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11 tips for loose lead walking!

 1) Know the reason! 

Why is your dog pulling is the first question to ask? Is it just because they've never walked on lead before and don't understand the process yet? Is it because they know pulling gets them to where they want to go faster? Or is it because they're frightened and are trying to get away from something? Knowing this is vital, as a dog who is nervous or fearful is not in a place to walk well on lead, they need to feel safe first before any learning can take place. 

 






2) Stand still

 So many of us pop  the collar / harness on our dogs and off we go for awell paced walk outdoors. Give your dog time to stand calmly with you, observe the world go by and actually process their environment rather than rushing from one sensory input to the next. Standing still and taking a deep breath every so often can make the world of difference.

 

3) Walk backwards

You start to walk forward and the dog rushes to the end of the lead? Sound familiar?! This is because the dog has learnt that us moving forward is their cue to shoot forward too. At some point it will have worked well lfor them or they wouldn't still be doing it. To solve this, first, teach a loose lead walk by taking steps backwards rather than forwards. And reward your dog for each step they take with you.

 

4) Create patterns

Choose 4 points in the environment, it could be objects such as trees nearby to each other, or markers you place down yourself. Walk between them with your dog on leash, and each time you get to a marker place a treat down. It doesn't matter what your dog is doing as you do this, so long as they see you put the treat down. Don't speak or call them as you do this, just smoothly walk between the points, changing direction regularly. This will help guide your dog in exploring the immediate environment rather than pulling off in every direction, and help you learn to move well together with the lead.

 

5) Change direction

If your dog does pull hard, then just say 'This way' and change the direction you are walking in. Don't pull them on the lead, just gently guide them and reward them heavily when they come with you. Direction changes can be to the left, right, or turning back toward the way you came from.

 




 


6) Reward any try!

If your dog can only take one step with a loose lead to begin with, that's fine! Reward that! If you can't get them to walk calmly for one step, you won't be getting them to walk calmly with you for 10 steps. It's ok to break it right down! Capture the moments BEFORE your dog pulls. Timing is key here! Make sure you reward your dog for any try, to begin with to avoid making it too difficult for them.

 

7) Get the fizz out first! 

If you have a young, naive and energetic dog trying to train a loose lead walk right as you set out from your front door may be setting everyone up for failure. If you want to take your dog for a nice, steady and relaxed walk but you're only just beginning your training journey then maybe try some energetic games in the garden first, or hire a secure field for your dog to do dog stuff in for half a hour before you begin your loose lead lesson. Don't forget though, after exercise and high energy activities your dog will need to calm down again before being expected to walk calmly. A simple activity such as Scatter feeding nose games can help with this and witch your dog from wild beast to being in a thinking and problem solving mode.

 

8) Treat toss

As you walk along with your dog, toss the odd treat down and say 'find it', this can encourage dogs who tend to whiz from one place to the next to slow down and sniff, exploring the environment they are in rather than running from A to B. You can add a pattern to this too, as with tip 4. E.g. 4 steps and treat toss, 2 steps treat toss, 6 steps treat toss and so on. 






9) Give the power to your dog

When on lead any tension in the line results in you, the human, stopping and standing still or changing direction. When the line is loose, you follow the dog (so long as it is safe to do so). With consistency your dog will learn that to access something they want to get to faster they need to walk at a pace which keeps the line loose.  

 

10) Be consistent

It doesn't matter if you do everything right. If you only do it once a week and your dog can pull, drag and throw themselves around you like they are a furry kite the rest of the time you're progress is going to be painfully slow. When you are loose lead walking make sure you are mindful of your part, in that you are giving kind and clear message to your dog that walking with a looe lead means they can move forward / the direction they would like to (within reason, so long as it is safe) and the tight lead means that they have to stop or change direction. If sometimes a tight lead means they get there faster and sometimes a loose lead means you drag them along anyway then it will become confusing and frustrating for them. 

 

11) Get the right equipment 

We have no need for choke, prong, electric collars or slip leads here. If your dog pulls then they should be walking on a well fitted harness such as the CosyDog Harness to prevent any injury to their throat. neck and joints. Only once your dog can walk consistently with a loose lead should you be adding any equipment to their neck. In extreme cases where the dogs weight or strength significantly outweigh their handlers you may consider training your dog to comfortably and confidently wear a head collar, this should be given training time and focus of its own though and should never just be forced onto the dog. Once your dog is in a comfortably fitting harness, then you should also find a 6ft lead. Many leads sold in commercial stores are far too short to allow dogs and their owners to walk comfortably together.

   



And most importantly remember, a loose lead walk and a heel walk are two different things. No dog should be expected to walk in a strict heel all the time that they are out and about. A loose lead can be taught in secure spaces off lead, on a long line or on a 6ft lead. But it is not essential that your dog stares up at you the whole time, whats important is that you can both walk together comfortably and contently without being uncomfortable, frustrated or in pain! 



If you're struggling with loose lead walking feel free to contact me to book a one to one on 07505000709 or via my website: www.feralhearts-horses.com 🐾

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