If you have a dog then chances are that, at some point, you’ve wondered what the best way to achieve consistent, loose lead walking is. This may have led you to search for training advice online – while the internet can be a brilliant place to access information in a blink, it is also unfortunately full of misinformation and outdated methods. Lead walking is one of the trickiest skills to master and makes a huge difference to how both we and our dogs enjoy our walks or even whether we enjoy them at all! There is, therefore, LOADS of well-intentioned advice out there for how to do this. Unfortunately, much of it isn’t the solution it claims to be – that’s why we wanted to take a moment to debunk one of the biggest lead walking myths out there!
The Ping Pong Dog
The ping pong dog is the dog who pings away to the end of their lead and, when the handler either stops walking or changes direction, returns back to them. After a few more steps, the dog has once again pinged away. Rinse and repeat! Does this sound familiar? Many of us have tried this – whether instinctively or because we have been given advice that stopping or changing direction when our dogs pull is the best way to prevent the pulling.
Unfortunately, practice makes perfect! When we focus on training our dogs to walk on a loose lead, we need them to actually walk on a loose lead if we want them to get better at it! Look at the scenario above – what is the dog practicing? We’re playing ping pong and probably getting really good at it, too!
Top Tips for Loose Lead Walking
Instead of becoming ping pong champs, consider following our tips below for efficient, successful loose lead training:
Reward your dog for staying at your side.
nstead of waiting for your dog to ping away, make sure you are delivering treats frequently enough that they never leave your side in the first place. At first, this might mean drip feeding your dog as you walk! This won’t last forever – as your dog develops this skill, you will naturally begin taking more steps between each reward. Your dog will stay there because you were liberal with your treats and made sure that space at your side, with no tension on the lead, was THE place to be!
As we’ve mentioned above, you will eventually use less treats just because your dog is getting better at walking next to you – so you don’t need to be stingy in those early stages. Walking at our slow human pace and staying engaged is HARD work for our dogs and we ought to make sure they know we are reliable and trustworthy and they will be paid for their efforts. Rewarding them for a few paces and then trying to ditch the treats too soon only teaches your dog that you like to change the rules – so they may as well quit and do what they like instead! That interesting smell isn’t going to disappear on them if they put the effort into dragging us over to it – the environment WILL reward them for pulling, but will we reward them for choosing to stay with us?
Make it easy to begin with.
Start off at home, then in the garden, then outside the front door, on the pavement and then at the park etc. If your dog can’t walk nicely at your side in the house or garden, how can we expect them to manage it at the local park with other dogs and amazing smells all around them?!
Keep it short and sweet – quality over quantity!
As we mentioned earlier, loose lead walking is not easy for our dogs. Focus on quality loose lead walking rather than getting out on a long walk. This will still tire your dog out, as they will be concentrating on their training! As we’ve discussed already, practice makes perfect – so you’re better off going for shorter walks for a while than undoing all your hard work by going out for too long and running out of treats or losing your dog’s focus. The better they get at this skill, the sooner you can get back to your longer walks and they will be better than ever with your pup trotting pleasantly at your side!
For extra assistance with loose lead walking and reducing the ping pog dog, join us at our puppy and dog classes here
and take a look at our loose lead walking masterclasses in Ipswich and Colchester here
. If you want more personalised training, we also offer 121
sessions where you can work on the behaviours that you are struggling with.