Loose Leash Walking Tips
During the first 6 weeks of this behavior(or any behavior for that matter) make sure that you are looking for and reinforcing every trial you and your dog attempt at loose leash walking. Even when it already looks good. This is what REINFORCING is all about. This is what STRENGTHENING is all about. Too many times do I go to someone's house and they say, "hey, my dog is doing great. Think we could work on something different this week?" or they will say "Oh, fido did great on Monday and Tuesday so, I decided to try and work on something different instead since he is already good with the loose leash walking" But, that is not the way you want to go about it. When you see that your dog is doing good or even great with an exercise after trying it for a week or two, then you should be looking to advance that behavior instead of letting it be because it seems good to you. That is the equivalent of teaching someone how to drive in your driveway and then once you see that they can pull up and reverse out of the garage, you stop teaching them, give them the keys and say "Okay, go to the store 15 miles away and pick up a 5x8 trailer and bring it back home". That person wouldn't know how to drive on a real road, they wouldn't understand driving on the highway or interstate either, much less how to pick up a utility trailer. Their driving skills weren't developed in the before putting them in a very advanced situation so you are setting them up for failure not success. Once you saw that they could press the gas, hit the brake, turn on the signals, and check their mirrors, you had them put all their skills in one and take it on the road where these basic skills aren't enough to succeed.
#1) Do not use a head halter
#2) Do not use a collar (you can have one on your dog but, don't hook your leash to it)
#3) Do not use a prong collar or a shock collar
*Think about it! What information does shocking/buzzing/vibrating or jerking the heck out of your dog's neck with a leash correction tell them?*
#4) HARNESS OVER COLLARS - Always use a harness to hook your leash to. I always use the same brand because this brand rub the dog's skin raw over time, it is very light weight, it is made of bookbag strap material, it has a 2" circle ring on the back that you can easily clip to, it has a handle on the back to help lift your dog in a car or in and out of the pool, and it is very easy to put on as it doesn't require slipping both or even one leg in like other well known harnesses.
#5) THERE ARE SEVERAL BEHAVIORS TO LLW - Loose leash walking involves several different behaviors rolled in one, therefore you need train each behavior separately before expecting your dog to perform them all at once.
#6) PRACTICE INSIDE FIRST NOT OUTSIDE! - Start teaching the loose leash walking behaviors inside then practice outside once the behaviors are developed inside first.
#7) EXPERIENCE OVER DISTANCE - Distance is not your goal when taking a dog on a walk. Getting to smell, explore, communicate, and experience is the most important.
#8) THE WALK IS CONSIDERED MENTAL EXERCISE, NOT PHYSICAL - Exploring a small 20' by 20' area, and doing it on a loose leash is more important than how far you traveled. I hear it all the time, "I walk my dog 2 miles every day" and people are proud of that and they should be, but, for themselves not their pets. The dog needs to get their exercise from other outlets like fetching, chasing flirt poles, chasing RC Cars, or playing tug, not from the walk. The walk is mental stimulation more than physical stimulation
#9) ALWAYS HAVE HIGH VALUED REINFORCERS. You are competing against strong stimuli when you are out on a walk, whether you are on concrete, dirt, or grass the smells, sites, sounds, tastes and textures are going to cause your dog to be very distracted so you need to make sure you have a high valued food or toy item with you so that you can become as interesting as everything that happens on a walk.
#10) FIRST RATE ADVICE TO MY CLIENTS - Use a clicker versus a word marker. The clicker will stay the same tone throughout the whole process where as your voice is going to fluctuate depending on what's happening so you are going to have better communication to your dog with the clicker. Plus, it is louder and some times dogs are so focused on something that they tune out all human words.
#11) HIGH RATE OF REINFORCEMENT - Click a lot when you are on the walk. If your dog isn't accepting food try taking your dog out there when they haven't had food yet.
#12) EXERCISE 1ST - Always exercise your dog vigorously before taking them on the walk or before practicing loose leash walking whether you are just starting out and you are practicing inside or even if you and your dog's skills are advanced and you practice on a busy pier, you should ALWAYS exercise your dog first for atleast 15 minutes and you will have a much more pleasant walk/practice.
#13) TARGETING - If you are one of my clients and you are reading this, DON'T FORGET TO USE TARGETING WHEN YOU ARE ON THE WALK!! It is going to be a life saver for a lot of yall! I see a lot of my awesome clients forget about all the great things they have taught their dogs once they get in a busy setting. Remember that just like the dogs when they are learning, you also have to start in quieter areas and build up to the more heavier areas. But, no matter where you are in your training, Targeting is going to be your best friend on the walk or anytime you have a leash in your hand and attached to the dog. Practice it every night so it is super strong on the walk. Use it to direct your dog. Use targeting to get your dog's attention by cueing "touch". Get your dog to heel by using "touch" cue. Move your dog out of the way of your feet by using "touch". You can do turns better when you use targeting. You can get out of the way of someone who isn't able to hold on to their dog and is coming your way.
#14) IF YOUR DOG STARTS TO PULL AT ALL IN ANY WAY, STOP WALKING, ANCHOR YOUR LEASH HAND TO YOUR HIP AND WAIT IT OUT. BE A TREE. BE SOLID. DO NOT LET THE DOG PULL YOUR LEASH HAND OFF OF YOUR HIP. WAIT FOR EYE CONTACT OR EYE CONTACT AND A SIT, SAY YES OR CLICK/TREAT AND TAKE A STEP. DO THIS UNTIL YOUR DOG STOPS PULLING THEN ADD A STEP AT A TIME UNTIL YOU DON'T HAVE TO STOP WALKING ANYMORE. IT'S CALLED ALL OR NOTHING.