When walking your dog, you can determine how loose leash walking works best for you. You may not have a right or left side preference, or desire to have your dog perfectly aligned with your leg. You may be okay with having them walk a few steps ahead of you. You may be perfectly happy as long as they are not pulling you.
The main difference between loose leash walking and heeling is that while heeling is a command, loose leash walking is a trained behavior. The heel command specifically directs a dog to enter and stay in the heel position while walking. Loose leash walking, on the other hand, is the default behavior of a dog not pulling while on a leash. The dog can stand on either side and walk in front of or behind his handler.
If you decide that basic loose leash walking is more your speed than heeling, that is okay. Dogs that respond to their owner’s simple request on a walk are just as well behaved. When you try loose leash walking, carry items that your dog finds to be highly rewarding. In most instances, food is the best choice, but if your dog passes up food to play with a tennis ball or other toy, bring that along.
How to Teach Loose Leash Walking
One of the easiest ways to teach a dog to maintain a loose leash is by rewarding them when they do it accidentally. Once you feel your dog’s leash become loose on its own, make sure to reward them. If you reward them every time you discover them doing something you like, they will begin to offer it more frequently. This techniques requires a lot of attention and focus from you, but rewarding the good rather than punishing the bad behaviors usually result in better long term retention of skills. If you find that you cannot get the treat to your dog fast enough, don’t worry. Consider using a clicker or verbal marker like “yes” in your training to help your dog identify those desirable behaviors.
What if you walk your dog and you never achieve a loose leash, even for a few steps?
• If the environment that you are walking in is too distracting, consider going to a different area.
• Allow your dog to burn off some energy by running and playing before you practice loose leash walking.
• Another easy solution is to change the time of day you head out. Going at non-peak times, early in the morning or late in the evening, gives you a better chance for success.
• If these modifications still don’t give you the success that you hoped for, using a management walking tool is the next change to consider.
Walking Tools for Management
There is no shortage of loose leash walking devices available on the market. Each one promises to be better than the previous one. When selecting one, asking for help from a training or behavior professional will likely offer the best result. Set your dog up for success by using a tool that allows more opportunities for good behavior. Remember, your goal is to capture your dog being good. Tools such as a front-leading body harness such as an easy walk harness, or no pull harness can be a passive tool to help achieve more control. If your dog is larger or very enthusiastic a head halter will help to maximize leash control and minimize discomfort. Avoid tools that cause pain, discomfort, or fear. Tools that inflict shock, mild vibration, cause pain on sensitive organs, or cut off oxygen supply for even short periods may interrupt behaviors you do not like, but will likely cause other problematic behaviors.
Look at the world from your dog’s perspective. The less often you go for walks, the more novel and exciting it will be when they get the opportunity to explore. Try to understand their excitement. Be sure to make the walk equally as enjoyable for them as it is for you. Be kind and fair in your training methods, and always make time for a few good smells.
in the Moab Area
Corona Arch - Easy/Moderate. 1.3 Miles one way. Trailhead is 25 minute drive from Moab.
North on US-191 to Potash Road (Utah 279).
Mill Creek Pathway - Easy. 1.1 Miles. Little to no driving. Starts at the intersection of 100 South and 100 West,
a block off of Main Street.
Portal Overlook - Hard. 2.0 Miles one way. Trailhead is 20 minute drive from Moab.
North on US-191 to Potash Road (Utah 279).
Grandstaff Canyon - Moderate. 2.0 Miles one way. Trailhead is 10-minute drive from Moab.
North on US-191 to the River Road (Utah 128)