No matter what you call it—polite walking, loose leash walking or walking nicely on leash—if we asked a dog’s thoughts about the necessity of walking slowly on leash next to their human, they’d shout out loud and clear, “Absolutely not!”
When do you ever see a dog walking slowly in a straight line looking ahead? Never.
Dogs see the world through their noses and move at a pace that allows them to explore their world at their own speed, sometimes racing ahead and other times slowing down to explore or enjoy something our noses can’t detect—those glorious smells left by who knows what creature and reveling in the glory of the moment.
If you want your dog to walk politely on leash, it’s time to teach your dog loose leash walking—it’s a learned skill.
Training tools I use are a front clip harness for the dog, a six-foot leash, and a wearable treat bag filled with something your dog loves.
I first teach my dog the Box Step. It’s a fun exercise that’s a precursor to loose leash walking. Once I’ve gained success with the box step, I start practicing straight line walking, also known as polite walking.
Loose Leash Walking Tips
Begin with your dog on leash on your left or right side. It doesn’t matter which side, just be consistent so that your dog learns to walk on one side before you teach the other side.
With your forearms against the sides of your torso and both hands resting lightly against your stomach, look down at your dog and take one step forward. As he moves with you, deliver a treat to your at your pant seam.
Take another step forward, give your dog another treat. Then another step, and deliver a treat. Continue for three or four feet, then give your dog permission to move forward without you (I use the words “free” or “go sniff”). After a minute or so of sniffing, encourage your dog to return to you, and repeat the steps.
Practice this skill inside your house and gain success there before moving to a slightly more distracting location, such as your front porch. Gain success on the porch before moving to your yard.
I’ve been practicing this skill at home, then in a class at Noah’s Play and Train in Franklin, North Carolina.
The cones in the photo are reminders for students to reinforce their dogs at each cone (every step!). Each week the instructor adds another level of distraction so the dog is set up for success to gradually train through distractions.