Training Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

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Ok, here is what you do. I am assuming that at this time, your dog knows what the clicker means, so we’re ready to move on. I don’t start training on walks; I start in my kitchen or basement. Initially, you are not moving very much, so you don’t need a lot of room. And let’s face facts, if you can’t do this in the kitchen, where the dog knows food reinforcers are all around, you will not be able to achieve loose leash outside where there are so many things to compete for your dog’s attention. Each step of this exercise should be practiced to 80-90% compliance, and then proofed on different locations, gradually raising distractions. It’s all about baby steps. Now you are ready to move. Hold the leash in your right hand looped over you last three fingers, the clicker in your right hand between your thumb and first finger and the treats in your left hand because you will be delivering them off your left leg. The reason for delivering them off the left leg is because this is where you want the dog to be. Dogs, like people, will return to the place of the greatest reinforcement. Think of it this way, if I gave you a 10 dollar bill every time you stood on my left, 6-12 inches off my body, parallel to me, where would you be spending a lot of time? Dogs are no different. Now, move only one step only in either a sideways, back or diagonal direction. If your dog follows, just one step, or follows you with his eyes while remaining in place, click and treat of your left leg. Over the next few sessions, move any direction but forward, one step and click and treat if he moves with you or looks at you. Now you are ready for a few steps, so take two steps, again, avoiding forward and click and treat as soon as he takes two steps with you. He should be moving with you at this point. I find the hardest part is bending over quickly enough to be sure my dogs keep four on the floor. Do not click if he is on his hind legs, but if you do click, ALWAYS treat. This is where you add a cue. This is not heel, so I use “Let’s go.” Once you are ready to actually begin walking, I find it best to start out backwards. When you are walking forward, dogs have a tendency to focus on what is ahead of them. When you walk backwards, they are walking towards you and you are their focus. Now you can begin moving forward. This may take several days or weeks to get to this point. Take three steps, click treat, then go to four steps, click treat, then maybe six then 10, then…well…you get it.

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