Teach your dog to walk nicely on a lead

It’s usually at the top of the list of behaviours you would like to improve and there are a number of methods you can use to teach your dog loose leash walking. Here’s my favourite. It does take a lot of patience but well worth the results for both of you! 

Equipment:

Treat pouch full of a hundred small tasty treats that your dog loves and doesn’t get very often, if ever.

Clicker

New collar

New 6 ft static lead

The reason for the new collar is that the dog will associate the collar with a fun game where they gets treats. The new lead is to also associate the new no-pull behaviour with the new lead.

Training times:

Keep sessions short to keep the dogs attention.

Do 3 sessions a day of 5 minutes in length spread across the day e.g one before breakfast, one at lunchtime and one before evening meal.

Try and train before mealtimes so that the dog is hungry and therefore more interested in your tasty treats.

If during a session your dog is not showing much interest, is tired, or just not getting it, then stop and take a break.

When you start again, go back a step and work on that activity again before moving forward again.

Do not move on a stage until the dog is performing perfectly or you will rush him and he will get annoyed and so will you!

Make each session fun and clear, reward the dog after training with playtime.

Preparation:

Choose a location that is familiar with minimum distractions, such as the sitting room, or kitchen.

Put your collar and new leash for this stage so the dog is free to move around the room with you.

Stand upright

Have your treat pouch on your left hand side above your left hip (full of treats).

Hold your clicker in your right hand.

Place your right hand in front of your belly button.

Take and hold some treats in your left hand.

Place your left hand in front of your belly button – this is the ‘home’ position where your left hand should come immediately after it has delivered a treat every time.

Stage 1 – Clicker practice

1. Click the clicker and deliver a treat by the side of your left knee to the dog.

2. Return your left hand immediately to the home position.

3. Repeat this for 2 minutes and stop.

4. Play with your dog for 1 minute.

5. Resume the activity and click and deliver a treat by the side of your left knee again for another 2 minutes

Your dog must show that he is anticipating your giving him a treat by your left knee when you click before you move onto the next stage.

Stage 2   – Rotate on the spot

6. Now, rotate 90 degrees to your right, on the spot, click and treat to the same position by your left knee once.

7. Rotate 90 degrees to your right, on the spot, click and treat to the same position by your left knee once.

8. Rotate 90 degrees to your right, on the spot, click and treat to the same position by your left knee once.

9. Rotate 90 degrees to your right, on the spot, back to your original position, click and treat to the same position by your left knee once.

You may find that your dog comes round the front rather than follows your movement so continue to repeat the rotation sequence until he will follow you each time for 10 times in a row then move onto the next stage.

Stage 3 – One big step

Once the dog is following you each time consistently you can move on to this step.

10. From your standing position with clicker in right hand, treats in left hand, both hands in front of you at the home position take a big step forward.

11. Immediately click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

12. Take another step directly ahead and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

13. Take a big step to your right and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

14. Take a big step forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

Continue to take one big step at at time, clicking and delivering a treat each time to the dog on your left hand side by your knee. When your dog is following you closely on your left hand side for 10 steps in a row then you are ready to move onto the next stage.

Stage 4 – Adding steps

Now we are going to add the leash and progress the distance that your dog will stay next to you using a process called ‘300 Peck’. This just means that we are going to take it one step at a time for you and your dog. This stage in the training does require patience, concentration, space and a hungry dog so ideally you would both be in the right frame of mind to start this process. Change direction slightly between each set of steps to keep the dog interested and wondering where you are going next so that they have to stay by your left hand knee to get their treat quickly. You must not let the dog pull on the leash, or reward him for pulling, so by taking one step at a time and adding in a step the leash will remain loose. If the leash gets taught, start again from step 15.  Stop when you have completed your five minute session  even if you are only managing 3 or 4 steps before the leash is taught. Repeat this stage at the next session from the beginning until you have reached the target of 10 steps that your dog will walk next to you on the loose leash.

15. Attach the leash to the collar, hold it in your right hand with your clicker so that it crosses the front of your body to the dog on the left. Do not put your hand through the end of the leash, but loop it in your hand so that you can gather up and release more leash as required.

16. Keep your left hand always at the home position, unless it is collecting and delivering a treat to the dog by your knee.

17. Take a big step forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

18. Take two steps forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

19. Take three steps forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

20. Take four steps forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

21. Take five steps forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

22. Take six steps forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

23. Take seven steps forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

24. Take eight steps forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

25. Take nine steps forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

26. Take ten steps forward and click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

Stage 5 – Changing pace

Once your dog will follow you consistently for 10 steps you can now change the pace at which you walk. Change direction slightly between each set of steps to keep the dog interested and wondering where you are going next so that they have to stay by your left hand knee to get their treat quickly. If at any point the leash is taught, do not click and treat. Simply move onto the next steps and walk towards the dog so that the leash is slackened off, otherwise you will be pulling the dog. Once your dog can repeat the 10 step sequence flawlessly you can move onto the next stage.

