Most people don’t realize that dogs aren’t meant to tug, pull and yank on their leashes when they walk; what might seem like a troublesome nuisance that must be dealt with when walking a dog is actually the result of a lack of leash training. And what’s more, pulling, yanking and tugging on their leash can actually physically hurt a dog; when a dog has a standard neck collar and pulls on their leash, this puts a lot of pressure on the dog’s throat and can damage or even collapse their trachea. The best way to reduce this possibility, and to reap the other benefits of a dog that does not pull on their leash, is through loose leash training. Training your dog to walk loosely with their leash is recommended for many reasons; let’s take a closer look at the benefits of using positive enforcement training to encourage loose leash walking.
- 1 Benefits for Loose Leash Walking
- 2 How to Train a Dog to Walk on Leash Without Pulling
- 3 Equipment You’ll Need
Benefits for Loose Leash Walking
It greatly reduces the risk of tracheal damage
Tracheal damage can make it difficult for your dog to breathe, or even result in tracheal collapse. Tracheal collapse occurs when all of the cartilage rings in your dog’s trachea become misshapen and collapse; this condition can make breathing difficult for your dog and requires careful attention and correction to reduce the risk of your dog’s airway becoming obstructed. You can reduce the risk of external forces causes’ tracheal damage or a total collapsed trachea by training your dog to walk loosely on a leash through positive enforcement.
It makes walking your dog more enjoyable for you
It can be quite the pain to walk a dog that is constantly running and pulling ahead of you—or trying to go in completely different directions! A dog that has been trained to walk loosely on their leash through positive reinforcement will be more enjoyable to walk, since you’ll have control over where you go and won’t have to deal with a dog attempting to get away from you. This will also make it easier to walk your dog if you have a particularly strong dog, or if you are teaching your children to walk the dog and don’t want to be worried about the dog pulling them along.
It makes walking your dog more enjoyable for them
Dogs don’t enjoy walks where they have to be pulled and tugged away from where they were going; once they learn to walk loosely on their leash, they will know that it’s only acceptable for them to walk ‘nicely’ with you and will be able to enjoy their walk without the pain caused when they pull harshly on their own leashes.
Positive reinforcement is long lasting and effective
Positive reinforcement for loose leash walking has been shown to be very effective and long-lasting. In general, positive reinforcement for dogs encourages dogs to learn new things and accept new boundaries when compared to negative reinforcement. When you use positive reinforcement to train your dog to walk loosely on their leash, you’ll be ensuring they walk “nicely” from then on.
How to Train a Dog to Walk on Leash Without Pulling
Step One: Teach your dog to walk beside you
The first step in teaching your dog to walk on a leash without pulling is to teach them that walking beside you is a positive thing. The easiest way to do this is to reward your dog with treats during these initial training sessions.
After attaching your training leash to your dog’s harness or standard collar, begin walking around your yard. Whenever your dog stands or walks next to you—you can pat your thigh to encourage them—reward them with a treat. Eventually, your dog will prefer walking close to you because they associate it with a positive reward.
When your dog walks beside you more often than not, it’s time to move on to the next step of the training.
Step Two: Teach your dog to stay with you
The next step is to teach your dog to stay with you when walking instead of rushing ahead or attempting to go off on their own. This step works similar to the first step: the key is to reward your dog with treats when they walk with you, and to not reward them when they decide to pull and walk on their own.
This is best achieved by allowing your dog to sniff or wander a bit away on their own, then give them a command to follow—such as “let’s go!”—and walk away. When your dog pays attention and catches up to you, reward them with a treat. If they are ignoring you and won’t follow, you may apply very gentle leash pressure—but never tug or pull on the leash! Gentle leash pressure is designed to make your dog pay attention to you and make it slightly uncomfortable, but never painful. It is vital that you use a harness style collar if you are going to apply leash pressure, because applying pressure when your dog is wearing a neck collar can actually hurt them. Release the pressure as soon as your dog comes toward you, and reward them with a treat when they are next to you. You should continue to reward them with treats as they walk alongside you to further associate this activity with a positive feeling.
When your dog begins staying with you as they walk instead of constantly wandering on their own, and they listen to your commands when you say it’s time to go, then it is time to move on to the next step of the training.
Step Three: Teach your dog to stay within your boundaries
The third step is to teach your dog that they have to stay within certain boundaries when they are out walking. These boundaries will depend on your personal preference. Some pet owners may have different boundary rules depending on where they live, where they walk, or the typical counters they may have on a walk. For instance, you may want to teach your dog that it is never acceptable to approach a person they encounter while you are on your walk unless you give express permission. This is especially useful if you live in a populated area or tend to walk your dog at times when there are more people out on the street.
