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How to train a dog to walk on a leash without pulling

One of the biggest things dog trainer Steve Walsh at McCann Dogs wants his dogs to know is that their job is to not pull on the leash.

- Every week in our classes, we talk to hundreds of people. When they ask us about walking their dogs, it turns out they are all making the same mistake, he says. 

Unreasonable expectations

One of the most common mistakes is people think that taking their dog for a walk means that they have to be at their left-hand side in heel position for 45 minutes or an hour.

- In reality, that is an unreasonable expectation for yourself or a young dog. Teaching my dog to walk nicely is about giving us some freedoms once they earn them, reinforcing some of the skills that they already have, which is to hang out with us and move with us without pulling on that leash. I want to change the rules of how you think about walking your dog. Walking my dog is all about giving him the freedoms once he earns them and letting him relax. The next time you take your dog for a walk, I want you to think more about teaching them to walk instead of just taking them for a walk.

In this video, Steve shows you how to leash train your dog:

Left or right side? 

Steve does not care which side of him the dog is walking on.

- He can be anywhere around me, as long as he doesn't pull.

To practice this, you can move a few steps at a time. Anytime the dog pauses with you or stays with you, reward him. 

If the leash goes tight, Steve will add some pulses on the leash. As soon as the dog reconnects, he gets praise.

- One of the most applicable skills of leash training or teaching my dog not to pull on the leash is simply going down the driveway and picking up the recycle bins. If my dog understands that they shouldn't pull on the leash, and they can be anywhere around me, it makes life a whole lot easier.

Using their name

If your dog gets distracted by something, you can call his name to get his attention. 

- If I call his name and he doesn't respond, I will repeat his name over and over and do something to ensure that he does respond. When he responds, I mark the moment with my voice and reward him. I can change out my rewards for him to keep him thinking.

Your dog must have a strong response to their name. 

- Long line-work teaches our dogs how to listen to us, no matter what's going on around them,

The dog has more freedom, but you are still in control. 

- This isn't about being overbearing and controlling. This is about teaching my dog to learn.

Consistency

It is essential to set up a clear expectation by being consistent anytime the leash is attached to your dog.

- The consistency is what's going to teach your dog the life skills they need to navigate all the world around them. This is about giving them freedoms by being consistent.

Switch between collar and harness

If you sometimes want your dog to pull, other times not, you can teach him that it is fine to pull when the leash is attached to its harness, but not when connected to its collar. 

Start far away

Practice walking nicely on the leash in different environments to challenge your dog's understanding.

If your dog is getting too interested in other things and starts pulling, Steve recommends moving further away from the challenge. 

Read also: Never ask the dog to do something that they can not do well

- Build on success, then move closer. It's important that anytime there is a distraction in your dog's life, you teach them to be successful. Don't put them in a situation where the distraction is too much for them to be successful.

Using a long line

Once your dog responds well to the basic drills, you can give him more freedom by putting a long line on him. That will allow him to move further away from you, closer to the distractions. Still, you have a direct connection to your dog, which helps ensure that he responds every time.

- Even though he's got a long line on, I still expect that he does not pull on this line. If the leash goes tight, I add those pulses and ask him to reconnect him with me. The nice thing about walking a dog on a long line is that I can transition from this casual movement to have him get inside at my left-hand side when I want to.

Be funny!

Steve sees it as his job to be fun to be with so that the world around his dog is less interesting.

By putting in some effort with this training, you will be rewarded will stress-free walks!

If you are looking for a new leash for your training, you can check out our selection on this page.

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