Training your dog to walk on a loose leash
Teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash will eliminate leash-pulling during walks, which is safer for your dog and more enjoyable for you.
This technique is not a perfect "heel," which keeps your dog strictly by your side, but instead allows your pet room to sniff and explore as long as it leaves some slack in its leash. As you loose leash train your dog, have some tasty treats handy to reward it along the way.
Choose a Leash and Collar
You will need a 6-foot leash and a collar. If your dog is in the habit of pulling, it may be able to easily slip out of a regular flat buckle collar. In this case, a martingale collar is a good option. This collar is ideal for training a dog to walk on a loose leash. It looks like a regular flat collar but has an extra loop that pulls tight when your dog pulls. This keeps dogs from slipping out of the collar. However, the martingale collar has a stopping point and will not close too tightly the way a choke chain does.
1. Fill your pocket or treat pouch with treats.
2. Decide what side you’d like the dog to walk on, and hold a few treats on that side of your body. For example, if you’d like your dog to walk on the left side, hold treats in your left hand.
3. Hold your leash in hand opposite the dog. For example, if your dog is on your left, hold the end of the leash in your right hand. Let the rest of it hang loosely in a “J”.
4. Take a step, then stop. It’s okay if the dog doesn’t stay in “heel” position. Feed the dog some treats from your hand, in line with the seam of your pants. This will help you position the dog.
5. Repeat. Take the step, stop, feed a treat at your side, along the seam of your pants.
6. When the dog is looking eagerly up at you for more treats, take two steps instead of one before stopping and feeding the dog.
7. If the dog pulls ahead, stop walking immediately. Call your dog back to you, or use the treats in your hand to lure the dog back to your side, but don't treat her yet: take two to three steps forward before feeding. This is to prevent teaching a sequence like: “I pull ahead, I come back, I eat.” We want them to learn that walking alongside you on a loose leash makes treats happen, not pulling.
8. Gradually take more steps between each treat. You can talk to your dog to help keep her attention on you.
9. When the dog walks well on a loose leash, give this kind of walk a name. It could be “heel,” “with me,” “let’s walk,” or another word/phrase of your choice.
10. Release your dog (“all done,” “okay,” “that’ll do,” etc.) when they no longer need to walk in “heel” position.
Make It Rewarding
Once you step out of your house, you have a lot of competition for your dog's attention. You have to make staying close to you more rewarding and fun than running off to explore all the sights and smells of your neighbourhood. For this, you can use treats, praise, and a happy tone of voice.
To start, any time your dog turns and looks at you, praise it and offer a treat. This is also a good time to use a clicker if you have decided to try clicker training. When your dog's attention turns to you, click and treat. In this way, you are teaching your dog that it is rewarding to pay attention to you. You can also speak to your dog in a high, happy tone to keep its attention on you.
You may need to use a lot of treats in the beginning to get your dog's attention. Keep your hand by your side and give it treats continuously, as long as it is walking near you with some slack in the leash. As your dog gets the idea of what you expect, you can slowly phase out the treats by waiting longer between treats.
If you’re in the house or a safe, quiet off-leash area where you want to work with your dog, take a squeaky toy, ball, or cookies—anything that’ll keep your dog’s interest. Keep the leash short and make unpredictable movements—stop, start, and turn.