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Exercises for walking on a leash

When it's time to train leash walking, it's important to understand that for your dog this is very unnatural. Your dog does not understand that it is attached to you, and therefore we need to teach the dog how to behave when it is put on a leash. So here are two exercises to help you learn how to leash your dog.

The reward zone

Where do you want your dog to be when you go for leash walks? To achieve this, your dog needs to have a history of getting lots of rewards in the area you want it to move next to you. This exercise is simple, and the most important thing to remember is to reward more often than you think.

Do this

  1. Have your dog on a leash next to you.

  2. Walk around in different directions and when your dog follows you, drop treats on the ground.

  3. Once your dog understands that it can get lots of treats when it's near you, take a few steps straight and drop treats as your dog follows you.

  4. Should your dog spot something else, simply turn on your heel to bring your dog with you and drop treats as it follows you.

  5. Remember, here we are working on reward history and building a sense that being close to you is very fun and valuable.

Giving into leash pressure

When the leash gets tight and your dog feels pressure in their harness, their instinctive reaction is not to release the pressure. In fact, all individuals are then happy to increase the pressure, including us humans. Therefore, we need to teach the dog to release the pressure instead. This will not only make leash walking easier, it will also be valuable training for you if you have a reactive dog out on a walk. When the instinctive movement is to move closer to you rather than continuing to lunge, you can easily move away from situations that have become too difficult for your dog.

Do this

  1. Keep your dog in a harness/collar and on a leash.

  2. Pull the leash a little to the side, so there is pressure on your dog.

  3. As soon as your dog releases the pressure and moves towards you, reward with a treat in the direction the dog is moving.

  4. Continue doing this until your dog does not give you the opportunity to put pressure in the harness, as it always follows you.

  5. Now throw a treat out in front of your dog and hold the dog away from the treat with the leash.

  6. When your dog turns back towards you or releases the pressure, reward it with your voice. Make a circle with your dog before releasing it to the treat on the ground. Remember here not to make the leash tight again when the dog makes its way to the treat, but follow the dog all the way and celebrate together!

  7. Repeat this many times, and take it out on walks and into new environments.

  8. Use this method even when your dog sees distractions on your walks. Then you can reward it for following you with a treat.

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