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All about Loose Leash Training

At A Glance

Loose leash training is a popular training method used by positive-reinforcement advocates. It’s meant to teach your dog not to pull on its leash while out on walks without giving stern commands.

Instead, it involves slowly encouraging your dog to walk alongside you by giving treats each step of the way.

Last Updated on: Jun 13, 2022

Walking your dog can quickly become a tiresome chore if it’s constantly pulling on its leash. Many first-time dog owners make the mistake of thinking that dogs are innately accustomed to walking on a leash. Unfortunately, the truth is that it will take some time and training to develop good leash behavior.

Dogs have spent their entire evolutionary history as free-roaming animals and must be taught to walk beside humans on a leash. This is where loose leash training a puppy comes in. Teaching a dog to walk politely on its leash isn’t difficult. But it could take some time and consistency on your part.

To help speed things up and boost your chances of success, here’s everything you need to know about loose leash training.

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Dog walking on a loose leash with a man

What Is Loose Leash Training?

When your dog pulls on its leash, it’s easy to think that a choke collar or scolding it would be more than enough to get it to walk beside you.

Unfortunately, these methods don’t address the underlying issue: the dog creates negative associations with the person who is giving it food, water, and attention every day.

Furthermore, using negative methods to make sure it’s well-behaved during walks doesn’t guarantee it will walk by your side. In fact, studies have shown that these training tactics may lead to aggression in dogs over time.

Loose leash training a puppy relies on teaching your dog the desired action through positive reinforcement. If a dog is trained on a loose leash, it’s inclined to stay by your side whenever you go out.

A puppy starting on a loose leash training

When to Start?

The best time to start loose leash training is when your dog is still young. Pups are more responsive to training commands and are less likely to become distracted by their environment. In addition, pups tend to be less fearful than older dogs. Similarly, they are more eager to learn new things – including how to walk politely on a leash.

If your dog is older, worry not! You should still be able to train it to behave well on the leash. Some studies suggest that older dogs are easier to train. However, you may run into problems if your older dog has developed a fear of leashes or prefers to walk around without them.

Start by identifying your dog’s bad habits and ensuring it knows what you expect of it. Then, reward it for good behavior using a tasty treat or verbal praise.

Finally, continue practicing regularly until your dog gets the hang of it.

Husky sitting

How Long Does It Take?

Loose leash training can take around 4 to 6 weeks. The timeline largely depends on consistency and your dog’s preferences, as well as how often you practice. Some dogs are naturally inclined to learn, while others might be more stubborn.

We recommend walking your dog on a loose leash regularly for around 3 to 5 minutes, 2 to 3 times each day. In addition to walking it, you should continue offering treats and praise intermittently throughout the process.

Don’t worry if it looks like your dog is taking a long time to learn. Trust that soon, your patience and consistency will pay off.

If you train your dog diligently for more than six weeks without an observable change in its behavior, it may be time to talk to a dog behavior expert. They can help you understand how you can help your dog grow accustomed to walking politely on a leash.

Also Read: Most Common Dog Training Mistakes

How Do You Loose Leash Train a Puppy?

Loose lead training is a simple, repetitive process that only takes a few steps. Here’s how to train your puppy to walk using the loose leash training technique.

Fill Up on Treats

The first step to success is making sure you have enough motivational treats on hand. You can start by filling your pockets with treats. Make sure they’re within reach and that it’s easy enough for you to dispense the treats within a split second.

Remember, timing is everything. If you’re one second too slow, your puppy might not be able to register what you’re doing and will be confused about what you want it to do.

Choose a Side

We recommend positioning your dog opposite of your dominant side. Whether you choose to make it walk on your left or right side, it’s important to keep a few treats in that pocket so your dog can catch a whiff of its future rewards. This will give your dog more motivation to stay close to you.

It’s very important to keep these treats away from view. You don’t want your dog to become too excited or try to nip at its favorite snacks in the middle of a training session.

Hold the leash with the hand opposite your dog. Your grip shouldn’t be too loose nor too tight – a good rule of thumb to follow is that the lead should form a J-shape.

An image of a dog walking on a loose leash with its owner.

Start Walking

Now comes the tricky and tedious part – take a step forward, then stop to offer your dog a treat. Each time you do this, make sure you keep the treat in line with the seam of your pants, so your dog remains in position.

If your dog doesn’t immediately stay in the “heel” position, that’s fine too. It may take a while for it to understand what you want. Repeat this step for the entire duration of your walk.

Here are some tips to remember while carrying out this step:

  • If your dog starts looking at you and nudging you to dispense more treats, begin increasing the number of steps between each repetition.
  • When your dog starts to walk politely with its leash, you should give the activity a specific name or command, such as “walk with me,” “heel,” or “let’s go.”
  • If your dog tries to pull ahead, stop walking. You can then call it back to you or lure it in using the treats.
  • Time the treats wisely. Make sure to offer a reward only if your dog follows your instructions.
  • Once your dog becomes more accustomed to the action, you can gradually increase the number of steps you take between giving out treats. The idea is that your dog will eventually learn not to pull on its leash without expecting a treat until the end of your walk.

Release Your Dog

At the end of your walk, we recommend saying something that marks the end of it. Something as simple as saying “good job,” “all done,” or “head home” will help your dog understand that the task is over. The end of your walk is an excellent time to reward your dog with a treat.

Woman teaching its dog to sit

How about Loose Leash Walking Without Treats?

Now, you may ask, “how do you use a loose leash without giving out treats?” While the above method shows how you can train your puppy by doling out treats to encourage proper leash etiquette, there are ways to develop better behavior without treats.

The scientific training method relies on the belief that your dog is innately more intelligent than you think. While it may not have cognitive reasoning like humans do, behavioral experts suggest that dogs can understand what you’re trying to teach them if you approach it the correct way.

Unlike positive reinforcement, where you give a dog treats reward for good behavior, this technique focuses on making sure your dog understands why you want it to behave a certain way.

To apply this to loose lead training, the idea is to ignore your dog completely when it tries to pull on its leash. Once it notices you and stops, you can allow it to head where it wants to go while walking alongside you (i.e., its reward).

Over time, your puppy will be able to understand that pulling on its leash will not lead to a good result. The only way to go where it wants to is by walking politely.

5 dogs walking with a loose leash with a man

Training a new dog to walk alongside you on a leash isn’t easy, and teaching it to do so might take a lot of time. But in the end, the effort is absolutely worth it.

If you’re still struggling to train your puppy, consider consulting a professional dog trainer. They can help you develop a step-by-step training plan so your rambunctious new pup will soon politely walk beside you.

Moreover, did you know that some pups can’t follow training cues well because of underlying health conditions? You may want to consult a vet if your dog is difficult or impossible to train.

Either way, we hope this guide has helped you understand how loose leash training a puppy works. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please leave them below, and we’ll get to them as soon as possible!

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Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

Through his words, Paul aims to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a dedicated pet parent, reminding you that life is simply better with a four-legged, snorting sidekick by your side.