Loose lead walking and body language
Loose lead walking has three pieces of criteria:
The dog walks on a loose lead with no tension,
The focus is on the owner,
Walking beside their leg.
Dogs read body language
The trouble is as soon as we start moving forward dogs who read body language as their primary method of communication, take this as a cue for the direction that we're heading, and they pull ahead in that direction because they walk quicker than us. So, we need to find a way of training them in incremental steps to teach our dogs what need to do to match our pace and meet our loose lead walking criteria.
Step one eye contact.
Why? In dog trainer terms, eye contact is a mutually exclusive behaviour.
Put simply, if a dog is looking at focus at the owner, they can also be staring ahead, pulling like a train!
If you've got the dog's attention, you've opened a communication channel which is a good foundation for the rest of the training.
Step two loose lead
We support the dogs with our body language by turning into towards them and creating a connection.
Formula: step(s), say “good” and reward to their mouth.
- Start by taking 1 step backwards,
- With each success travel further before saying good and rewarding.
- Continue up to 10 paces.
Repeat steps 1-3 but walk sideways instead.
Once you can do 10 x steps sideways for one reward without any sniffing or pulling, this is where we add in the final layer of criteria.
Walking beside your leg.
You know if you play ball with a dog, they start to hang out where they think the good stuff's going to drop? Well, this sort of reward hotspot is what we can create by always delivering the reward in line with your trouser seam.
Formula: step(s) forward, say “good” and drop your hand quickly to in line with your trouser seam where the dog can take the reward.
A quick movement creates a stop for your dog so they can start to get an idea of where it will be rewarding for them to be.
Continue this formula up to 10 paces, just as we did when we were supporting the dog with our body language.
If the dog fails (e.g. sniffs or pulls) at all use an obedience style heelwork ‘finish’ to bring them back to the heel position so you've got a rewardable behaviour and then carry on with your forward motion.
Focus on quality, not quantity.
If you usually walk your dog for 20 minutes, not covering a lot of ground but focusing on training can be more valuable than a 20-minute walk around the block.
It doesn't matter how far you go, they're still going to have been out the house and had the same mental stimulation
For the next 7 days start rewarding what you want on walks with treats your dog loves.
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About the author: Hi 👋 I’m Emma, accredited as a professional dog trainer by the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT). I help owners of energetic dogs achieve the dog-owning life they envisioned by providing robust obedience & agility training for dogs across my two venues in Balsham and Barton, near Cambridge.
Disclaimer: The content of this article does not include personalised advice and is for information purposes only. If you need individual advice or other enquiries please click here to get in contact or if you're not local to Anglian Dog Works, you can find a trainer in your area by going to the IMDT website: https://www.imdt.uk.com/find-a-qualified-imdt-trainer