How to teach your dog how to walk on a loose leash

Taking your dog for a walk is one of life’s great pleasures. Having your dog take you for a walk is not. This is why it’s important to teach them to walk on a loose leash - a nice J-shaped curve.

When your dog steps outside the house for a walk, they’re going to be excited. They’ve been waiting for this highlight of their day and they get hit with a tsunami of sights, sounds and smells. As a result, they may feel the need to pull you in every direction. 

You could decide to walk at their pace, but that encourages your dog to carry on with this behaviour. They may even believe that pulling is the only way to get you to move. Teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash will allow for a more relaxed experience - but it requires a lot of hard work and patience.

First, establish whether your dog’s leash is comfortable for them. All of our pups are different, so it’s not a case of one type suits all. Try a few options if you think your dog is uncomfortable. 

When you first take your dog out, take a bag of treats to distract them from those sights, sounds and smells. Encourage your dog to walk close to you and reward them for doing so. You can try this around the garden or home first so your pup can build their confidence.

Once they’ve got to grips with the first step, challenge them a little more and extend the amount of time it takes to give them a treat so they walk close to you for longer periods of time. 

This is when you can switch up the movements a bit more. Introduce the occasional change of direction and reward your pup when they follow you without pulling on the leash. Again, always reward them for doing well. Dogs are highly motivated by food. 

One of the most time consuming parts of the process is stopping and starting. This is crucial if you want your dog to understand that pulling is no longer an option. If they decide they want to pull on the leash, then the best thing to do is to stop and wait for them to stop. If you repeat this enough, they’ll learn that they can only move when the leash is loose. 

Once you feel confident with the steps above, phase out treats entirely or use them occasionally.

Go at a steady pace - there’s no need to rush. Skipping steps or going over them too quickly can cause your pooch to regress, so think tortoise, not hare.