Loose Leash Walking

Loose Leash Walking - Inside

Contrary to popular belief, dogs that pull on the leash while being walked do not want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha, or dominant over their human. There is a much simpler explanation: dogs love to be outside, and the walk is a stimulating and exciting part of their day, so the desire to push ahead is very strong.

A leash, though vital for safety, can also be frustrating for a dog, because being 'tied' to a person essentially stops a dog’s ability to act naturally. That being said, all dogs should be taught how to walk on the leash in a positive way without being jerked, yanked, choked, or shocked, so that walks can be enjoyable for everyone.

If you are overpowered by your dog’s pulling and can’t start teaching for fear of being pulled over, there are humane equipment solutions to help modify the pulling while you teach your dog to walk appropriately:

  • A chest-led harness is a perfect training aid, as it takes pressure off a dog’s sensitive neck area by distributing the pressure more evenly around the body. When the leash is attached to a ring located on the chest strap and your dog pulls, the harness will turn his body around rather than allowing him to go forward. This harness is great for anyone who needs extra help, because safety must come first.
  • Some dogs are so strong that a canine head collar is needed, which acts the same way a halter does on a horse. Whenever the dog pulls, it automatically brings his head around. Head collars can help in severe cases, especially with pregnant women or elderly clients, but dogs need time to habituate to them, as they can be uncomfortable at first..
  • Avoid the use of choke or prong collars, as these devices cause pain and significant physical damage to your dog’s neck.


Photo by Photo Lab Pet Photography | www.photolabpets.com

Training Techniques:

The Stop and Be Still Technique

  • Leash pulling is often successful for the dog because the person inadvertently reinforces the pulling by allowing the dog get to where he wants to go when he pulls. But you can change this picture by changing the consequence for your dog.
  • Whenever he pulls, immediately stop and stand completely still until the leash relaxes because your dog either takes a step back or turns around to give you focus. When the leash is nicely relaxed, proceed on your walk. Repeat this as necessary.

The Reverse Direction Technique
If you find the preceding technique too slow, you can try the reverse direction method.

  • When your dog pulls, issue a 'let’s go' cue, turn away from him, and walk off in the other direction without jerking on the leash.
  • You can avoid yanking by motivating your dog to follow you with an excited voice to get his attention.
  • When he is following you and the leash is relaxed, turn back and continue on your way.
  • It may take a few turns, but your vocal cues and body language will make it clear that pulling will not be reinforced with forward movement, whereas walking calmly by your side or even slightly in front of you on a loose leash will allow your dog to get to where he wants to go.
  • You can also reinforce your dog’s decision to walk close to you by giving him a motivating reward when he is by your side.

Vary the Picture


  • Once your dog is listening to you, you can vary the picture even more by becoming unpredictable yourself. This requires your dog to listen to you at all times, because he never knows when you might turn or where you are going to go next.
  • Instead of turning away from him when you give the 'let’s go' cue, reverse direction by turning toward him. You can turn in a circle or do a figure eight. Any of these variations will get your dog’s attention.
  • Do not forget to praise him for complying, because the better you make him feel when he is walking close to you, the more he will choose to do so.

What Not to Do:
Do not yank your dog around. While it might be tempting to use your dog’s leash to correct him, rely more on teaching him what to do than correcting him all the time.

Problem: My dog is fine walking on the leash but when he sees other dogs he loses his mind and pulls ahead of me.

Solution: In short, change direction before he gets to the point where he reacts. More about walking with an excitable, leash reactive or leash aggressive dog.


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9 thoughts on “Loose Leash Walking

  1. Pibble

    Curiosity here. Using an Easy Walk does not turn a dog's body when pulling. A Halti does not bring the head around.

  2. Kasia Ciemny

    I have a problem with my 9 years old Labrador. My parents doesn’t give him a lot of exercises so he is always really excited before walks. I usually play with him in the backyard and let him run so he can be calmer before going for a walk. I have been trying to teach him how to walk on loose leash for quite some times. Even tho he has made a lot of progress he stills pulls a lot on the leash. As soon as he reaches the end of the leash I stop. He stops also but instead of turning his head or coming back he walks backward and if I don’t move he starts whinning. On the way to the park when he pulls I stop and I change direction, he follows me but he goes ahead of mealmost immediately if I change direction again he pulls even more because he knows the park is that way.
    I don’t really know what to do to make him stop doing that

  3. BusyVP

    RE: EasyWalk It does turn my dog and if he lunges it flips him off his feet (he stopped doing that after two flips). Proper fit is key. It took me several tries and I had to go down a size harness to get it right. Then it was MAGIC. He went from pulling yanking and hasseling me to calm and even gate. We are not trying for heel just loose leash walk. This harness saved my bad shoulder and made our walk time together enjoyable. Highly recommend. ( I also tried: reg harness, head harness and thunderleash - none worked or made problem worse) My dog is 10 mo Eng Springer Spaniel - started easy walk harness at 7 mos after other methods failed.

  4. FarmerLiz

    My puppy, 8 1/2 weeks, refuses to walk when the leash is on. He just lies down and won't move. I hate dragging him! Help!

  5. Tashi

    I'm a dog walker and I have a client whose dog has never been taught to walk properly on a leash. Sometimes she refuses to go anywhere and just pulls to go back in the house, or she'll just stand there. So you can get an idea of what she's like, she has neurotic tendencies and is scared to go from room to room in the house, and is often jumpy. She is an extremely pampered pet. She likes me and is a great cuddler inside, but seems freaked out by being outside on leash. Just not sure how to train a dog like this. I do know how to train dogs and puppies using positive reinforcement with praise and treats. But this one is not responding to my efforts. I would love to get some expert, unconventional advice (haven't been able to find anything on the web). I'd just like to take her for normal walks, not just out for quick potty breaks only to be rushed back in. Thanks!

  6. Ebb

    what I did was put the leash on and let him walk around it several times, during training, food, play but don't hold the leash yet let it loose so he knows that the leash is a good thing. Later on during your first walk let the dog run around and explore to build his confidence up, it doesn't matter if the dog walks in front of you you want him to be excited about the outdoors. Also every time he stops use a treat walk backwards with the treat in your hand and let him walk towards you to get the treat, if he isn't responding use chicket, lamb anything that smells strong. But meat works best.

  7. Anonymous

    All dogs learn at their own pace. Take a step back and try to use positive reinforcement on easier tasks such making her less scared to move from room to room. Find something she really likes, it could be treats, toys, or a showing her your excited because of her. Using a clicker helps as well, click and give her a treat when she's in the right track and click and give a couple treats when she does it right. It may take awhile, but even if it's a small improvement that's amazing and she will only improve from
    there. Just remember to stay consistent.

  8. Bryce DeNovellis

    Prong collers trigger agressive behavior more then helping. Like the article says they will also cause physical damage to your dog's neck. A harness is the best way to go if you want your dog to respond positively and enjoy going for walks.

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