How to Properly ‘Loose Leash Walk’ Your Dog

Skylar Dial
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What Technique Should You Use to Ensure Your Dog Behaves When Walking on a Loose Leash?

I couldn’t find them. Despite asking a number of dog trainers and behaviorists, I couldn’t find them. Perhaps they just didn’t know the answer or perhaps they didn’t want to tell me, but no one could give me a straight, definitive, scientifically-backed answer. The experts around me only had theories about what I should do to ensure that my dog behaves on her leash.

As I was going on walks and taking the dogs to daycare, I would observe other dogs and their owners. Based on my observations, here’s what I determined to be the better ways to walk a dog on the leash.

Gather the Right Items

Before I delve into the fundamentals of loose leash walking, you should gather the tools and supplies you need first. These items are just suggestions; there are no hard and fast rules that mandate you to carry items A, B, or C. All you need is something that will help you keep your dog calm at all times while on a walk.

  • Flexi leash
  • Toy
  • Treats
  • Treat pouch
  • Treats
  • Treat pouch
  • Water bottle
  • Clean water
  • Clean water

= What are the Components of Loose Leash Walking?

As with any other discipline you wish to improve, you need to know the basic components involved and understand the purpose of each component. In this section, I’ll walk you through each component and explain why it is important.

Start Young

Leash training has a few benefits. Knowing that your dog will return to you if she’s tempted by a squirrel, a child with a ball, or whatever else might get her distracted can be extremely comforting. You also want to ensure the safety of others in the area, of course.

It’s important to note, however, that leashes are not a magical solution; they are somewhat inconvenient, and you still need to train your dog to behave properly when wearing one.

Before you hit the streets, however, it’s important to make sure that you’re doing things correctly yourself, from the start. In the end, if you’re struggling to properly walk your dog on a leash, it’s unlikely that she’ll respond calmly and comfortably to some of the techniques below.

Start Training Inside the Home

Loose leash walking is one of the most important commands for your dog to master … simply because it’s the first step towards walking without a leash at all. The freedom of being leash-free is probably one of the best feelings for your pup, and you’ll enjoy it a lot too. But, both of you have to work towards it and loose leash walking training is the first step.

To get started, train your dog to walk without a leash in a large area. At first you can train indoors in a room. Let your dog walk around freely, and when he’s done and he stops, say “enough” and fetch him. After a few repetitions, you might notice your dog tries to work on his recall, while he’s walking freely.

Reward your dog for even the slightest, recall effort, and make that a habit. When your dog makes a recall effort, be sure to praise him and reward him with a treat. Then, try to step up the challenge. Take your walk a step further, and move outside in your backyard. You can also go outside as a family, and practice with your dog in a neighborhood park.

Head Outdoors

The key to producing a good loose leash walk is to create the right conditions for success. This takes a lot of work at first and requires dedication on your part. In the beginning, you are more like an orchestra director, constantly directing your dog, and you may feel as if you’re making little progress. That’s because at the start, you are taking part in a lot of negative practice sessions, where you correct your dog for any mistakes.

Set a Time Limit

If you want your pup to enjoy leash walks, you have to make sure they don’t get overexcited. Your pup may seem excited when he is sniffing everything along the way, pulling you in different directions, running and having a great time, but eventually, he’ll get tired. You'll know your dog has had enough when he slows down and gives you an exhausted, droopy-eyed look. The amount of time he can walk at this rate will vary with different dogs, so it’s up to you to judge when your dog has had enough.

Make it Fun

Your dog is such a delight to walk with. There is nothing better than taking your best friend for a stroll. And hopefully that lighthearted stroll doesn’t turn into some kind of stress-inducing, heart-thumping, charlie-horsed nightmare. This is especially so in the early stages of training, when your dog is getting to know his leash and his leashing skills.

There are several leash walking methods, but walking with the leash around your knee or thigh offers several potential benefits.

Here’s why you SHOULD use this leash walking technique:

It’s more comfortable for the dog – Leash walking can often turn into a painful ordeal for the dog. If you keep the leash wrapped over one shoulder, it constantly pulls against your dog’s neck. He will most likely end up walking with a hunched neck and the body language position will indicate that he is uncomfortable. However, if you walk with your dog’s leash wrapped around your thigh, his neck is suddenly free from any tension. He can comfortably keep his head up and he’s more likely to walk with a loose leash, following you with his eyes and his ears.

Always be Calm and Never Shout or Scream at Your Dog

It might seem easy to give your dog a command to “loose leash walk”, but actually getting this accomplished might be much harder than you think. To make matters worse, your dog could try to drag you all over the place, refusing to abide by your commands. This is why you can benefit the most from a dog training class, so you can learn how to teach your dog how to properly loose leash walk. Every dog is different, but here are a few techniques that you can try to properly loose leash walk your dog.

Make Walking a Game.

Your dog does not need to know how to “loose leash walk” just because you say so! Dogs love to play, so if you can teach them how to walk properly in a fun way, they will be much more likely to listen to you. This works really well if your dog is still young and is gradually learning how to walk on a leash. You can even make this into a game by adding treats or rewards or simply making the experience more enjoyable. You can even use a toy to encourage your dog to walk next to you rather than pulling on the leash.

Use a Different Kind of Leash.


The only way to start leash walking is to start practicing with distractions. Begin with short distances and “loose leash” walking. It’s probably pretty scary to allow your dog to wander 2 feet away from you. Other distractions may add to the difficulty. Don’t fight the leash. That is not the purpose of the exercise. Just try to walk as calmly and gently with distractions as possible. If you begin to feel yourself tightening up, slow down and walk more calmly. If looking at a dog bark at you from a distance makes you tense up, then don’t do it. Just allow the leash to pull you along where there are no other dogs, and you will succeed.

If your dog is barking at a squirrel, rabbit, or other distractions, that is a good thing! He is trying to communicate with you. That communication is “What was that, and what is it doing?” or “It’s moving, and it stopped moving.”

It is important to learn to read your dog’s body language and his facial expressions. Some common indicators that a dog may not be comfortable on leash are:

How long does it take for a dog to walk politely on a loose leash?

I typically tell people that it should take a few weeks before you can walk your dog politely on a loose leash. But during that time, you need to walk your dog constantly or you may lose ground.

There are two things you need to get right to ensure that your dog walks on a loose leash. The first is training your dog to walk politely on the leash and the second is how you reward your dog for walking on a loose leash. Both aspects are important and need to be captured right. Walk your dog for just a short time and you may end up with a dog on a very tight leash or even one that suddenly slips his collar.

What Happens if Your Dog Will Not Walk Nicely on a Loose Leash?

A dog that won’t come on command, a dog that pulls each time it is put on a leash, and a dog that lunges at other peoples and animals are all hard to walk. They are frustrating because you know that there is a happy, well trained dog in there, you just can’t get to it.

But if you are having problems “loose leashing” your dog, relax. Not all hope is lost. Positive methods, lots of practice, and time (though hopefully not too much time) can turn any dog into a loveable creature that will even be eager to walk nicely on a leash.

Tying a dog when you no longer want it in your house is NOT a long term solution to this problem. Yes, the dog will not bother you while you are gone, but that does not mean that your dog is safe and sound when you come home. You are just using the dog to avoid the problem, and your dog is more likely to become a threat to you, the family, and the house when you do return.