Your Dog Thinks Loose Leash Walking is Silly

Lisa practicing loose leash walking with Keaton during a dog training class

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. 

Last week we took training on the road and practiced loose leash walking at Lowes.

The video below is deceiving. I didn’t think to film the first five to ten minutes walking into and through the first half of Lowes. I wish we had that footage to share. Trust me, you would have seen different a different dog.

Keaton wasn’t at all focused on me because he was overly interested in other people and new smells, so I reinforced him for any look my way, any movement toward me—in general, ANY orientation to me. Before long, we were able to move into practicing loose leash walking, what I most often refer to as Polite Walking.

Practice makes it possible! Loose leash walking is a learned skill.

It’s not natural for a dog to wear a collar and/or harness while attached on a leash to a person walking slow in a straight line. After teaching your dog a skill in a low-distraction area (in and about your home), next move to a low-distraction time at a location in your community to continue helping your dog learn the skill in a new environment.
In this video you see me practicing loose leash walking with Keaton in Lowe’s during a less busy time of day.
I chose isles that had fewer people so that Keaton had a better chance of succeeding. I must admit I never expected we’d reach this level of progress on this first visit to Lowes.
The art of possibleHappy Training!  


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