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Loose Lead Positive Training for an Enjoyable Dog Walk!

Walking your dog should be a joyful experience for both you and your furry companion. However, if your dog constantly pulls on the leash, it can turn a pleasant stroll into a full on battle. I understand firsthand the challenges of teaching a dog to walk on a loose lead. My own dog, Scooby, an energetic and robust adolescent, has pulled me over several times during walks. And he used to pull like a steam train. Having a dog that pulls is a common issue that many dog owners face, but the good news is that with the right techniques and a bit of patience, you can teach your dog to walk on a loose lead. My walks with Scooby have been transformed by several strategies and in this post, I share my top tips to help you achieve a harmonious and relaxed loose lead positive walking experience with your dog.

1. Choose the Right Equipment:

The first step in teaching your dog to walk on a loose lead is to select the appropriate equipment. For really strong dogs I recommend a well-fitting double clip harness that importantly has a clip on the front by your dog's chest. This can give you more control over your dog if they pull. We do not recommend choke, prong or slip collars as these can cause discomfort or injury to your dog.


2. Establish a Calm Walking Routine

If by the time you have got to the front door and your dog is spinning out of control, you can bet that your arm is going to be yanked all the way down the street. Do not leave the house until your dog has calmed down, this may mean regularly picking up the lead and putting it down so that your dog does not have a huge adrenaline rush when you touch the lead. Similarly put the harness on at random times. I usually put Scooby's harness on long before we leave for the walk so that he doesn't associate the harness with leaving.


3. Use Positive Reinforcement:

Positive reinforcement is a key element in loose lead walking training. Whenever your dog walks by your side without pulling, reward them with treats, praise, or affection. This reinforces the desired behaviour. If you are worried about weight gain, then take your dog's breakfast with you and use it as the reward.


4. Start in a Controlled Environment:

Begin your training in a quiet, controlled environment, like your garden or a quiet park. This minimises distractions and allows your dog to focus on you. Have your dog sit before you open the front door and then again when you are just outside the front door. Throw some rewards on the floor.

5. Practice 'Go Slow':

During your walk, practice the 'slow down' method. If they are already pulling slow right down so you are almost doing fairy footsteps. They will either look around at you to find out why or slow down themselves. Do not speed up until the lead is loose. This teaches your dog that pulling leads to slower progress.


6. Avoid Tension:

Keep the leash loose and avoid yanking back forcefully. Tension in the leash can create resistance and encourage your dog to pull even more. Dogs are naturally faster than us and so it is hard for them to keep our slower pace. It is good to vary your pace, start a bit faster and then slow it down. If necessary do big circles rather than walk in a straight line. This will help calm your dog.

7. Gradually Increase Distractions:

As your dog becomes proficient at loose-leash walking in controlled environments, gradually introduce more distractions. This will help your dog generalise the behavior to different situations.

8. Don't always walk in a straight line. Turn around randomly and start walking in the other direction or zig zag across the park. This will keep your dog more focused on you.


9. Be Patient and Consistent:

Remember that loose-leash walking takes time and consistency. Be patient with your dog's progress, and continue to reinforce good behavior with rewards.

Teaching your dog to walk on a loose lead is a rewarding endeavor that enhances your bond and makes walks more enjoyable for both of you. By choosing the right equipment, practicing positive reinforcement, and maintaining consistency, you can transform your daily walks into stress-free adventures with your beloved canine companion, even if, like me, you've faced the challenge of a big and strong adolescent dog like Scooby."

A strong powerful dog
Positive reinforcement training has transformed Scooby's walks

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