Tips for Nice Leash Walking

A German shepherd puppy sits and looks at the camera in front a cement wall inlaid with decorative glass

Leader Dog’s Director of Programs, David Locklin, offers simple tips on how to teach your dog to walk nicely on a leash.

Heel Position

Make sure your dog is in the optimum position to walk on a loose leash (leash hangs like a “J” and isn’t pulled tight). Your dog’s shoulders are in line with your left leg. Hold the leash about 18″ from your dog’s collar to limit his or her ability to move too far away from you, and limit your ability to pull your dog.

Mark and Treat Correct Behavior

When your dog is in the correct position and the leash is loose, mark the behavior by saying “yes” in a happy voice and quickly follow with a treat. Make sure you take the treat to your dog so that he or she doesn’t have to step out of position to take the treat from you. Walk forward two steps, and while the leash is loose and your dog is still in the correct position, mark “yes,” stop walking, and quickly give another treat. Continue increasing the number of steps between treats as your dog is successful.

Troubleshooting

If your dog pulls out of position, immediately stop moving a stand still.

When your dog turns back toward you, take a few steps back, causing the dog to come to you. Do not pull the dog back to you; let him or her choose to return to you.

Turn the dog around and place back into heel position, making sure to mark “yes” and follow with a treat.

Additional Tips

  • Set your dog up for success by training new skills in a quiet environment without distractions.
  • To ensure you don’t overfeed your dog, reserve some of his or her regular meal to use as treats.
  • Don’t rush through the training process. Like humans, dogs learn at different speeds. Make sure your dog understands what you want him or her to do before increasing the number of steps between marking/treating.

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