Monday, February 1, 2016

Are You Walking In A Straight Line? Loose Leash Walking Tip

Phoenix walks on a loose leash.
Phoenix gives the most beautiful attention on walks! She's a dream!

Last week I told you all about how I am trying to work on my dog's leash skills. As I was thinking about a training plan, I started thinking about routines. We humans love our routines and it's really easy to get set in our ways. I am no different, in fact, I got super annoyed when a new neighbor moved in and promptly installed tie outs for her dogs directly on my daily path. Tie outs are not allowed in our complex but people do it anyways. Her dogs are reactive and they are now tied in the area Zoe loves most for pottying. Not cool, neighbor! Not cool! Not to mention Zoe is a pain in the butt about finding potty spots.

Anyways, I realized I was pretty much walking my dogs in a straight line, my route was direct and to the point. Just like Zoe and Phoenix, I had somewhere to get to. Without even realizing it, I was trying to get their walks around our apartment complex over with as quickly as possible. I was definitely set in my routine path and any deviation from this path annoyed me.

One big loose leash walking tip is to change directions or turn around and go the other way when a dog pulls. This is not meant to give the dog a leash correction or anything like that. It's to keep the dog from getting reinforced (getting to where they want to go) by pulling. I've been fighting the "turn around" method for 4 years and I just realized it. Turning around and going the opposite direction is not getting me to where I want to go. I was also unable to use this method back in the beginning because a lot of the walks we went on were with friends and their dogs. (Training is hard when you go on group walks and I don't recommend doing them when your dog is first learning.) Turning around meant the dreaded leash walks will take longer and we could be doing something else! (Like training tricks!) Turning around or changing directions was counter productive to my reinforcement (getting the walk over with and doing something else). Of course I love spending time with my dogs, going fun places with them and training them. I just don't like leash walks because they were so often frustrating.

Hurtta Mountain Rope Leash
I'll just walk myself.. No worries!

So now that I've realized that I've made a mistake by ignoring a loose leash walking method, I am trying it out! Every time my dogs pull, I turn around and walk in the other direction, then I mark and reward them for catching up to me. I am making sure to keep my rate of reinforcement high for keeping the leash loose, too. If a dog does happen to make the leash tight,  I do use a "no reward marker" which is the word "whoops" then I say "this way" as a cue to get them to turn around with me. My use of a NRM is not meant to be punishing but what it does is tell the dog that the leash getting tight is not the correct thing I want. They don't generally find their NRM punishing and it was trained more like an interrupter.

Another thing I am doing is trying to switch up our route and also not walk in a straight line. We are not in a hurry to get anywhere. It's about the journey, anyways. I make sure I am completely unpredictable about where I am walking when I'm going to change directions (I do cue it with a "this way" cue so they don't hit the end of the leash by mistake) and I am attempting to make walking with me more interesting and fun. I also reward them with a food treat when they are in the bubble of space I am looking for and keeping that leash loose.

This week I also received a question from a reader and that question was about sniffing. "Is it okay to let your dog sniff on walks?" The answer is that it really just depends. It's up to you to decide what your goals are for walks. You could let your dog sniff and I do allow it but being able to sniff is contingent on them not pulling. A lot of times, I will have them sniff and let them find a spot to potty and then once that's done I ask for a more structured walk. Then if they are able to keep the leash loose for a while I will let them sniff again. Sniffing is on cue so they know when they are released to do it. Our cue is "go sniff!"

I see you have some cookies up there!

So I bet you all are wondering how this training is going? So far, I haven't been able to do much work with Zoe because of her paw but the couple of sessions we've had have gone great! She's picking it up very fast and seems to be enjoying our solo walks, even if they are sort of short (to make sure we don't make her paw/wrist sore again). Last week with all of my solo walks with Phoenix, I used the "turn around" method and she picked it up immediately. Phoenix is already a great loose leash walker when her sister is not present so it was easy for her to figure out. Both of my dogs seem to really love their one-on-one time and I'm really glad we are doing it!

I will keep everyone updated with how things go with Zoe and I have more tips on the way so stay tuned!

We are joining the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop! This month's theme is "Training Confessions" - feel free to share bad training habits or mistakes, an unedited training session or any other positive training post you would like! Be sure to check out all the other posts! 


  1. That is mom's method if there is a lot of pulling, and she hates it too. We get nowhere in a hurry, but if you have the "sticktoitiveness" to keep it up long enough, it works well. She learned it from Katie's trainer in Germany. We sniff all the time on our walks as it is what we like to do and Mom likes us to sniff. We use a bit longer leashes so we have a few extra sniffing seconds. It works for us. Of course, there are times when we just have to walk because we are in a hurry.

