Loose Lead Walking

For more training advice we recommend : The Dog Training and Advice Group who have kindly provided the information below.

There are several methods shown below, some written and some visual. Choose a method you feel will work for your dog. Remember to keep your training sessions very short and fun. Several two minute training sessions through the day will be much more beneficial than one long one. No walk at all will be better than one where your dog pulls some of the time, so for now if you can, drive to somewhere where your dog can have a good run around until he has his new walking skills.

We recommend a harness with a y-shaped front and two points of attachment, chest and back, with a double-ended lead. This will turn your dog comfortably if he does pull, without causing any pain or damage to the neck.

Teaching a puppy to walk on a lead – Sally Bradbury

To be done well in advance of taking a puppy out on lead.

At his meal times, walk around the house and the garden holding his food bowl and give him his food one piece at a time from your other hand any time he is there beside you. This is without a lead. Continue to do this until he understands the game and follows you about or walks with you for the whole of his meal.

Meanwhile use some yummy treats and sit on the floor and touch his collar give him a treat, repeat, repeat, repeat. Put a finger under his collar, give him a treat, let go of collar repeat, repeat, repeat. Hold collar longer, give a treat, let go of collar, repeat, repeat, repeat. Hold collar, attach lead give treat, hold collar, take lead off give treat, you get the picture.

Now, next mealtime, attach lead to collar, which he is now fine about, tuck your end in your belt loop and do as you did before walking around the house and garden feeding as you go. Voila! Puppy walking on a loose lead.


Loose Lead Walking by Jo Maisey

Why do dogs pull on the lead?

Dogs enjoy running about and exploring the outside world, usually at a faster pace than we walk. Dogs pull on the lead because we are slow and boring and pulling seems to get them where they want to go, which is usually somewhere more exciting! Some breeds, such as sighthounds and arctic breeds are more prone to pulling than other breeds, but all can be trained to walk nicely on a lead. When you allow your dog to pull, she learns that pulling gets her where she wants to go, so pulling is rewarded! It often becomes an ingrained habit. Physically holding a dog back seems to invoke an oppositional, reflexive, pull response. Therefore the harder you pull on the lead, the more your dog will pull against you and she may well get frustrated.

Why should I train my dog to walk on a loose lead?

A dog who has been trained to walk on a lead without pulling is a delight to walk. People are much happier to walk a dog who has been well trained and as a result, the dog often gets more walks and goes to more places with their owners. Training a dog to walk on a loose lead can help teach your dog to give you attention and control her impulses in the presence of other dogs or other animals that she may like to chase. A dog that has been trained to respond well to the lead can easily be removed from any potentially stressful situations. A dog that pulls on the lead can be a cause of frustration and embarrassment for the person on the other end of the lead. Sometimes this can lead to a situation where an owner is unable to walk their dog at all, which means that the dog does not get enough exercise or stimulation. This can give rise to an ever increasing cycle of frustration for both the owner and the dog, plus the dog is likely to develop some sort of behaviour problems connected with lack of exercise and stimulation. Pulling on the lead when it’s attached to a collar is physically uncomfortable for a dog and can impair breathing, circulation and cooling.

How do I achieve loose lead walking?

The lead is an important management and training tool and keeps your dog safe. It should always be loose unless you need to prevent her getting into trouble. Extending leads are generally not a good tool to use as they are too bulky and not very easy to use if you need to get your dog back to you quickly, plus by their very nature, there is always pressure on the lead. Having a play session with your dog before going for a walk may help to release any excess energy and frustration, therefore making walking calmly with you that bit easier. Unless you are going to compete in obedience you can teach your dog to walk on either side of you. You’ll need to think of on lead walks as training games rather than exercise while training is on-going. Keep the sessions short (around five minutes at a time) so she can concentrate and not get bored. Until she is good at walking without pulling, it may be an idea to drive her to somewhere she can go off lead for her exercise. We are looking for it to become more fun and rewarding to walk on a loose lead than it is to pull on the lead. You can lay good foundations for on lead walking by starting without a lead. Start off in the garden where there are little in the way of distractions. Every time your dog chooses to place herself by your left leg (or right leg if that’s the side you choose to walk her), click and treat. Take a pace away, then when she places herself next to you again, click and treat. Repeat several times. Once she is choosing to place herself there regularly, you can add a spoken cue when she does so. The word(s) you choose are not important, but should always be the same to avoid confusion. You could use ‘heel’, ‘close’ or ‘let’s go’ for instance. Once you have built a really good foundation that being by your side is a good place to be, you can add the lead and start to walk. Start with your dog in place by your heel, and then take one pace forward. You dog should follow you, so click and treat. Then take two paces forward. Click and treat if she comes with you and does not pull on the lead. The take three paces forward… and so on until you have built duration up around 50 paces. At this point if your dog is doing well, you can start to build the duration in larger increments before clicking and treating and jump to increasing by around five paces each time. If at any time your dog starts to lose concentration or begins to pull, then you will need to start from the beginning again at one pace. You should aim to keep preparations for going for a walk calm and low key. If your dog is bouncing around before you even leave the house, then this behaviour is likely to continue when you go out of the door. If she is bouncing around when you pick up her lead, simply put the lead down again until she is calm. Repeat if necessary until she remains calm while you pick up the lead and attach it. She will soon learn that she needs to be calm if she wants to go out for a walk. You don’t need to click and treat this as her reward will be that she gets to go for a walk. You can also pick her lead up several times a day, but then go and do something else. This will teach her that just because you have picked up the lead; it does not always result in going for a walk. This should result in her not becoming over excited every time you pick her lead up. You need to have a large supply of treats ready for when you leave the house, either in a pocket or a treat bag where they are easily accessible. Before moving off, you need to have your dog in the correct position by your left (or right) leg. Reward her for being there by a click and treat. If she doesn’t put herself in the right position even when you wait for her to do so, you can drop a treat by your left (or right) heel. The lead and clicker should be in the hand on the opposite side to your dog. You can then use the hand nearest your dog to deliver the treat. You want to deliver the treat so that your dog stays in the correct position to doubly reinforce it, so your hand should be near your trouser seam and at your dog’s head height. Using the other hand to deliver the treat may result in your dog coming across in front of you in anticipation of receiving the treat. You need to start off in a place with few distractions and build up gradually into busier and more exciting places. You can try several changes of direction and a change of pace to keep your dog interested and focused on you. Try varying your treats so that sometimes they are really tasty and other times they are less so, such as kibble. This will keep her interest as this time it may be something really good! Training is supposed to be fun for all involved and should always end on a positive note. Tools that can HelpWhile you are training your dog to walk on a loose lead, it may be of use to use some sort of tool so that she can still get exercise without being rewarded for pulling. I find using a flat collar, harness and double ended training lead (sometimes called a police lead) a good combination that manages pulling without being painful for either your dog or you! There are various types of collars, harnesses and leads, and also headcollars. There are pros and cons for all of them and what will suit one dog may not suit another.


