When I realized what the topic for this month’s Positive Pet Training blog hop was, “Loose Leash Walking”, I had to stop and think a minute. I hadn’t really had my mind on that subject lately, and you know why? I was so pleased to realize it was because this is a training subject Luke and I have pretty well mastered!
I think it’s safe to say that every dog we’ve ever had has been a leash puller, so to finally have a dog who does not is very exciting for me! No wonder it’s been easy and enjoyable to walk almost every day now.
Disclaimer/Disclosure: I am not a trainer, but I am simply sharing some training tools that have worked for us personally. This post contains affiliate links* to products that we enjoy, and we may receive a small commission if you order through those links.
Now, I had to think: how did this happen without me even consciously realizing it, and what could I credit it to? I came up with a few ideas that I hope might help anyone who still struggles with this.
How We Trained Loose Leash Walking
Training Luke to “heel”. I won’t go into the details of how we did this in this post, but we started that process at least three years ago, and then continued to work on it more and more over time. You can read the details of how we used a clicker and treats to train Luke to heel in our post “Clicker Training – A Positive Experience “Heel” & More”.
Almost daily walks. I think because we now walk most days, it is becoming more routine and not simply exciting for Luke. He’s still excited, but he calms down and gets into his rhythm more quickly.
For a fearful dog like Luke, sticking to familiar trails and locations also keeps him calmer. The truth is, Luke and I are BOTH shy, and walking on our own trails on our land works for us. We add new trails and routes sometimes so it’s not completely stagnant and boring; and we go different directions. Our trails are in the woods, so there are new smells for Luke every day. I see Luke being so much more confident when he knows where he is. He doesn’t like it when we go a different way and I see him hesitate; so that’s why we only do that on occasion. In turn, I’M more relaxed because I don’t have to worry about running into other people I’d rather not talk to, Luke would be afraid of, or dogs who I don’t know how he’ll react to.
I know most people are more social than we are, and enjoy going different places, and being social. If you and your dog are social, I would simply suggest sticking to similar routes at first if you’re in the process of training, so there are less distractions.
I’ve been slack lately (and I’m glad I had to write this post because it reminded me), but continuing to train Luke’s commands as we go, and making sure he pays attention to me by occasionally practicing cues keeps it all fresh. I do that by stopping him for a treat and making him “watch me”, sometimes switching directions to be sure he follows and listens to me when I say “this way”; and stopping for a photo and a treat.
Letting him do what he wants within reason on a walk. A couple other bloggers suggested to me that I sometimes let Luke choose which way we go when we’re walking. I started doing that a lot, and I really think it helped to make him more confident. If he wants to stop and sniff things, I let him. If he wants to walk faster, I speed up a little too. But if I need to go a certain way because of time constraints? He’s right with me and he is very in tune with me….I sometimes think he reads my mind about which way we want to go; but I imagine he just reads my body language.
The only time we might have an issue is if he gets on the scent of something or sees wildlife and wants to pull me off the trail. Those are the times I don’t let him have his way since I don’t want to go “bushwhacking” through the woods. Getting him to pay attention to me in those situations can be challenging and I get out the treats or squeaker if I need to.
As sad as it makes me to say it, I think being an only dog makes Luke happy, and he enjoys our walks with just him and me (though we love if the Dadz joins us). If you’re training, it’s much easier to have just one dog too. If you have multiple dogs and have the time, you might want to consider solo walks while you work on this. Even when Cricket was still with us, I took both dogs for solo walks when I could. They had different walking styles and it made them happy to get to do it their way.
Have the correct equipment! We use a Front Range harness* and a 6 foot Nifti SafeLatch leash. I’m excited that Nifti SafeLatch will be coming out with a hands-free leash attachment in the near future (watch for our review)! Hands-free can be a great tool when you’re training with clickers and treats. Chest clip harnesses are recommended for dogs that pull (and the Front Range harness gives that option), but I’ve never liked them. We did have good luck with a head collar with our late beagle Kobi though. I’ve never liked walking my dogs on just a collar because I don’t like the strain it puts on their neck, especially if they do pull. Leashes are your choice but keeping it to a shorter length gives you more control – no retractable leashes!
When doing a little research for this post I read the advice that talking to your dog will keep them in tune with you and help them to walk better. I talk to Luke ALL the time when we’re walking (part of the reason is because I want to make sure any wildlife out there knows we’re coming!). I do believe that could be a factor in keeping him focused on me.
