For the past few months, we've been working hard on this project that is designed to teach concrete ways to improve loose leash walking. A dog that knows how to walk on a loose leash well makes it look easy and effortless. If you've ever successfully acomplished this feat, then you know very well how much work it can truly be. I believe that loose leash walking happens to be one of the most challenging behaviors to teach most dogs because of the many uncontrollable variables that can hinder the calm focus required of your dog. In our own personal journey, we've had to work against the odds of unleashed dogs running up to us, strangers approaching us and touching the dog without asking for permission, and the list goes on. If you happen to have a dog that can do this without difficulty - congratulations! Consider yourself very lucky! For us and many others, it has proven to be a skill that takes a good deal of effort, consistent practice, and attention to detail. Having said that, there is no dog that cannot learn this crucial life skill with the right approach.
-This series episode builds on the exercises detailed in our previous tutorial on loose leash walking, "How to train your puppy to walk on a loose leash". While it is assumed that you have worked your way through that tutorial, you may find yourself needing to re-visit those exercises at any point in your training, but especially as you up the challenge.
- In the first training game (capture the moment), you will be making an important transition to rewarding the dog for NOT focusing on you. In this next phase of training, the idea is to help your dog understand that the goal is to walk calmly and normally while maintaining a loose leash, without any need to constantly check in to earn a reward. In fact, it's preferred that you do not reward the dog for offering attention, but instead for just going about their business enjoying the walk. This is just the opposite of what we do when we begin to teach this behavior but an important distinction not to be missed.
-The second training game in the video, "Simon says" can be an excellent diagnostic exercise that tells you how "ready" your dog is to work in the environment you have chosen to train. I highly recommend beginning this game with just rewarding your dog for eye contact 5-10 times. If your dog is unable to do this and seems uninterested, then re-visit the first training game for a few more sessions before moving returning.
-Accept that you may not be doing all that much "walking" when playing these training games. These set-ups are done intentionally to build muscle memory and reward natural occurrences of behaviors we want to see our dogs do more frequently. It just so happens that we first have to artificially manufacture them because it is the most efficient way to train. The goal is not to take a leisurely walk, but instead to set your dog up to be successful and earn rewards for walking on a loose leash.