Teaching a dog to walk nicely on a loose leash tends to be one of the more difficult skills to train. While many other behaviors we ask our dog to do such as sit and down are naturally in their behavior repertoire, walking nicely next to us is not. This is because there are several variables that all tie into this behavior. Our dogs must speed up when we dog, slow down when we do, stay on one side of our body, take turns when we do, and stop when we do all while staying within 4-6 feet of us. Teaching this concept takes patience, persistence, and practice. The below tips are sure to get you started on the right track!
Who’s side are you on? Determine what side you want your dog to walk on. If you want to compete in sports with your dog in the future, you may want to train a nice tight loose leash walk or heel on your left side as this is required for many dog sports. Asking our dog to maintain walking on one side of us will allow us to build reinforcement history next to us. This will then cause our dog to want to stay close to that side as that is where all of the good stuff happens.
Are you paying me what I’m worth? What type of treats you use with your dog can lend a hand to helping you both be successful. Small, soft, stinky treats are easy for our dogs to chew and swallow without breaking the rhythm of our walk. Crunchy dry treats are likely to leave a mess and typically are not as exciting for your dog to work for. Our favorites are of course the Inspire Dog Training Treats. Dependent on the environment you are working in, you may need to use something even more high value or enticing for your dog. Consider peanut butter on a spoon, cut up string cheese, or broiled hot dogs if you are working in a particularly distracting environment. Use a treat pouch to store your treats for quick access on longer walks.
Does this outfit make me look cute? Function over looks is more important when it comes to walking gear. If we want to teach our dogs to walk nicely next to us, we need to use a flat leash that stays at a fixed length. Flexi leashes that extend out further can be difficult to manage and apply constant pressure on the dog. By starting with fixed length leash, you’ll be able to communicate the criteria much better to your dog; “stay close to me and don’t let the leash get tight.” What you attach your leash to is just as important. A flat collar or harness are best to start your training on. If you have a dog that tends to pull strongly, using a front clip harness like the Balance Harness ®can help you gain more control of your dog while you work to teach them to walk nicely.
Now that you have the right equipment and have decided what side to walk your dog on, give this training game a try!
Stay in the Sweet Spot!
· With your dog on your left or right side ask them to sit right next to you. Mark and reinforce them five times in position.
· Give them a release cue and throw a little party. This could be just praise and petting, a quick game of tug, or a short toss of a tennis ball.
· Ask your dog to get into LLW position again. Mark and reinforce five more times in position. Give the release cue and throw another party for your dog.
Repeat the above steps for five minutes.
What you’ll notice is that your dog is likely to offer getting into the LLW position (or the Sweet Spot) as that is where all of the magic is happening. If your dog hasn’t picked up on this, let the session soak in a bit, and repeat the steps again over the next three days or until your dog thinks that being in the Sweet Spot is the Best THING ever!
Use this on your walks! If your dog gets out in front of you while on your next walk, cue them to get in the Sweet Spot before proceeding forward.
While this game wont teach your dog to walk nicely overnight, it is a great game to add to your tool box! Looking for more LLW resources? Check out our YouTube Playlist here!
Want a little more support? Join Our Facebook Group where you can ask training questions and get advice!