6 Quick Tips for Better Leash Walking
“Poor leash manners” is one of the biggest complaints that I hear from dog owners.
Dogs pull, sputter, choke and overall make long walks detestable and loathsome.
And, interesting to note: leash manners actually have to be taught!
Dogs don’t come out of the womb knowing how to walk on a leash and understanding that they should not pull! 😉
Here are some helpful basic tips to get you started so you, too, can have better leash walking:
1. Throw that Retractable Leash Away
I hate retractable leashes!
They can singlehandedly ruin your dog’s leash manners.
Because the dog never knows if he has 20 feet available or 3 feet available.
And, a dog with the freedom to run from 6 feet behind you to the end of 25 feet can be dangerous for the dog (putting that kind of force on his neck and body), and dangerous for you and your shoulders.
I had one client whose dog did exactly that. He was sniffing behind her when he looked up and saw another dog across the street. He ran, full force, to the end of 25 feet, into the street, knocking her flat, breaking her shoulder and then dragging her through the street. Thankfully there wasn’t a car coming!
2. Use the Same Leash
Use the same leash, at least for a while.
Like the example above, I think it is imperative to a dog’s learning for them to know how much room they have to wander.
If you want your dog to walk on a 6 foot leash, keep him on a 6 foot leash so he can understand he has about 5 feet to wander around before he begins to pull you.
Once his leash manners are on point, you can begin integrating shorter or longer leashes.
3. Don’t Twist the Leash Around Your Wrist
Your wrist is not a strong body part.
I can’t believe how often I see people wrap the leash all up and around their wrist.
If you have a big dog and he pulls, he can break your wrist (again, I have seen it happen).
Your dog shouldn’t have to be tied to your body. 😉 He should have manners that are good enough that you don’t have to worry about having him tied to you.
But if you are set on tying your dog to you, at least get one of those leashes that can be worn like a belt.
4. Put the Loop of the Leash Around your Right Thumb and Hold it in Your Right Hand
By putting the loop around your thumb, it gives you the ability to keep the leash still, without wrapping it around your hand.
If a dog pulls hard enough, your thumb will just bend in instead of breaking.
And, interestingly enough, your hands are very strong.
We do things all of the time in regular life that build our grip strength.
Even if you aren’t deadlifting 210# at the gym like me ;), you are probably carrying dozens of grocery bags into the house in one hand because you don’t want to make more trips than necessary.
Your grip strength is a lot stronger than you think it is!
5. Don’t Hold the Leash with Your Left Hand
Hold the leash in your right hand!
When people hold their leash in their left hand (with the dog on the left side), they have a tendency to tighten the leash and strangle their dog.
When you tighten the leash, the dog pulls; it is called opposition reflex.
If you are standing in a line and people start pushing you to get through, you are likely to lock your feet and push back; it is natural instinct.
The same holds for pulling your dog tightly on his leash, his immediate response is to pull back.
If, however, you keep him on your left side and hold the leash in your right hand, it is nearly impossible to suffer from this problem.
You will be much more successful at teaching your dog leash manners and being able to reward good behavior by using this technique.
6. Put Treats in Your Left Hand
I keep the leash in my right hand and I put treats in my left hand. This way I can reward my dog quickly for good behavior and heeling on the left side.
It can also be used as a lure, in the beginning, to help teach your dog where you want him.
If you use these tips your dog’s leash manners will improve, significantly.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.