A final tip to help you with loose-leash training your dog is about helping your dog to walk in a specific spot.
Dawn Jecs, dog trainer and owner of Choose To Heel in Puyallup, Washington, teaches dogs to walk in a certain spot in relation to the handler. When they’re in that spot, the leash is loose. “I teach the dog where I want it to walk,” Dawn says.
Before Dawn starts training leash walking, she first teaches the dog to go to an area ahead at her left side, about 18 inches out and 18 inches ahead. This is close enough to hand the dog a treat reward or snap the leash on or off, yet far enough away that it’s not underfoot. When the dog goes to that place, Dawn praises and gives it a treat, then ends the exercise.
Dawn repeats this, without walking forward, until the dog easily goes to that rewarded spot. She teaches with the same cue she uses for walking: “Let’s go.” When the dog hears that cue, it immediately moves into position.
Then Dawn starts leash training. “For a dog to learn to walk on a loose leash, it must get practice and success with the leash loose the whole time and not get to the end of the leash,” she says. “To accomplish this, Dawn praises and rewards the dog while it’s still in the area by her side, before it can tighten the leash.”
“Every three steps, reward the dog with verbal praise and treat it while it’s in the position it’s learning and the leash is loose,” Dawn says. “Then release the dog and start over. Each time, before walking, say, ‘Let’s go,’ and reward the dog for going into position.”
A Final Word
Pick one of the methods we discussed that works best for you. Try it out for two to three weeks. You should start to see improvement right away and fairly steady progress, but you may hit a plateau where your dog stops improving for several days. If this happens, give one of the other methods a try. Some dogs respond better when several different positive techniques are used.
A puppy with polite leash skills is a joy to walk. Instead of dreading walks, you’ll look forward to them. Your arm won’t hurt, your pup won’t wheeze, and when people see you walking together, they’ll admire your puppy’s good manners.