Loose Leash Walking: Troubleshooting

July 23, 2015 by Sophie Liu

by Sophie Liu, CDBC, Doggedly Devoted Summer Training Associate

Training dogs is usually pretty simple. The hard part is rewarding good behavior consistently and removing rewards for undesirable ("bad") behaviors. But mistakes will happen. How do we correct problems without using forceful or coercive punishments? As it turns out, there are often very simple solutions to common problems:

Problem: My dog pulls as soon as I try to start walking.
If your dog is bursting at the seams from the very beginning, you’ll need to spend more time building a strong foundation. Remember: dogs can’t skip from Step 1 to Step 20, just like you can’t learn algebra without first learning addition & subtraction! To fix this problem, simply go back and practice the foundational behavior (covered in the last blog, “Building a Foundation”), and be sure to practice it in many different situations.
Problem: My dog ignores me or keeps pulling ahead when I stop.
This is usually a sign that the dog is overly excited or aroused. Many things can push a dog over her threshold and into “selective hearing” territory: the situation can be overwhelming, the dog is already in a state of heightened arousal, and/or the task you’re training is too difficult. Tip: Instead of trying to narrow down what went wrong, hold onto as much of your dog’s focus as possible from the very beginning. Practice short sessions, use high value treats, work in easier environments first. If your dog gets too aroused and loses focus, take a break and try again later. It's also not a bad idea to revisit our last blog: “Building a Foundation.”
Problem: I feel like we’re just walking in circles. Every time he pulls, I turn around, but then he just keeps pulling so I keep turning!
Ah, the infamous circling! Basically, you’re telling the dog what is wrong but you’re probably not guiding him towards what’s right. So, after you turn, either stop and wait for an automatic sit or guide him into a sit. This is your way of saying, “Remember, you need to focus if you want to walk.” Over time, your pup’s focus will improve and you won’t need to remind him. Do you have any other loose leash walking problems? Let us know, and we can give more simple solutions!