What NOT To Do
There have been things I’ve tried along the way that did not work for us:
Many trainers advise that when your dog pulls, you stop and wait for them to give slack on the leash, and don’t proceed until they do. I didn’t see that advised quite as much in my recent research, which is a good thing! Anyone who advises that probably never had a hound dog or hound dog mix. When I tried that with either of my beagles, they just stood still with tension on the leash and wouldn’t move. They had far more patience than I did, and I never won that battle!
What I do wish I’d known at the time is that if I had treats with me, I could have used that to get them to come back to me. So, while I don’t advise just standing still, getting your dog to come back to you for a treat can be a great tool. You can also use that opportunity to reverse direction which is also often advised. Again, that never worked for me without using treats and/or a clicker. I think the key is to get them to remember you’re with them. Our beagles often got so focused on smells, or just wanting to GO (that was Cricket), I think they forgot I was there.
Do not become complacent (like I sometimes do). Keep practicing and training, reinforcing what you’ve taught your dog. I think that Luke and I are really in tune with each other, and that’s key to making our walks more enjoyable. While we might have a glitch here and there, I really do feel good about his loose leash walking. It’s a great feeling to cross something else off our training list!
How does your dog walk on a leash – is it something you want or need to work on?
We are pleased to be co-hosting the Positive Pet Training blog hop with Tenacious Little Terrier and Travels with Barley. Pet bloggers, please join us in this hop by posting your positive pet training stories. The hop remains open through Sunday. Our theme this month is “Loose Leash Walking”, however, you may share any positive pet training story, whether it’s on our theme or not!
Anna @ HJRT says
It’s great to hear that you two are so well synchronised.
Tenacious Little Terrier says
Good job, Luke! Not that Mr. N really pulls but I find familiar routes are more distracting for him because he knows where everything and everyone is. Like the pony/pig/goat house and the squirrel trees and the house with the Boxer that always charges at the window etc. New routes are a surprise!
Luckily for us, things are ever-changing in the woods….trees and branches fall, and we never know where the squirrels and chipmunks will show up!
Dogs have amazing memories, don’t they? Luke will sometimes sniff the same spots several days in a row…he remembers he smelled something there previously!
Jodi Stone says
Great tools, and great advice.
I never got anywhere with my dogs by stopping either. Nor by turning around (it mainly frustrated me, which in turn frustrated them.) By far what worked best for us was the treats and the look command. It still works for us today, especially when there is a distractor in our midst.
Isn’t it funny when we suddenly realize our dogs are doing something we wanted them to do, but we can’t remember when it happened?
It’s always a great feeling to realize we did something right, even if we have to figure out exactly what it was we did! LOL
I’m glad I’m not the only one who got so frustrated with the stopping method!
Cathy Armato says
Sounds like you and Luke have a great system going. I had to work hard to train my Husky not to pull, she thinks she’s an actual sled dog LOL! Using a no pull harness helped tremendously. Training first without distractions was also helpful, she loves all people & all dogs so distractions had to come much later. You’re so right about not being complacent about it, you can’t slack off.
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
Oh my goodness, I can imagine that sled dog breeds would be the toughest pullers! There were many times, with my non-sled dog breeds, that I thought attaching a sled to them might be a good idea! 🙂
I try to walk Theo when there aren’t that many people around, but it turns out, that’s when other people are walking their reactive dogs. We have a small section of woods behind the house (just about an acre) and I am going to start walking Theo on that trail to see if we can improve things. The only real problem is there are lots of ticks in the woods. Theo is protected against them, but I’m not.
Oh, those darn ticks. We battle with them too. I use an all natural repellent that I spray on my shoes and legs. Then I just watch for them, on both Luke and me (he also gets sprayed). It’s not fool proof, and I check myself (and Luke) again throughout the day and before bed.
I do find now, in the middle of the summer, that there are not nearly as many; though I know they’ll be back and worse in the fall.
Barbara Rivers says
Luke does look great in that Front Range harness 😉 Missy & Buzz didn’t pull, and I think it was a combination of going on several daily walks with them and using a head collar. I first used the gentle leader and then found out about the halti, which has a padded noseband. That type of collar really helped when their squirrel/cat drive set in, lol, and I needed to redirect their attention.
We still love that harness!! I believe that daily walks are definitely key….that was something I was never good at until now. I didn’t know the Halti had a padded noseband, that’s a great feature.
