Training a dog to walk on a loose leash begins with teaching a dog to be on a leash without lunging, pulling, bouncing or lagging. The owner stands still with the dog on a leash by its side. The dog’s behavior is reinforced, any behavior other than jumping or pulling, these behaviors are targeted for extinction while other alternative or incompatible behaviors are targeted for reinforcement. This behavior is generalized and put on an intermittent schedule of reinforcement before any motion is introduced into the loose leash walking. This helps develop impulse control and attention behaviors for those dogs that may engage in excessive exploratory and stimulation seeking activities while on a leash .
Once the dog is reliably able to be on its leash with the owner in a stationary position we then prompt the dog using a happy voice into motion to move alongside the owner for one step. As the dog follows and reaches the owner’s side the behavior is reinforced, click/treat. This one step behavior is completed several times on a continuous reinforcement schedule. Great care is taken in marking the correct behavior position through the click and the delivery placement of the reinforcement.
The one step loose leash behavior is gradually increased incrementally, two steps then three steps, then five steps. Verbal prompts and physical prompts, leg tapping, are introduced to help motivate the dog to move alongside the owner in the correct position. The motion of walking by the owner’s side with a nice slack leash is then reinforced on a variable ratio schedule. When the dog is able to walk 30 steps alongside its owner then the verbal and physical prompts are faded and stimulus control is transferred to a verbal cue “let’s go.” The behavior is then generalized and put onto a variable interval schedule using secondary reinforcers, patting and verbal encouragement.
Your local DogSmith offers courses specifically targeting this one yet important behavior.
Take Back the Leash! Walk Nicely
Are you tired of your dog pulling and dragging you around by its leash, but you don't need or want a formal, obedience arena style heel? Our Walk-Nicely course is just the thing. This 6-week program focuses on just one skill, walking nicely on a leash. This is a very important skill for you and your dog to master. Dogs that cannot walk nicely on a leash tend to get left at home missing out on the huge benefits of daily exercise and spending quality time with you. Teach your dog this crucial skill so you can both enjoy long and relaxed walks together.