Out for a Walk, or Off to War?

This video is meant to illustrate one way to learn a behavior called “loose-leash walking”. There are many ways to learn this — if you have a method that is already working well for you, and doesn’t involve hurting your dog in any way, then cheers! I call the game that we play to teach this “leash dancing”. We enjoy giving our dogs some treats, and find it makes teaching easier and faster, but if you are opposed to this, then substitute affection or tug-time or whatever your dog’s assigned currency might be. While playing the leash dance game, it is important not to yank on the lash or get into a pulling contest – leash dancing is a team sport, not a contest of individual will power.

Before leaving the house, before getting fed, before getting a rub-down or anything else really good, the rule with my dogs is that they must be calm. There is no correction, no rebuke, no real negative consequence to exhibiting excitement – they just don’t get the good thing they know could be theirs with a more appropriate demeanor.  A little excitement is fine — what I object to is out of control behavior: jumping up, barking, spinning, or running around the house. If the dog does this kind of thing, just relax and wait by the door, leash in hand. Relax. Break out a book. Take long, exaggerated breaths. It may take awhile at first, but soon the dog will come to you and be relatively calm. Reward them by putting on the leash, and giving them a little treat.  I don’t require the dogs to sit at this stage; I just require them to be more or less stationary. Iggy taught himself within a couple weeks to sit down and look up when he sees the walking collar come out.  Ten months in, and Frankie comes up calmly, but doesn’t sit. That is all right with me – it is the calmness I really want.

A sidewalk will work, but a running track, a parking lot, or a field is best because there is more room and fewer distractions. After working on the leash dance game for a while – maybe 5 minutes (more if it is going well, or less if it is not) — walk the dog a couple hundred feet and let it sniff/pee/snuffle, whatever. Then go back to the leash dance for another session. Alternate 5-minute leash dancing sessions with sniffing opportunities for 30 or so minutes, but only so long as it remains fun for you and the dog.

3 thoughts on “Out for a Walk, or Off to War?

  1. The tone of this educational piece feels just right and the information presented is very helpful…love the use of the wall as a training aid and the overall positive approach.

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