Updated: Feb 7
Loose leash walking can be one of the most challenging behaviors to teach your dog. Unlike behaviors such as sit or down, which our dogs perform naturally throughout the day all on their own, loose leash walking is a much different concept.
Putting sit or down on a verbal cue is easy to do through capturing, we simply wait for the dog to perform the behavior and say the verbal cue just before they complete the action. That’s not to say getting CONSISTENCY from the command, especially with distractions is easy or simple, that takes training.
For loose leash walking though, it is a set of behaviors that are ambiguous for the dog. They must speed up when we walk faster and slow down when we do. They must follow our body language to make left and right turns and stop and sit when we stop. On top of all of that, they have a set distance they can walk within which is determined by the length of your leash and where you hold it.
Are they allowed to sniff and explore, or do you expect them to maintain a heel position? A good heel walk is one of the most complicated skills a dog will learn for they are learning three separate things to do and expected to do them all while in motion. That’s why K9 Culture breaks a heel down into each of its three components for the dog first. Once he understands all three, THEN you bring them together at the end for a “finished product,” or a nice heel.
We consider loose leash walking and walking in a heel two entirely separate commands for the dog and we teach them as separate commands. The reasoning behind this is we WANT our dogs to just be able to enjoy a nice walk and not always be required to maintain a crisp heel position for that is not always fun for your dog.
Ensuring your dog understands how to walk loosely on a leash is not just about convenience for let’s admit it, no one likes to be walked BY your dog. It's no fun constantly being pulled and when that happens you tend to dread walking your dog or worse, not walk them often.
Good leash manners are also about safety. We have trained three dogs in the past year that hurt their owners when the dog pulled hard on the leash and their human was not expecting it. One broke their collar bone when they hit the curb, one broke their hip when they fell on a rock and one hurt their spine. Dogs pulling on a leash is not just annoying behavior it can be physically dangerous for you.
Allowing your dog to explore to sniff items along the walk is how your dog explores the world and not giving him a chance to do that is like taking your toddler to an ice cream shop but only letting him have a salad. Although good leash manners and maintaining a loose leash, which means no pulling, lunging or being crazy are allowed. You should BOTH enjoy your walk together!
If you dog pulls on the leash or you feel like your dog is walking you instead of you walking your dog, contact K-9 Culture Dog Training for help. We serve the entire Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex.