It's important to teach dogs of all shapes and sizes to have good leash manners for the enjoyment of walks. We like to teach our dogs to walk nicely at our left side on a loose leash using the cue, "Let's Go!". Here are some tips to help you train your dog to walk nicely with you. Check out the video below!
Starting in a quiet location, work with your dog for short durations. Typically about 5 minutes at a time is plenty. Use your dog’s favourite high-value rewards and be enthusiastic to help your dog enjoy the process. In the beginning, reward every few steps to build value for control position and always maintain a loose leash. The goal should be to eventually transition to off-leash work with your dog.
Steps to Teach Your Dog to Walk Without Pulling
1 - Be Sure They Can Lure - This is the basic idea behind how we teach 'Let’s Go'. Make sure you take some time to teach your dog how to follow a food lure. Practise different ways of moving the dog by using the food lure. Try spins, back and forward and different positions to solidify the idea of the lure.
2 - Build Value for Control Position - Control position is at our left side. We want our dogs to find a lot of value for control position, so early in the process, it’s important to reinforce them being at our left side. Use the lure to move your dog to your left side from different directions. Always mark with “yes” or a click and then release the treat
3 - Lure Short Patterns - With your dog at your left, take a step or two at a time, say “yes” and then reward the dog in control position. You may incorporate turns to the right and left, circles, etc. to really help the dog understand what you’re looking for. Make your repetitions longer and longer to build understanding.
4. Use an Arm Extender - This is a GREAT tip for those of you with smaller dogs! A long object like a wooden spoon or a back scratcher can be invaluable when working with a small dog. Use it to house your lure (moist treat or peanut butter type food) and save your back! The nice thing about the back scratcher is that you can shorten it easily as you start to fade out the lure.
5 - Getting More Upright - As your dog gets accustomed to wanting to be at your side, you can start to fade out the direct lure. Start to stand up tall, but still use the food to lightly ‘tease' the dog and maintain attention. Be sure to mark with “yes” and then deliver a treat at varying intervals
6 - Fading the Lure - As your dog gets the idea, you can start to fade out the lure by holding it in towards your body. It’s still there for the delivery of quick reinforcement, but not a direct lure to the dog.
7 - No More Lure - As you start to see your dog working independently of the food lure, you can start to leave it in your pocket. You will still reward your dog randomly, but make sure they’ve offered you the right behaviour first. When they are walking at your side, pinpoint with “yes” and THEN reach for the food from your pocket. This step is crucial for weaning off of the food entirely in the future.
8 - Practise with Distractions - Once they’ve mastered all of those steps, it’s time to up the level of difficulty by adding distractions. Adding distractions to a controlled environment allows you to adjust as necessary. We don’t always have the ability to do that in real life! As they progress, make the distractions harder. If a distraction is too much for them, work further away from it or reduce its appeal.
We put this plan into action to work with Edna the Pug! Check out the results in this video!
As always, Happy Training!
Hi! I'm Shannon and I joined the McCann team in 1999 while training Quincey, my wonderful and spirited Rottweiler, to have good listening skills. I'm the Director of Online Training and Content for McCann Professional Dog Trainers and I enjoy writing about dogs and dog training for the McCann blog. I currently share my life with 2 Tollers (Reggie & Ned) and I love helping people develop the best possible relationship with their 4-legged family members. Join us for a FREE lesson at MyDogCan.McCannDogs.com.