One important boundary that you should always teach your dog is that they are not given free rein to sniff grass, trees, bushes or other foliage without your permission. In other words, your dog needs permission to have “free time” on their own during your walk. This will not only help your dog learn that they can’t just do whatever they want on their walk, it can cut down on incidents where you’re left with angry neighbors who don’t want your dog urinating on their mailboxes or hedges.
You should associate this particular boundary with a command, such as “go sniff,” which will teach your dog that they are allowed to sniff the area at that moment. In addition, be sure to use a command when it is time to leave—such as “let’s go”—so that your dog knows when they are supposed to stop sniffing and follow your lead again.
When your dog walks with you more often than not, is not pulling on their leash but following your lead, and is obeying the boundaries that you set in place, it is time to move on to the next step in the training.
Step Four: Shorten your training leash
Once your dog has positive associations with walking by your side, not pulling, and following the boundaries that you set on your walk, it is time to shorten your training leash—in other words, replace your long training leash with a shorter, standard leash. The length and style of the leash will depend on your preferences (for instance, you might prefer a retractable leash rather than a static non-retractable leash) but you should keep the leash shorter than the training leash during this period. The reason for using a shorter leash for a few weeks after the training leash is that you want to ensure that the training is ingrained in your dog’s mind as much as possible; it might be easy for dogs to follow your lead when they have lots of slack with a long leash, but they need to do so even when the leash isn’t very long as well.
After a few weeks of good walking behavior from your dog on the shorter leash, you can lengthen the leash to your desired preference and if your dog continues to walk on their leash without pulling, you know the training was effective.
Equipment You’ll Need
- A harness or standard collar; always use a harness if you plan on using leash pressure in your training
- A non-retractable raining leash, about 10-20 feet long
- A standard leash that is shorter than your training leash; you can move to a longer length after using a shorter standard leash for several weeks at the end of training
- Your dog’s favorite treats
Freedom No-Pull Dog Harness Training
Harnesses are recommended for this particular type of training because harnesses do not exert any potentially harmful pressure on the dog’s neck, trachea or other sensitive areas of the body. Harness leashes also promote better posture and spinal alignment and can prevent injuries that occur in dogs that pull or tug on standard neck collar leashes.
The Freedom No-Pull Harness Training Leash is an excellent choice for any dog owners who are in the process of training their dog to walk properly on a leash without pulling. The Freedom No-Pull Harness Leash is designed to help is designed to be comfortable, safe, and efficient.
It is made with high quality Swiss velvet lining which prevents chafing, rubbing, and the subsequent sores that come with unlined harness leashes. In addition to plush velvet lining, the harness design used turn-out wedding to ensure that your dog’s skin doesn’t become irritated by the webbing material.
The style of design is what truly makes the Freedom No-Pull Harness stand out from similar harness leashes out there on the market. This harness is actually designed to prevent pulling through a patented action lop, which sits right between your dog’s shoulders on their back. This encourages your dog to walk straight without twisting or straining their back and discourages them from pulling by gently—and most importantly, safely—tightening around the chest. This does not hurt the dog, but feels uncomfortable and will encourage the dog to stop pulling in order to relieve the slight pressure.
Non-retractable Raining Leash
A non-retractable training leash is a non-retractable leash that you use during the earlier stages of training your dog not to pull on a leash. Ideally, this non-retractable leash should be a harness, because harness leashes help prevent certain injuries that can occur in dogs with standard neck collars.
The two most important factors of the non-retractable training leash you choose are the fact that it’s non-retractable and the length.
Retractable leashes are not recommended during training for several reasons. One, because they allow the dog to get too far away from their owner during a walk, which can be dangerous and makes it more difficult to train the dog to avoid pulling during a walk. Two, dogs on retractable leashes may feel tempted to run as far as the leash will allow them, which can result in injuries–even serious injuries, such as spine injuries and lacerated tracheas–when the retractable leash finally runs out of cord.
The length of your training leash is important as well. The training leash should be about 10 to 20 feet long; the training leash should be longer than the normal leash you plan to use when you walk your dog, because the idea behind the training leash is to give your dog more freedom and encourage them to willingly walk with you rather than pulling against you.
The brand you choose for this non-retractable leash is up to you—just remember to ensure that the leash doesn’t retract, and the length is about 10 to 20 feet total.