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4 Ways To Improve Your Leash Walking TODAY

One of the biggest struggles pet parents have is getting their dog to walk nicely on leash without pulling. In this post I want to go over five key points so that you and your dog can actually enjoy your walks together.

It's probably one of the reasons you got your dog in the first place!

This whole series of steps will be outlined in video on my instagram this week so keep your eyes peeled!

#1 Choose Your Environment Wisely

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is taking their dog to areas that are too difficult for their dog to learn in. This goes for ANY skill you and your dog are working on, not just leash walking. If your dog is pulling on leash walking around your living room, there is NO WAY it's going to improve by working on this skill outside to start.

Patience is a virtue and all of us need more of it!lol!

Questions I recommend asking to determine if your dog is in the right environment for learning:

  1. Is your dog not taking food?

  2. Is your dog like a kite on a string on their leash? Meaning are they running all over and constantly hitting themselves on the end of the leash.

  3. Are they pulling excessively on leash?

  4. Are they really distracted or having trouble listening to you?

  5. Does your dog seem nervous, anxious, or worked up?

If you answered yes to any of these you are not in a good training environment!

So make the environment easier by increasing your distance to distractions, or eliminating them completely by changing places.

Once your dog is doing well in an easy environment you can add challenges or distractions to that environment. Once they are doing well there then you can change the environment.

I promise there are not shortcuts or magic wands, the beauty is in taking your time and going at your dog's pace.

#2 Teaching your dog where TO be on leash

Help your dog know where to be on leash by rewarding them for being within the boundary of your leash. That means rewarding your dog for (a marker or clicker will be very helpful for this) being next to you, or not at the end of their leash.

A common mistake I see people make when they hear this is that they lure their dog into position the whole time. Meaning they hang a treat in front of their dogs nose to keep their dog where they want.

This is vastly different from marking and rewarding your dog for specific moments you like. If you lure your dog like this your are often helping too much, meaning your dog will be stuck at this step, and your dog is being distracted and relying on you to much to know where they need to be. Distracting is NOT training, it's distracting.

If you keep an eye on my instagram @venturedoggie this week I will show you a video of what you want this to look like.

#3 Teaching your dog where NOT TO be on leash

This step is very misunderstood and requires the most skill, feel, and sensitivity from you. The goal is to teach your dog that when they feel any slight pressure on their collar from the leash getting taught that they should yield to this not pull.

This should be feather light meaning not lots of pressure.

The problem is most people can't feel this at a low level, and if you can't feel it your dog wont feel it either.

Most people unconsciously give the leash to their dog when their dog pulls so the dog learns to pull harder every time they feel leash pressure. Which is the exact opposite of what you want.

What I recommend to start is walk your dog in an easy environment (step 1), make sure they know where to be (step 2) and then if you feel any slight tug on your hand stop and wait until you feel your dog give to you. Once they do you can keep walking, or turn and go the other way.

Ideally you can mark and reward your dog when they give to you as well to solidify this learning faster.

#4 Adding nuance to the leash by incorporating patterns

To make sure your dog has a deep understanding of the leash and how it communicates with them, you can add patterns to your leash walking to help your dog learn to pay attention to your body language more .

Paying attention to you is something that actually comes very naturally to your dogs.

You are their entire source of food, shelter, protection, and safety, so you are significant!

The problem is they learn that most of our body language with them is inconsistent and therefore meaningless to them in terms of it having an outcome they want. Meaning the stuff we do when walking our dog often isn't all that significant to them because we don't make it mean what we want.

Actually we often create meaning we don't want...

For example,

How many of you start walking your dog and then immediately take out your phone?!

Uh oh is right !lol!

Your dog learns that the second you are with them you completely disengage from them and your body language becomes meaningless to them. So they disengage from you.

Or maybe you don't take out our phone, but you check out mentally.

Dogs can tell when you are present, they don't judge, but they are opportunists!

They know when you are not paying attention and go about doing their own thing to.

So how can we get our dog's focus more dialed in and with us?

  1. We have to be dialed in for starters. Meaning we are paying attention, present, and coming to walks with intention. This will already make a huge difference!

  2. We can incorporate patterns that signal to our dog that we want their focus.

The pattern I like to use is to teach your dog to sit in response to a series of movements I will outline here.

Make sure you have done steps #1-3 above, and start this with NO distractions. You can work up to that later.

  1. Start walking

  2. Slow down for a few steps

  3. Slide your non dominant hand down the leash until its about 10 inches from their collar

  4. Slow to a stop

  5. Raise the leash straight up so there is slight pressure up on your dog's collar. Do NOT pull on your dog or pull harder if you don't get a response. This should be constant slightl (like lifting a feather) pressure

  6. Say sit (this assumes your dog already knows this command)

  7. When they sit drop leash pressure, and reward your dog

Repeat this pattern until your dog is already anticipating. asit when you slow down, or slide your hand down the leash. Then play with them, or release them to go mosey on your walk together.

We want anticipation!

That means your dog is so dialed in and focused on you they are beating you to the last step which is great!

If you do this enough with your dog they will start to slow down when you slow down, speed up when you speed up, offer to sit when you start to slow down and you will feel like you don't even need your leash!

To gain deeper connection, communication, and understanding with our dogs we need to show up as our best selves. That means present, patient, understanding and with intention.

We don't get mad at them for "messing up," we help them find the answer we want however that needs to happen in the moment.

We make sure our dogs feel safe, and confident before we ask them to be accountable.

We make sure we have actually done the work teaching them the skills before we blame something on them.

Dogs will humble you at every stage of training. They do it to me everyday lol!

If they are not doing what you want they DON'T know better they need your support and you need to go back and figure out where you confused your dog.

99% of the time it's something we did.

It's not easy, but the challenges in our life are there to teach us something. Even something as small as walking your dog on leash has endless rewards for you if you are willing to keep an open and positive mindset and be present through the process.

Hope this helps you all! Feel free to tag me on instagram @venturedoggie while you walk your dog for free tips on the video you post!

Valerie works with dogs of all breeds and temperaments and focuses on teaching dogs to want to make the choices that we want them to without causing conflict. For their sake as well as yours!

She believes in building deep trust and connection with the animals she works with and has found that this is always the final ingredient in a successful partnership.

To find out more about Valerie you can visit her About page at

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