savvy course, you will be at an advantage to regaining your dog’s attention and keeping them focused on you. Keep your dog engaged and interested in you while walking. A dog who is looking to you is not pulling you down the street!
If you struggle with a dog who is pulling or barking at other dogs or people on leash, the same rules apply. However, they can be significantly more difficult to make progress with.
By using our Ultimate Barking Solution you can learn how to gradually build up your dog’s responsiveness to you so that you can regain their attention in any situation and stop their leash barking.
Regaining your dog’s attention can absolutely be a difficult task. For you to have success, regardless of how mild or difficult your dog’s leash walking is, you have to have your dog well trained indoors for them to be well trained outdoors.
If your dog doesn’t listen to you consistently inside, there’s no hope that they’ll pay attention to you outside with all the various sounds and smells to distract them.
Make sure that you work with your dog and train your dog. Use our training courses if you need help. When it comes down to it, you can’t have a well-behaved dog unless you are willing to put in the time to train your pet.
While your actual hands-on training time might not be incredibly long, you still need to manage your practices and make sure you are giving your dog all the correct signals to succeed!