Trainer explains easy method to stop your dog pulling on leash
It doesn’t matter if your dog is big or small, pulling on the leash can make the walk quite uncomfortable. I teach every dog that I walk to not pull on leash by focusing on reinforcing the behaviours I do want.
Using this formula:
Here’s how you can train your dog to walk without pulling on leash / on loose leash:
Prevent the unwanted behaviour
Exert some of your dogs physical energy before going for a leash walk. Play fetch at home. Drive to somewhere you can let your dog off leash (or with long line attached) for a run and sniff before going for a leash walk. Go for sniff walks, use a long line and let your dog sniff to his hearts content. Sniff walks are very enriching and relaxing for dogs.
Mental and physical stimulation before leaving the house. Get your dog engaged and focused on you. Practise your training before going out the front door. Prevent revving your dog up with heaps of excitement before a walk if you would like him to walk nicely on leash. Help him relax and focus on you.
Replace - decide what behaviour you want to replace the undesired behaviour
Loose leash walking is actually multiple behaviours proofed with different distractions and in different environments. Some helpful behaviours to start loose leash walking:
- Focus / look at me
- Let’s go
- Walking close to me (choose you’d like your dog to walk - thats the reward zone)
Reinforce - practise reinforcing the replacement behaviour in specific, short training sessions
Choose one of the behaviours above to train.
Practise at home. In less distracting environments.
E.g. Walk close to me
First you need to decide where you would like your dog to walk in relation to you.
This is called the reward zone. In this example I have chosen anywhere on my right hand side. The dog could be a bit behind or in front of me but anywhere close to me on my right is my reward zone.
In quiet room or area with few distractions
Dog on or off leash
Slowly walk around the area changing direction often.
Mark (click or “yes”) any time your dog is in your chosen reward zone(my right hand side).
Immediately deliver a treat by popping it on the floor / ground by your shoe.
Pause for a moment while your dog eats the treat
Carry on walking around slowly, changing direction often.
Continue to reinforce your dog for any moments they walk in the reward zone
By clicking or saying “yes” once and feeding a treat by your shoe.
Practise in short and sweet sessions. 2 minutes is great to begin with!
When you are at home your dog might find his normal breakfast and dinner food reinforcing enough to use as treats but when you go out and about you will want to have high value food rewards. Something your dog loves and will really work for. Use a variety of treats to keep them interesting and of high value to your dog.
Practise out and about too
Take treats on the walk
Use a verbal marker like “yes” or your clicker as an audible event marker.
Mark desirable behaviour by using your marker “yes” or click once (as the behaviour is occurring) and immediately feed your dog a treat.
Use a high rate of reinforcement.
Click and treat anytime your dog is walking on a loose leash / in the reward zone. Feed the treat on the ground and slowly keep walking.
The more you positively reinforce the behaviour of walking in the reward zone the more your dog will choose to walk there.
To have successful and reliable loose leash walking with your dog it will take consistency, patience and positivity. Foundation behaviours to train for lovely loose leash walking:
- focus / look at me
- Lets go
- Walking close to me / in the reward zone
- Leave it
- Auto sit
- Calm focus around distractions and in different environments
These are foundation behaviours that make up a reliable, lovely loose leash walk with your dog. This is the foundation. The next step is to help your dog be able to do these behaviours around distractions and in different environments.
Your dog being calm and confident out and about is a big part of successful loose leash walking as well. If your dog is nervous, fearful or perhaps lacking some self control. I suggest finding a professional dog trainer that uses positive reinforcement to help you and your dog achieve your goals together. The time you invest into training now will pay off throughout your entire life with your dog. Pulling on leash can be so unpleasant and teaching your dog to walk nicely on leash makes your walks so much easier and more enjoyable.
You can find a list of professional dog trainers around NZ here.
Have fun practising. Remember to break down your goal behaviour - Loose leash walking - into small, easy to achieve steps for your dog.
Article written by Samantha Jackson - Howlistic Help www.howlistichelp.com