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  • Writer's picturePet Waggin' Pet Care Team

Loose Leash Walking: What You Might Not Know

As a dog parent, you probably already know loose leash walking is the ultimate goal to achieve when walking your dog. It means you and your dog can enjoy a relaxed stroll, and you don’t need to worry about your dog suddenly darting and dragging you behind them. But do you really know everything there is to know about loose leash walking? We have a useful fact or two that you probably haven’t heard! Keep reading to find out everything about loose leash walking you didn’t know!

Loose Leash Walking: A Quick Review

Simply put, loose leash walking is being able to walk your dog while maintaining slack on the leash. Loose leash walking shouldn’t be confused with walking at “Heel”. At “Heel” your dog should be focused on you. A loose leash walk is relaxed. Your dog should be ready to respond to cues but not intensely focused on you. They should be able to sniff and enjoy the walk. 

loose leash walk with pet waggin' pet care in long beach

You should also be relaxed while loose leash walking. Your body should be relaxed, and your arms should be in a natural position at your side. If your dog is responding to something, you should keep your relaxed posture, and maintain a slack leash. Instead of pulling your dog away, your dog should follow you as you turn and remove yourself from the offending thing. 

Loose leash walking doesn't come naturally to dogs. It takes work to train your dog not to run after every rustling leaf or exciting new scent trail. You should start in a distraction-free area so your dog stays calm. Positive reinforcement and consistency also help set your dog up for success. 

You’re probably thinking that you already knew all that and you’ve probably been working on it, but what you didn’t know is…

Loose Leash Walking Starts Inside

That’s right. Getting your dog to successfully walk on a loose leash starts before you even leave the house. If your dog is hyped up and excited before you even open the door, that is the energy they will be taking with them on their walk. All that hyperactive energy isn’t exactly conducive to a relaxed walk. 

corgi loose leash dog walk in long beach

If just walking to the door gets your dog whipped into a frenzy, then how are you supposed to get them settled enough to be calm outside? Don’t panic. You can train your dog to be calm and settled before you leave the house. That’s why this is an important part of loose leash walking that every dog owner should know. 

How To Get Your Dog Calm For A Walk

Before you get started working with your dog, you need to think about how you might be reinforcing their excitement. When you get ready for your walk do you start acting excited? Do you say or do anything to help your dog get into a hyped-up state of mind? 

Before you work on your dog’s behavior, you need to adjust yours. When you walk toward the door, make sure you have a calm energy. If your dog is jumpy before going for a walk, don’t respond or encourage the behavior. Instead, give them a chance to calm down before putting on the leash and going outside. Going out while your dog is still excited teaches that being jumpy and hyper is the correct behavior. 

These are a few exercises you can do with your dog so they start their walks in a calm state of mind.

  • You can help your dog redirect their excitement, and get them into a “thinking space”. Before leaving for a walk, offer your dog a snuffle mat or puzzle. This engages their brain as they perform a foraging behavior. Once their brain has been engaged in this way, it makes it easier to have a calm exit and a more relaxed walk. 

french bulldog puzzle before long beach dog walk with pet waggin'

  • Training your dog not to respond to the leash and harness coming out is another step you should take. Start taking them out without actually going for a walk. Once your dog calms down, reward them with a treat. Over time, your dog will learn that the leash and harness do not automatically mean a walk and that they should stay calm when you take them out. 

Once they’re non-responsive to the leash coming out, start putting the harness and leash on your dog. Don’t forget to reward them for staying calm and still. Once they’ve mastered this, you can move on to the next step. 

  • Next up, it’s time to desensitize your dog to the door. This helps for more than just walks. It also trains your dog to not try to run outside the minute the door is open.

Start by putting on your dog’s harness and walking to the door. Do not respond or reward them if they’re jumpy or barking. Once they’ve calmed down and have all four feet on the floor. Reward them with a treat. Once they’ve mastered being calm, work on having them calmly sit next to the door. 

ready for a loose leash walk with pet waggin' pet care dog walker in long beach

Now repeat this, but crack the door open. Slowly work with your dog until they can sit and stay calm by the door whether it’s open or closed.  

When you practice this exercise, don’t always end it with a walk. Sometimes sitting by the door should be all you have them do. This isn’t a punishment. It trains your dog to understand that just because the door is open, doesn’t mean it’s time to leave. 

  • Be consistent with practicing these exercises. Also, remember to be patient, and don’t be afraid to hand out the rewards. Every dog learns differently, and you can’t rush training if you want long-term success. 

These exercises don’t just train your dog to be calmer before a walk. They teach your dog to be more engaged with you. If your dog is engaged, they’re paying attention to you and looking to you to find out what to do next. This promotes a safe and enjoyable walk for the both of you!


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