Master loose lead training and stop your dog pulling on the lead

July 21, 2021
loose lead training - dog with lead

Does your dog pull on the lead in a desperate attempt to get to something exciting? 

You might not even know why your dog is in such a frenzy to get ahead, but you do know your arms hurt, and it’s making your walks together less enjoyable. 

Your dog can learn to walk beside you with loose lead training.

All it takes is a clicker, some yummy treats and a bit of training time. 

Imagine heading out for a walk together and enjoying every second! Putting a bit of time into your loose lead walking can stop your dog pulling on the lead so you can have wonderful dog walks with your arm fully intact.

What is loose lead walking? 

Loose lead walking is when your dog walks on a slack or loose lead, which means there is no tension in the lead. Tension creates pressure which is applied to both you and your dog when they pull. It’s uncomfortable and potentially painful, particularly if you have a strong dog. 

With loose lead training, you can teach your dog to be more focused on you and to feel more relaxed on their walks too. 

Why does your dog pull on the lead? 

Without you even realising it, your dog is being rewarded for pulling on the lead every time he does it. 

Your dog is likely pulling to get to the park, another dog, a wonderfully smelly lamppost, or a person. When your dog pulls and then gets to access the thing he is pulling towards, his brain does a little happy dance, and he’s learned that his pulling results in getting to interact with the object of his desires. 

The more your dog has practised this sequence of events, the more he has learned that pulling on the lead is great!

We can teach your dog that it’s even better to stay by your side by delivering some hefty rewards for doing just that. 

How to teach loose lead walking 

To master loose lead walking, you will need: 

  • A harness
  • A 2-metre lead
  • Some delicious treats
  • A clicker

I recommend using a harness rather than a collar because it removes pressure from your dog’s neck. Your dog’s neck and throat are very sensitive, and a harness will distribute any pressure more evenly across your dog’s body. 

You will need plenty of your dog’s favourite treats so that it’s an easier choice for your dog to stay close by to receive them. 

You will use your clicker to mark when your dog stays by your side on a loose lead. If you don’t want to use a clicker, you can use a marker word such as ‘good’ or ‘yes’ instead. 

Begin your loose lead training in a low distraction environment such as your home or garden. 

All training needs to be proofed, which means that you need to practise your dog’s new skills in different environments with different levels of distraction. 

But first, we need to get your dog confidently walking by your side on a loose lead in a quiet environment, so it’s easy for your dog to learn this new skill. 

5 steps to loose lead training success

Step 1: Put your harness and lead on your dog and go to a quiet area of your home or garden.

Step 2: Walk forwards and mark with your clicker or marker word when your dog is by your side.

Step 3: Give your dog a tasty treat.

Step 4: Continue walking and repeat the sequence.

Step 5: Once your dog has mastered loose lead walking in an area with no distractions, you can slowly begin progressing your training adding in mild distractions and repeating the training sequence

What to do if your dog pulls

If your dog pulls during training, then either stop and encourage them back to your side or change direction. 

If you’ve moved onto more distracting environments and your dog is finding it challenging to remain on a loose lead, then take it back a step and choose an area that is easier for your dog. 

Watch loose lead training in action with Kikopup. 

Using high-value rewards for loose lead walking

If your dog pulls on the lead, then it is likely that they are getting massive fulfilment from accessing whatever it is they’re pulling towards. If we want to encourage your dog to stay close to you and on a loose lead, then we need something extremely enticing to capture their attention. 

You won’t need treats forever, but when you start your loose lead training, they will be critical. If it’s not rewarding to stay close, then your dog will continue pulling on the lead. 

High-value treats may include cheese, chicken, beef or fish treats. Whatever lights your dog’s eyes up and gets his tummy yearning for attention is a good choice!

You can cut your treats into bite-size pieces. A little can go a long way. 

Why is loose lead walking important? 

Loose lead walking gives your dog more freedom to explore safely. When your dog is able to walk on a loose lead, you are both more comfortable and less likely to suffer an injury. 

When a dog is pulling on the lead, they are in a state of high arousal. This can make it hard for your dog to concentrate, which means that they are more likely to overreact or put themselves in harm’s way. 

It’s vital to have your dog under control in public places, and in the UK, it is a legal requirement. If your dog is able to pull you over to other people, dogs or children, then a person could take legal action against you if they feel threatened or scared. 

Loose lead walking keeps everybody safe and crucially means that your walks together are pleasurable. 

Loose lead training classes

If you’d like some help with mastering your loose lead walking skills, then we can work together in 1-2-1 training sessions where I will coach you through the steps and troubleshoot. Or join our adult or adolescent dog training classes where loose lead training forms part of the programme. 

dog on loose lead - stop dog pulling on the lead
Alex bracken dog training Banstead Epsom Ewell Cheam Woodmanstern Coulsdon Purley Caterham Chessington Ewell

Bracken Dog Training was established in 2013 offering in person and online training for all ages of dogs.

I am a member of the PPG working towards my APDT membership and I regularly take part in various dog trainer seminars and workshops

Related Articles