There’s this common prevalent myth that if your dog walks nicely on leash then you are the leader and all behaviour problems will disappear. I don’t know WHY people believe this but they do. Loose leash walking is incredibly important to people so here’s some realities about it and how to get it!
- Whether your dog pulls on leash or not will not predict how well they behave in other situations. For example just because my dog walks well on leash doesn’t mean he’s friendly or just because my dog doesn’t walk well on leash doesn’t mean she’s not well trained in other areas.
- Loose leash walking is extremely difficult for certain dogs depending on their energy level, confidence and natural gait speed. For example I never taught my French Bulldog how to walk nicely on leash – she was naturally good at it because she was shy and liked to stay close me. On the other hand it was very hard to teach both my Australian Shepherd and Pointer to walk nicely on leash because they are friendly, outgoing and move quickly.
Now whether your dog is a natural or not most people like to have a dog that can walk well on leash. It’s an important skill in certain situations so I teach it to all my dogs.
- Teach your dog where you want them to walk. I teach my dogs to walk in heel position on my left side. However you could easily teach your dog to walk on your right side. Pick a side and teach your dog that that spot is desirable. I do this by dropping treats or toys every time they are in the heeling “zone”. My dogs realize cool things happen there and they start to hang out in that zone. I find teaching them to heel off leash first is actually easier.
- I add movement to the zone. We take a few steps and the reward falls. My dogs soon realize the zone moves with me.
- I never allow my dogs to pull me on leash. Every time they move forward when they pull they are reinforced for it. I’ll wait patiently or go the other way.
- I practice loose leash walking A LOT with hard to train dogs. This means at least 5-10 minutes every day and it can take A LONG TIME.
- I exercise my dogs off leash as much as possible so they can run, smell and burn off energy. Heeling all the time is no way to exercise my hyper boys. It does work well for my senior, small girls though.
- Having a dog that heels on leash will not fix aggression, reactivity, resource guarding, poor greeting behaviour or recall. It will however allow you to walk your dog comfortable on leash – that’s all! If you have other behaviour issues then you need to work on those issue directly.
- I do believe certain pieces of equipment can help with loose leash walking. I recommend harnesses particularly ones like the Freedom Harness or a head halter like the Gentle Leader.