Stop Walking Your Dog!

Wait, what? Did she just say *stop* walking my dog?  Yes and hear me out. If your dog is a complete nutter on walks, stop walking your dog! If walking your dog feels like riding a mechanical bull, stop walking your dog! If you couldn’t drive down the street you live on without hitting every parked car, you’d stop and re-evaluate your driving skills, right?  You might schedule an eye exam, take the car to a mechanic, or ask for driving lessons.

Loose leash walking often fails because it’s a skill we think our dogs come preprogrammed with. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the case? Real talk: If the zombie apocalypse happened today and all of the humans were dead, dogs would not sidle up to other animals for heeling practice. Since most dogs do not naturally volunteer loose leash walking, we need to train them to do it.

Loose leash walking is a trained skill just like teaching your dog to sit on cue.  When you first taught your dog to sit, it was likely in your living room or in a group manners class.  It certainly wasn’t in Times Square. Just like teaching sit, you want to start teaching loose leash walking inside your home with the least amount of distractions.

Try these training tips to build better loose leash walking behavior:

  • Tire your dog out before training loose leash walking. Play fetch or tug of war. Tire him out so much that his tongue is hanging out of his mouth. Give him some water and a chance to catch his breath before training loose leash walking.

  • Practice attention games inside of your home. Use these attention games as an invisible leash to keep your dog engaged with you on a walk. Contact us or our colleagues in your area for attention game ideas.

  • Leash your dog up and practice feeding every step you take. Every move you make, you’ll be rewarding him. (Sorry for Sting’s Every Breath You Take ear worm!) Inside your home, your goal is to work your way up to taking 20 steps, with your dog walking by your side, before feeding him a treat.

  • Outside, you are competing with squirrels, bunnies, deer, people, dogs, etc. Go back to rewarding every step you take.  Reward with FABULOUS treats!

  • As mind numbingly boring as it may be for you, go on the same 5-minute route over and over again. Your dog may habituate to the sights, sounds, and smells, and more readily pay attention to you. It’s important to keep the loose leash walking sessions short because perfect practice makes perfect.

  • Please allow him to sniff and linger a bit. Dr. Daniel Mills, University of Lincoln UK, says dogs need 4 to 7 seconds to process new odors. Once your dog is walking by your side, reward him by cueing him to go sniff and check his pee mail.

  • Have a dog who lags behind? Take shorter walks. Toss treats in front of you as he walks. Treat moving feet! If he goes on strike and you entice him to move by offering him food, what are you reinforcing? You're training him to stop! Have a dog who lags on walks away from home and speeds up towards home? Drive half a block away from your home and reinforce loose leash walking as he walks home.

Replace longer walks with a myriad of mental enrichment activities, including training. Remember, loose leash walking is a skill, just like anything else. Stop the walking woes and take it one step at a time. We hope these training tips help you get started. Step up and contact us at