Loose lead walking - it starts with a strong relationship

Many of us love the idea of having a fur kid that walks beautifully beside us. The one that keeps up, never pulls on the lead, constantly looks at you and pays no attention to distractions.

Okay, cue the sound of the record being scratched! In reality for some puppy and dog owners (no matter how old the dog is), as soon as that lead comes out and gets clipped onto the collar or harness, it seems like your fur kid transforms into being a sled dog that wants to win the race at all costs. Your dog has no concept that you are attached to the end of their lead when they are dragging you.

In our training sessions we often refer to the behaviour change you see when your dog is at home versus stepping out the front door. At home the environment (sights and smells) is familiar to them, however outside of home the smells and the distractions are too numerous to count on all four paws. For dogs who are intent on constantly sniffing everywhere, we refer to these moments as the equivalent of their social media time. For example, they’ll constantly stop at spots and sniff out how many times a (Lamp)POST has been “liked”!

How and where do you start with training your dog with loose lead walking?

It starts with looking at what sort of relationship do you have with your fur kid. The bond between owner and dog can be strong one or an indifferent one. This is where the responsibility falls squarely on us as owners.

For example, when we adopted our deaf fur kid Bailee, her habit was to do nothing but pull on her lead. Bailee was with a new family and in a new environment. We had to start from scratch in terms of building a relationship and setting her up for success.

Our first step was to work out the best way to communicate with her. Bailee’s language was all about body signals and noises she’d make. Learning sign language was next (coupled with lots of thumbs up and ‘jazz hands’).

Next up was ‘Focus n Fun’. We trained Bailee to understand that when she was out with us, that by constantly checking-in, she was going to have fun. By this we mean regular eye contact with us i.e. “Hey, I’m okay if you’re okay”. To start with, the reward was a mountain of treats and being made an absolute fuss over each time eye contact was made.

Third up was helping Bailee understand that when it matters, WE are a way better option for her to focus on rather than the thing, person, animal that gets her attention.

Well this sounds simple, I hear you think… well truth be told, it wasn’t. We spent a huge amount of time, effort, patience, persistence developing a relationship with her.

Before commencing and thinking that your fur kid MUST be trained to behave in a certain way that suits YOU, make sure you have a mutual relationship that each of you enjoys and is rewarding.

Our video is of Bailee and Vince out with a longline. The relationship is evident with Bailee constantly making eye contact with Vince and happily follows his movement, pace and change of direction. When Bailee decides to take a slight wander she is allowed to (it’s her walk after all) but it is made fun for her to make the choice to go back to Vince’s side. All this done while the lead is loose the entire time.

If you want to help with loose lead walking and how to create a fun, learning and rewarding relationship with your fur kid, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by phone or email.

Fiona & Vince - K9 FUNdamentals