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The Ruff Life Advanced Training

Walking nicely on leash- IMPORTANT RECAP

Image by Jordon Conner
Image by Jeffrey F Lin

Have you been trying and trying to get your dog to walk nicely on leash?!?! But it feels like you are constantly hitting a brick wall?

Some days, okay most days.... it feels like an uphill battle, and like you want to give up??

The truth is, loose leash walking is one of the more challenging behaviors to teach, especially if your goal is to do it without special collars, or equipment.

It’s not that it can’t be done…it can! It’s simply that it requires a significant amount of patience, and some serious consistency by YOU to get it right. 


Many well-intentioned dog owners try day in and day out to teach and reinforce leash walking, only to have their family companion continue to drag them over to every tree, and bush they encounter on their walk. 

They reward their dog for staying next to them, but those rewards don’t seem to be working…

It's time to reclaim your walks... so you both can enjoy your time together! 

“Success isn’t always about greatness.

It’s about consistency.

Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”

A girl and her dog



Image by Jacob Mejicanos

When you first put the leash on your pup and headed out the door, did you expect that within a session or two they would be walking beside you and gazing lovingly into your eyes? 

Did you practice walking your dog on a leash in the house and get it right before you brought them out in the big world with lots of smells and distractions? 

Unfortunately dogs don't understand what we want, unless we teach them. Remember they don't understand English, we can't explain to them why we want them to act a certain way. So that means we have to be VERY consistent. We can't expect them to walk nicely on leash, when we only expect it 30% of the time, and the other 70% of the time let them pull to smell their favorite spot, go to the washroom, greet a human or their best fur friend. 

Your dog is left confused and keeps doing what gets them what they want MOST of the time... Pulling to get there.




Image by Darinka Kievskaya



It can be so fun to see your dog filled with excitement, bursting at the seams because you picked up that leash or said the magic word "Walk". 

But think about this...

If you want your dog to be calm and relaxed on their walk, how does getting them all riled up before hitting the pavement accomplish that goal?

It doesn't.

In fact, it sets the wrong tone before you even step foot out your front door. By getting your dog excited for their walk, you are in essence setting them up to fail.


As humans we are fairly predictable. Some of us ask our dog,

"Do you want to go on a walk ?" Looking for some fun, playful exciting response from our dog.

STOP! If you want your dog to be calm, you need to be calm.

Don't amp them up on purpose. 

If picking up your keys, your leash or putting on your shoes triggers your dog to go into a crazy frenzy, it is because we taught them those behaviours. (Sometimes by accident)


If one of the above amps your dog up. Then randomly pick up the leash and put it down (a dozen times... or two...or three if need be). Or walk around with the leash in your hands, or behind your neck.

You can do the same thing with any other triggers that your dog might have. Mix it up. Teach them that picking up your keys, putting on your shoes or picking up the leash doesn't mean its "Walk time". Even if that means putting on your shoes 30 minutes before your walk. Or picking up your keys and just putting them in your pocket.


Image by Erik Mclean



I hate to break it to you, but your dog pulls on lead works!

They get good stuff for pulling. That good stuff far outweighs the mild discomfort of pulling against their collar or harness.

Think about it, if your dog wants to GO...he pulls go! If your dog wants to greet another dog, he pulls and gets there. If your dog wants to sniff a tree...

Or greet a stranger...

Or do anything on walks...he pulls, and you follow.


If you know what your dog wants in any given moment, you can use that knowledge to your advantage.

All you have to do is STOP giving your dog what he wants for pulling, and start giving it to him when he's walking nicely.

Want to sniff that tree?

If you pull, we'll stop moving entirely...with a quick pop on the lead and an "ah ah". But if there is slack on the leash, I'll let you check it out!

Want to go forward?

Pulling isn't going to get you there.

Become a master of knowing what your dog is after in any given moment, and use it to reinforce the behavior you like!  Not the behavior you don't.


Image by Anastasiia Tarasova


Often times dog owners want their dog to be able to say "Hi!" to potential doggy friends as they pass.

But doing on leash interactions can put your dog in a tough spot, and you too.

Leashes can make your dog feel trapped, and can increase the likelihood of a bad reaction or experience. As we usually pull the leash tight the second we see a distraction of any kind.

Not only that, if you let your dog interact with other dogs on leash regularly, your dog will become very interested in other dogs, and will oftentimes start pulling to get to them. (Im going to assume you are already seeing that now!) 


Your dog walk is time for YOU to spend time with your dog. It's time for the two of you to bond. So avoid introducing your dog to other dogs while (s)he is on lead.

Instead, for social dogs, reserve doggy playtime for spaces where your dog can be off lead, or where you can safely drop your leash after you say your release word. Make sure you always get some good behaviours BEFORE letting your dog play with another dog. If they are not listening to you nice and close on a leash- they wont be listening to you when there is a fun distraction and you are not attached to the other side of the leash.

Keep the leash walk as a time for you to spend one on one with your dog.

Not only will this help you reclaim your dog walks, but it will also help your dog to feel more secure when she meets new potential doggy playmates.


Image by Alexander London


When our dog misbehaves on walks, and we want to get control, it's a natural instinct to hold the leash tight. It is also a natural instinct to tighten up the leash when we see a distraction. Whether we know we are doing it or not.... we need to become aware of this. We also need to correct ourselves for this. 

The problem with this idea is that it activates something called "Opposition Reflex" , or the reflex to pull against what is pulling them. Plainly stated, if you pull against your dog, they will reflexively pull back against you. So doing so tends only to make matters worse.



Whenever possible try hard to maintain slack in your lead. Rather than holding your dog close to you, spend time teaching him how to walk nicely at your side.

Grab some of your dogs favorite treats and practice at home, before even leaving your house. Walk your dog around your yard and spend time rewarding him when he isn't pulling.

If your dog pulls, stop moving and stand still. (You can mark the wrong behaviour with an "ah ah" and a leash pop) Act like a tree and don't say anything. As soon as your dog gives into the leash and stops pulling, give him a treat and start walking again.

By rewarding your dog when the leash is slack, and by practicing at home without distractions competing for your dog's attention, you'll set your dog (and yourself!) up for success.

***If your dog learns to walk nicely till they get the treat, and then dart away- mix up the time between your 'marker word' and the treat. (Count to 3 in your head- or 5)

I got this!
Im ready for more!
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