Our beagle Kobi hated the gentle leader, and he’d always try to look as pitiful as possible when I put it on! LOL. Once we got walking he was usually fine, though he’d still stop and try to rub it off if he got a chance.
Luke would never even let me put it on him, but I didn’t take it slow like I should have.
Glad that is working so well for you. Mom doesn’t train it and doesn’t care if we pull her around. She says with age we naturally stop pulling. We don’t pull when we run with her and I never pull anymore. My sisters pull on and off, but Mom likes to let the run all over the place on walks. No one else is around, so it doesn’t bother anyone. If we are in a busy place we tend to walk pretty much near her naturally. All of us have manners, but obedience isn’t a high priority in our home.
Your Mom is right…aging is definitely the best solution! That was the only thing that ever really slowed our beagle Kobi down. I think running can be great too…because dogs just want to GO! I’d love to run with Luke but the vet says NO because of his bad knees. 🙁
I’m so glad that you’ve had such success with Luke! Solo walks definitely make a world of difference. We actually do use the stop and wait technique–thankfully, I’m more stubborn than my little hound (and we’ve done a lot of work on when I stop you sit) and it only takes a few seconds before she sits and then I either ask for a stay while I walk up beside her or I call her back and ask her to come to my side or to my front and we try walking again. It’s worked well for Barley, too, but I think because of their agility training they’re really attuned to changes in speed and stopping motion altogether.
I’m glad to hear that the stop and wait technique can actually work!! I guess I always just had dogs that were too stubborn for that….LOL.
I’m sure all your agility training can be a big help in many other situations, that’s a great thing!
M. K. Clinton says
Bentley loose walks and has for years but he is slow anyway. Pierre still gets excited but after a while, he slows down but he and Skipper are always ahead of us. Hahaha!
Having two people on walks can definitely make things easier! However, when we had both Cricket and Luke, they both wanted to be in the lead, and that did lead to some more pulling!
That is such great news — that Luke is so good at loose leash walking that you don’t have to think about it! Your tips are really good. I find that Shyla is a great loose leash walker on our “normal” walks but then reverts to being a puller when we’re in unfamiliar places. Then I have to go back to my training techniques to try to stop her from hauling me whereever she wants to go! That fits with your observation about familiarity being key to loose leash walking.
I think just being in tune with them, and I know you are with Shyla, can be key as well. I can tell when Luke is getting a little nervous, and that’s important. Because if I let him get TOO nervous, that’s when he’ll freeze on me. I learned that lesson the hard way!
You and Luke found a great system that works for both of you. When I read that you talk to him a lot while walking I thought he’d start to tune you out (mom’s chattering again) but it makes sense that you also need to alert wildlife that you’re coming.
I was really lucky that Bentley (Golden Retriever) was not a puller. Sometimes I made him heal, but I’d often loose-leash walk him and let him go faster/slower or stop to sniff. After all, the walk was for his enjoyment more than mine.
You certainly could be right about my chattering…Luke probably does tune me out!
I think that’s one thing a lot of us can forget….that walking our dogs is more about their enjoyment, not ours. That’s probably why Bentley walked so well for you!
Yay, Luke! Great job. You show them how it’s done!
Thank you!! ♥
The Island Cats says
We’re glad to hear Luke handles loose leash walking so well.
Thank you! It’s another way he makes my life easier. 🙂
Monika & Sam 🐾 says
Hands free anything would be most welcome. So would another hand or three. 😁
Ha ha, you’re right about that!!
Shadow's and Ducky's Mom says
Luke, you’re doing great! I love that second photo of you!
I don’t mind the chest clip IF it’s combined with a clip on the back to provide some balance. But I find with Ducky that the chest clip makes the leash too long and she ends up getting tangled in it. So, I just use the clip on the back of her harness. With Shadow, I can clip the leash to her collar because she doesn’t pull any more. She walks slowly, and I let her lead me.
Though the gentle leader helped, it was really only age that finally slowed our beagle Kobi down. But even that didn’t slow Cricket down much. LOL
I always found with the chest clip that they just jerked against it. But I can see where clipping in both places could help that.
Ellen Pilch says
Good job Luke! You deserve lots of treats.
He definitely gets them!! 🙂
sand spring chesapeakes says
Your coming along nicely Luke, nice job! Have a great 4th!
Thank you, JoAnn!
Brian Frum says
Good job Luke, you are doing really great on those special walks!
Thank you, Brian!!