27. Take one normal paced steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

28. Take three quicker paced steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

29. Take one slow step, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

30. Take two normal paced steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee

31. Take one slow steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

32. Take two quicker paced steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

Stage 6 – Increasing distance 

Now your dog is used to following you wherever you go at whatever pace for 10 steps we need to increase the distance by one step at a time. If the leash gets taught at any point, return to the 10 steps and start again. You will need a bigger space for this stage, so move from the house into your garden, or quiet outside area with minimum distractions.

33. Take 10 steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

34. Take 11 steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

35. Take 12 steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

36. Take 13 steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

37. Take 14 steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

38. Take 15 steps, click and deliver a treat to the dog on your left hand side by your knee.

Continue adding one step each time until your dog can walk 300 steps next to you on a loose leash. This may take a period of weeks for some dogs, and a lot of patience from you, but they will learn. If your dog is progressing well, change the pace slightly on the next set of steps.

Stage 6 – Adding distractions

Once your dog is walking nicely on the loose leash you can take him out of the quieter area and begin walking him on his normal routes.

39. Put on the new collar and leash, make sure you have your treat bag loaded.

40. Leave the house and click and treat between every 5 to 10 steps that you take that your dog remains at your side. He should be looking up at you every now and then in anticipation. Vary the number of steps you take before you treat to keep him guessing.

41. Take a short route to start, round the block. If he pulls, stop immediately and lure him back to your side with the treat. Start walking again one step at a time if necessary and build up the distance using the same method as Stage 4 by adding one step each time until you return home.

42. Once you can walk round the block on a loose leash you can progress to longer walks following the same step method, clicking and treating for the dog remaining by your side and the leash, loose.

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4 Comments

  1. harriet
    9th January 2018 / 6:02 pm

    Hi Sarah i have had this method recommended to me sooooo may times ….. and my dog does NOT get it!
    I’m pretty sure he came from an environment where he had never heard of a collar let alone a lead and where ‘outdoors’ just meant running loose in fields or similar ….
    He did the standing next to you fine but as soon as you made the tiniest movement to walk forwards he took off …. and in the early days I often finished up flat on the ground with him galloping off into the distance! fortunately I knew he would soon come back ….
    then he learned to pretend he was going to walk nicely for a few steps and then do the lunge forward with the same outcome (did I say he’s collie x Jack Russell so bags of brains and shedloads of determination!)
    He does now walk better – it’s a long time since I actually found myself flat on the ground or had to visit a chiropractor – but I’m not sure this method is one to be recommended to those of us who adopt adult dogs whose objective is not just to get there faster but not to be on a lead at all …. we have achieved a sort of compromise where he doesn’t pull too much and I let him off his lead as soon as we are somewhere it is safe to do so (the one bit of training he did come with was a reliable recall)
    It would be so nice if someone did know of a method for training dogs like him …. i am thinking of trying a long line and then gradually shortening it so that he gets used to the idea of being on a lead without feeling constrained and can then (hopefully] progress to a 6′ training lead and then a normal lead. Obviously we will have to practise with the long line in suitable places. I think for dogs like him the issue you are dealing with is that being on a lead removes their option of flight and they are not comfortable with this – he can also be reactive around other dogs on a lead but is confident and sociable when he meets them in offlead contexts. He certainly gets me ‘thinking outside the box’!

  2. RuffleSnuffle
    15th January 2018 / 4:26 pm

    There are a number of methods I use to help with walking on a leash. It does all depend on the dog so the methods are tailored. Have you tried teaching ‘look at me’ . If you can get your dogs attention whenever you want it that will help with walking nicely next to you. When you’re walking and they start to pull you can use the ‘look at me’ to get their attention back to you and slow them down by making them pause to get a treat.

    • Harriet Webzel
      17th April 2018 / 8:18 am

      Update – the above method of using the long line and gradually shortening it has WORKED he now walks more calmly on a lead than I would ever have believed possible. I think with dogs for whom being put on a lead is a fear trigger in itself because it removes their distance option – ex-street dogs or other fornerly free-ranging dogs – you will get nowhere until you break the fear association with being leashed. I also pay careful attention to his body language and nake sure to move him away from fear triggers or back to a safe place like my car as soon as he indicates he is worried.
      I’m glad you are feeling better that sounds like a worrying episode

      • RuffleSnuffle
        17th April 2018 / 8:23 am

        That’s fantastic news Harriet. It does patience and attention as you have said to progress slowly and work at your dog’s pace. And thank you, I am glad to be home.

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