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Loose Lead walking - A How to Guide

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

As with anything, there are many ways to go about teaching this behaviour. There are also many variations to the behaviour.

For example for my own dog I allow him to walk where ever he likes (in regard to me), as long as it’s safe and the lead is loose, so he has as much freedom to sniff on our walks. I do have the cue “with me” for him to walk in a heel position beside me if needed.

But for simplicity’s sake today we will work with standard loose lead walking and save the rest for another time. So below is the simplest way I would go about teaching this behaviour.

Start off training this in the least distracting environment possible. At home inside or in the yard is usually best.

Put on your dogs collar and lead to begin training loose leash walking.

Walk a couple paces and encourage your dog to follow using your voice and hand movements. Don’t apply pressure to the lead at all. As soon as your dog is walking and in an ideal position, perhaps at your side, mark “yes” and drop treats on the floor. Walk a few more paces and mark and reward again, continuing to encourage your dog to follow you if needed.

Once you have your dog readily coming to your side without being encouraged you can begin to build duration on the behaviour.

This time as your dog reaches your side take another step encouraging your dog to stay at your side, and if they do, make sure to mark and reward. At this point you can start to reward the dog from your hand rather than dropping them on the floor. It’s really important that you bring the treats to the dog in the position you want them to stay in. Otherwise your dog will end up coming towards the hand giving the treats and could end up crossing in front of you making it difficult to walk nicely together.

Practice practice practice. Practice in many different environments with many different distractions.

In the below video I’m working with Ziggy on proofing her loose lead walking. One of the hardest things for Ziggy was walking nicely on a lead in the presence of dogs. In this video we are working far enough away that Ziggy can remain focused on me (most of the time). There are a few times where she gets a bit distracted and that’s okay; she’s still only learning what we require of her on walks.

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