  2. I often let my dogs choose our destination. The walks are for them, and as long as they aren't trying to drag me in a direction, I let them decide.

  3. Little Bit would choose where she wanted to go and hubby would let her go. She had all kinds of different places she liked to go. She was such a good girl about it too.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  4. I know that "I'll walk myself" move well. Leo also likes to grab Mia's leash and try to walk her.

  5. That's great news! I use the no reward marker, too (either "whoops!" or "nope!"), and it seems to help them refocus and remind themselves of what the job is.

  6. We're walking separate too recently! Ziva walks much better by herself, for some reason she is way more stimulated when we walk with Dante. I definitely like to change directions on our walks to encourage the loose leash walking, I also practice large circles both directions and figure eights to work on their focus. I want them paying attention to me so I use treats and generally don't say anything when I switch directions. I'm careful to make a change of pace though as a sort of silent body signal so as not to jerk them in another direction.
    Dante is great as long as I have i'm working to fade out treats to a lower frequency during walks which of course is challenging with two dogs (trying to treat them both).
    I'm loving having just my dogs though!

  7. What? the walk isn't all about the human?!? Tynan used to be a pro at knowing the difference between an exercise walk (he helped me train for many a marathon!) and a casual walk. I have not been as good at giving Wilhelm, Brychwyn, and Huxley clear signals on which kind of walk we are taking. I do use "go potty" and "go sniff" cues but I am terribly inconsistent about using them. We all enjoy the walk more when I am not freaking out about all the marking because it is making me late for an appointment!

    The turn around works great for Huxley but Brychwyn thinks it is a game to try to race ahead of me back to a tight leash! There are so many loose leash methods out there and it is so great that you found the one that works for Phoenix. I hope Zoe is back to 100% soon! Thanks for joining the hop!

  8. Separate dog walks do help a lot even though they can be a pain... Pulling was not really an issue but when we had the foster Chi, he was occasionally reactive towards strangers and Mr. N is dog reactive so if we weren't walking in a quiet place, I'd just take one or the other.

  9. Great tips! Goose was easy to teach loose leash walking cause he is super clingy anyways and he is so food motivated. But our GSD is a lot harder to work with, i'll try a few and see how it goes. Great post!

  10. Pulling on leashes is my pet peeve! I have large dogs but a toddler could walk them! Doggies immediately get leash boot camp. At the beginning of a hint of a pull, quick marching reverse and "Let's go!" helps her their attention.

    Once they understand that with a few weeks practice, I start freezing at the sight pull on the leash. Usually is only a couple seconds before they look back at me with a "WTH!" At that point I give a verbal "Get back here!" while jogging backwards. I stop jogging after they reach my side. They think this is a fun game!

    I slowly stop the running backwards, but still use the "Get back here." So the pup still thinks it's a game to run back to my side while I'm standing still. So far this has worked!

    I'm not too strict on heeling unless needed for traffic and safety. We walk with 8 ft leashes and all three of us move like a well oiled sniffing pack. ☺️
    It's all a fun game to them!

  11. OMD, this is the method our trainer long ago taught us! Ma, too, has been lax in enforcing it, and the sniff is only allowed if I don't pull, and if I pull to get to the sniffs for ME! meanie. butts, the trainer called allowing the sniffs for not pulling 'life rewards'. in other words, anythings that isn't a treatie...pawsonally, I'm torn on this...why can't I have BOTH??! SO not fair! ☺
    okays, so I really really really pull to gets to the corner to bark at the black lab....she says I gots a fat butt, so I have to tell her off everyday! BOL!
    Ma hates it, and has tried lots and lots of methods, butts we just HAVE to bark at eachother! *sigh* (that was Ma,not me...I thinks it's tons of funs! hehehe)
    Ruby ♥

  12. I think a lot of us probably get stuck in a rutt by walking the same path every day. Thanks for the reminder to enjoy, and vary, the journey!

  13. I need to remember to use this method with Delilah. Of course for me it has to be when I only have one dog, because when they are together, it's a competition. Delilah solo usually is a phenomenal walker, although their have been moments. I'm filing this away and using it today!

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. I've actually never really tried the switching directions thing. Since our walks are as much for training as exercise, it's easy enough for me to do; I just never think of it. I will have to give it a try!

  15. Such an important point that methods of teaching loose leash walking often feel punishing for the human! And then the whole experience gets poisoned (especially if it's painful for you when your dog pulls!).

    I'm so glad that the separate walks are making such a big difference for you guys! I bet the girls are really enjoying their one-on-one time with you, too!

  16. I remember using the turning around method for my Chow mix who was a terrible puller and quickly getting dizzy! Ruby and I utilized the zig-zagging a lot when it was just her, as well as something my trainer called "calming ovals" where we would go in 2-3 ovals until she relaxed a little.


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