Loose-Leash Walking (PET)

How to Teach your Dog to Walk on a Loose Leash (PET)

Teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash requires a three-pronged approach.  The three prongs are preparation, engagement, and transitions (PET)


First, prepare for your loose-leash walking session.  To prepare, conduct your loose-leash walking session just before your dog's mealtime.  Also, exercise your dog for about 20 minutes before you start.  Running with your dog, playing a game of fetch, and other cardiovascular exercises are good examples of this.

Next, gather the necessary equipment and supplies.  You will need a collar or head halter and a standard 6-foot-long leash.  You will also need a treat bag and a variety of treats.  The treats should be extremely high-value, like baked chicken or cheese.   Finally, choose an appropriate site.  The site should be very familiar to your dog and have little-to-no vehicular or foot traffic to keep your dog from getting distracted.


Second, engage your dog.  It might seem silly at first but talk to her enthusiastically.  Make eye contact with her and tell her that she's doing a great job.  Treat your dog every time she looks at you and whenever she is walking alongside you.  For the first few weeks, you might have to treat your dog every few steps to keep her at your side.  And that's okay!  Use the watch me command, as well as touch targeting, to keep her more actively engaged.


Third, remember your transitions!  Be unpredictable by varying your speed and direction.  Transition between a slow walk and a jog while constantly changing your direction to keep your dog looking to you for guidance.  Finally, when you are making a 180-degree turn (i.e. when you are turning around), turn into, not away from, your dog.  This will keep your turn tight.  Do not worry about stepping on your dog.  She will get out of your way.

If your dog pulls ahead of you, then stop abruptly.  Do not move forward until she returns to your side.  You can ask for a side sit to encourage her to do that.  Do not treat her the moment she is at your side again.  Take another few steps before doing so.

Training your dog to walk alongside you requires a lot of time and patience.  Just remember to prepare for each session, as well as engage your dog and use many transitions during each session.  Good luck and happy training!