Tag Archives: loose leash walking

Help Buddy to Walk Nicely – Twenty Tips to Help You Take the Strain Out of the Leash!

Do you have a dog that pulls you along like a steam train pulling freight? 


If so, walks are probably pretty miserable for both of you.  Walking nicely is a life skill that when missing can significantly and negatively impact the relationship you share with your dog and may result in fewer walks, less exercise and a decrease in social exposure for your dog.

Here are twenty tips that should help you reconnect with your enthusiastic ‘train driver’ and take some of the strain out of the leash and your relationship with each other!

  1. Mark and reinforce anything your dog does other than putting tension on the leash e.g. mark and reinforce standing with stillness, focus on you, sitting facing you, standing next to you… Choose something your dog is good at and that already has great associations, with lots of money in the ‘bank account’ of positive reinforcement. You can literally choose anything that does not involve pulling you along.
  2. Rapid-fire ‘click and treat’ for all correct responses. You want a really high reinforcement rate as this will mean your dog will be enthusiastic about playing your ‘game’!
  3. Use delicious, easy to chew and easy to swallow nutritious training treats
  4. Practise in lots of quiet locations around your home before you take any behaviour on the road!
  5. Very gradually add in ‘distractions’ – things that your dog might be interested in. e.g. a ball on the floor, a person sitting nearby, a change of location…
  6. Always have a happy smiley leash! Yes, your leash should look like a smile U or a J.
  7. It isn’t a contest to see who can pull most. If you don’t want your dog to pull you, please reciprocate and don’t pull your dog.
  8. When out walking, please ensure you connect with your dog. Tell him ‘well done’. Tell him ‘good boy’. (If you don’t connect with him, why should he connect with you?)
  9. Say ‘yes’ – or click – and give a treat whenever your dog looks at you. Yes, you will need to take lots of treats out with you when first teaching this skill!
  10. Say ‘yes’ – or click – and give a treat whenever your dog comes into the ‘Close’ position near your left leg.
  11. Use your left hand to deliver the treat in the ‘Close’ position, next to or just behind your left leg. If you use your other hand, you are likely to pull your dog out of position across the front of your body
  12. Act before the leash goes tight. Don’t wait until your dog is at the end of the leash as that is the hardest place to get him back from.  Get your dog’s attention by making a kissy noise or saying  ‘this way’ and changing direction.
  13. Try walking in big circles. This can help everyone relax and let’s face it, if your dog doesn’t know which way is forwards, he is less likely to pull you in that direction.
  14. Say ‘good boy’ when your dog moves back towards you and then walk on a few steps before you click and treat that lovely walking and focus on you! This will help you avoid creating a ‘yo-yo’ dog: hit end of leash – return to handler for treat – hit end of leash – return to handler for treat – hit end of leash …
  15. If your dog wants to sniff something/investigate something, as long as it is safe for him to do so, that is fine. Walks are meant to be fun! If your dog pulls towards something, ask for a behaviour he knows e.g. cue  ‘watch me’, ‘touch’ (hand target), ‘front’ or ‘close’. Mark with a ‘yes’ and tell your dog ‘Go Sniff!’  Sniffing functions to positively reinforce the correct response to the given cue.
  16. A front-fastening harness can be helpful while you and your dog are learning to walk nicely together.
  17. Always say No to Shock, Prong, Choke, Pain, Fear & Force. Aversive tools that cause your pet to experience fear, anxiety, stress or pain, may appear to be the answer you have been searching for but at what cost to the emotional and physical well-being of your pet and your relationship with each other?
  18. Sign up for a basic ‘manners’ class with a certified force-free trainer. Not only will you and your dog have fun together learning new skills, the skills that you learn will help you when you are out and about with your dog.
  19. Please remember that we need to give dogs feedback, guidance and encouragement not just when we are training them, but in all our daily interactions with them. Don’t wait for a training session to reinforce all those lovely behaviours that you see throughout the day – reinforce them as they occur!
  20. Don’t have enough time to work on this skill but would love your dog to get in some practise while receiving some loving attention and much-needed exercise?  Schedule a dog walking session with a force-free professional while you are at work or away from home!


