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Loose-Leash Dog Walking

Leashes aren't natural. Pulling is.
Leashes aren't natural. Pulling is.
Photo by Jessica Lifland/Getty Images

Do you dream of a lazy loose leash walk with your pup but instead are three steps from rotator cuff surgery? Here's something that might help.

But first, here's what a lot of people may be doing wrong. You know you've seen it. Somebody walking along pleading with their dog and tugging back at the leash.

Let's look at that. The dog pulls harder on the leash to keep moving forward. So, the dog learns to pull harder. Period.

How you teach your fur-friend who, BTW, has hundreds of years worth of genetic evolution telling him to please you, to walk on a leash politely? Here's how...

  1. Begin with a fixed-length leash. (I like 6-foot.) This way the pup knows just how far he can go without pulling. DO NOT USE A CHOKE COLLAR or one of those no-pull nose halters.
  2. Go for a leash walk with your sweet paws.
  3. When the pup starts to pull on the leash, stop abruptly. Don't yank, just stop.
  4. Say your command. I like, "Don't pull." Since it's what I'd say anyway. Unless it's loud where you are, you probably don't need to shout. Remember, dogs have better hearing than we do.
  5. Wait.
  6. When the dog loosens up on the leash...even slightly...praise him.
  7. Resume walking.
  8. When he pulls the leash again, repeat steps 2-7 a few more times.
  9. Go home.

This will be blindingly frustrating at first. On the first "loose leash walk," you'll probably make it about the length of your car. But after a few days of doing this, your pup will probably catch on. (Milton learned to walk in a loose leash in two days!) And, really, isn't a few days of frustration better than shoulder surgery.

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