If your dog really isn’t paying attention to you while out on a walk, she may be finding the distractions too great or may be overstimulated. If so, you could try:

  • Increasing the value of the treats you are using. Something that she finds irresistible and doesn’t get at any other time.
  • Going back to a quieter environment to work on her loose lead walking and gradually build up to a more distracting environment.
  • You may be building the duration by too large an increment. Try going back a few stages and building increments one pace at a time.
  • Walking her before she is fed so that she is feeling hungry and more interested in the treats.


Loose lead walking : Equipment, leaving the house safely and using environmental rewards by Sadie Edmondson

One of the most common dog behaviour problems I am asked to help with is pulling on lead.In the first part of this two-part series I will discuss the kindest and most useful equipment to use while training your dog and how to leave the house in a controlled and safe manner.Not only does pulling on the lead create stress for both you and your dog and make you less likely to want to spend time outdoors with them but, if they are wearing any type of collar or lead around their neck, the pressure can lead to serious health problems such as hypothyroidism, sight problems and even collapsed trachea.It is well worth putting in the time and effort to train your dog, using force-free methods, to walk nicely on the lead.

Firstly, you must consider the equipment you are using to walk them. No special collars or harnesses should ever be used as a permanent solution, but you may need one as an aid while you train your dog with positive reinforcement (rewards).Aversive equipment (anything that is designed to reduce pulling by tightening or being otherwise painful or unpleasant) like choke, prong, shock collars or harnesses that tighten may create physical problems such as those mentioned above and are well documented to create fallout such as increased anxiety and aggression. It is essential that we consider our dog’s happiness and comfort with the equipment they are wearing so that we avoid creating more behaviour problems.

Over the last couple of years the use of head collars has become increasingly popular. These collars can cause the dog considerable stress and anxiety. They naturally find them aversive as they control some movement of the head, often preventing the dog from showing calming signals and normal body language. The dog has to find other ways to signal his need for space if he is unsure about an approaching dog or person. They can create reactive (aggressive) dogs. They should never be used with a retractable lead or long line. They should only ever be used with a fixed-length lead but may still damage a dog’s neck if they suddenly jerk their head or pull. Retractable (or “flexi”) leads are also inadvisable as the dog gets used to the constant pressure and it can teach them to pull.The equipment that I have found gives you the control you need while beginning this training, as well as making sure that your dog is comfortable and happy is a well-fitted, front-attaching body harness.I have used and would recommend the ‘Mekuti balance harness’, ‘Xtra dog fleece walking harness’ and the ‘Dog games perfect fit harness’, all available online. Used with a double ended lead, these harnesses work almost like a head collar, but controlling the whole body so it does not cause the dog to feel stressed and restrained. When the dog pulls ahead, the pressure is on the front piece of the harness (that spreads the pressure across their shoulders, avoiding the delicate neck area) so it gently guides them back round to you. The front clip also avoids the problem of “oppositional reflex” – the dog’s natural instinct to push into pressure, not pull away from it – that you get with collars , slip leads or harnesses with a clip only on the back.When introducing the harness to your dog make sure that you use lots of treats to keep them still while you fit and adjust it, do not physically restrain them if you can help it.So, now your dog is kitted out in a comfortable, well-fitting harness and double ended (clip on both ends) or fixed-length lead, you are ready to start the training.

Helix Fairweather’s Polite Walking

HELP! My dog … pulls! by Bina Lunzer

Getting your dog to love his harness / collar / lead By Emily Larlham

For more training advice we recommend : The Dog Training and Advice Group