If you need more help with teaching your dog how to walk nicely on leash or would like to schedule a Dog Romp, please contact your local DogSmith

If you are a trainer who would like to add another service to your private or group class options, please check out the DogNostics Walk This Way Instructor Program

This article was first pulished on August 5, 2019 by Louise Stapleton-Frappell with the title Choo! Choo!

Take The Choke Out of Walking Your Dog!

I have been thinking lately about the practice of using choke collars and jerking the lead as a “correction” that many people still use when training and handling their dog.  The most common ‘use’ of the ‘jerk’ correction I have noticed is when a dog owner wants their dog to ‘heel’.  Over the years, I have witnessed many dog handlers telling their dog ‘heel’ as they have issued a big leash correction.  And usually the result of this ‘correction’ is frustrating to the dog owner as the dog pulls even harder against the leash.  ‘Heel’ is supposed to be the cue for walk in the appropriate place. Think about it.  If you were constantly jerked, pulled or tugged when you were next to, slightly in front of, or behind your owner, would you choose to be in a ‘heel’ position or would you forge ahead or fall behind to escape or evade any future corrections.

If I had experienced a correction like that while hearing the cue ‘heel’ I would also want to head for the hills when I heard that word. Inadvertently sometimes the ‘heel’ cue becomes a warning signal to the dog that a correction is coming and thus the cue evokes a   ‘move away behavior’ from the owner.

It is far more pleasant and effective for a dog to learn appropriate leash manners when they are taught where to walk nicely in relation to their walking partner rather than being corrected for getting it wrong.  If the dog is reinforced for correct placement and pace then they will no longer forge ahead or lag behind. A dog training ‘cue’ should be music to the ears of a dog.  A dog who has been trained using effective, efficient and pleasant methods will happily respond to a ‘cue’ and training your dog  will be a more pleasant experience for all. So let’s take the ‘choke’ out of training and replace it with clear concise instructions that builds your dog’s behavior repertoire, sets your dog up for success and rewards them when they get it right. This is a far more pleasant situation for both owner and dog. In addition to being an ineffective training method, there are real health concerns when a dog’s head is jerked around.

Karen Overall (MA, VMD, PhD, DACVB, Clinical Behavioral Medicine for small Animals) says “In a retrospective study on spinal pain, injury or changes in dogs conducted in Sweden, Hallgreen (1992) found that 91% of dogs with cervical anomalies experienced harsh jerks on a leash or had a long history of pulling on the lead. The use of choke collars was also over represented in this group. This strongly suggests that leash corrections are potentially injurious”

Robin Walker (BVetMed MRCVs) says “In 30 years of practice (including 22 as a veterinary advisor to a police dog section) I have seen numerous severely sprained necks, cases of fainting, transient foreleg paralysis and hind leg ataxia after robust use of the choke chain. In the 1970’s, when the practice of slamming the dog sideways with a jerk that brought the foreparts clear off the ground and two or three feet towards the handler became popular, the resulting painful condition was known as “Woodhouse neck” in this practice. Some of these cases exhibited misalignment of cervical vertebrae on radiographs. It suggested that an existing spondylopathy renders these dogs more vulnerable to injury. My ophthalmology colleagues have decided views on the relation between compression of the neck, intraocular pressure disturbances and damage to the cervical sympathetic nerve chain resulting in Horner’s syndrome.  I personally have seen a case of swollen eyes with petechial scleral haemorrhage and a number of temporarily voiceless dogs.”

To learn the steps and mechanics of teaching your dog to ‘walk nicely’ or to ‘heel,’ contact your local DogSmith. Your local DogSmith will take you through the stages of a) teaching your dog to stand while on a leash without pulling and lunging, b) teaching you the ‘walk nicely’ behavior in steps so you build on a solid foundation, and c) of introducing you to some great management tools to use while you teach your dog new and acceptable behaviors allowing you to walk and exercise your dog without reinforcing the old and unacceptable behaviors.

Contact a reputable dog trainer, teaching your dog to walk nicely enhances both your life and your dogs. Sometimes your pet needs a little stimulus, like best dog Christmas gifts. There is nothing more enjoyable than going for a long walk with your dog, unless you are begin pulled and tugged all over the place. Learn about The DogSmith Dog Walking Services and our Dog Walking Group Classes that focus on this one skill