5 Reasons Your Leash Walking Training Isn’t Working – Professional Dog Training Tips


– You’re working really hard to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash but it still isn’t working. It could be so frustrating when you’re putting in all this effort but you’re not really getting the results you want. At McCann Dogs, we’ve helped more than 90,000 dogs over the past 35 years and what I’ve done is I’ve talked to some of our trainers and I’ve got the top five mistakes that people are making when they’re trying to teach their dog to walk on a loose leash. These are little fixes that you can make that are gonna help you to be more successful. I’m Ken Steepe and welcome back to McCann Dogs. (guitar lightly strums) (dog barks) Every single week here at our training facility, we help more than 500 dog owners to overcome the same dog training challenges that you have so if this is your first time on our YouTube channel, make sure you hit that subscribe button so that I can help you to have a well-behaved four-legged family member.

I want you to treat this video kind of like a checklist so as we’re going through these mistakes that people commonly make, I want you to be checking these things off. You’re likely to discover that you’re making one or maybe a couple of these simple mistakes and once you get these things fixed, at least when you’ve got them identified, you’re going to find that your training goes a lot better. (bell chimes) Now, the first thing we absolutely have to check off the list because it’s the most simple is environment. I actually had a student last night come up and mention to me that she’s just starting her training and the moment she steps outside the door, her dog starts to pull. Well, it’s really challenging and it’s challenging for both you and the dog. We need to be building on a solid foundation of success. We need an opportunity that we can reward our dog, we can acknowledge the fact that they’re in the right position. But it’s really hard to do if there are so many distractions around that you never get that opportunity, that you’re constantly battling, trying to keep them on a loose leash.

So maybe for you, this means that you go to your backyard or maybe it means that you start practicing in your hallway where there are very few distractions. But you must give your dog an opportunity to be right. So it’s also a great opportunity for you to learn how you’re going to reward them, what kind of rewards you’re gonna need, what position you’re going to be rewarding them in. You’re both learning at this front end of your walking-on-a-leash training so focus on your environment.

If it’s too overwhelming for your dog, then you need to change something because we need to have sort of a foundation to build on. You’re dog’s level of understanding kind of goes hand-in-hand with the environment. If they’re struggling at a certain point in this environment, then you need to break things down for them. For example, a student will often say they’re dog will do great when they go around the block. The first half of the block, the dog does amazingly well, but as soon as they know they’re on their way home, they start to pull.

You really need to break that down so instead of going all the way around the block and giving your dog an opportunity to make some of these mistakes, maybe you pick two or three driveways and you insist that your dog’s successful throughout those. You’re really, really clear with them about rewarding them in position, that they remain with you, that they’re focused, that they aren’t pulling for those three driveways and at the end, you just give them that release word.

They don’t have to remain in at your side for that entire block or even half of the block. So really focusing on that understanding can be helpful along with being aware of what’s going on in the environment. I’m gonna show you a quick video of when I was training our toy poodle, Hippie Shake. She had this awful tendency to sort of tip in and she would sort of walk along side us ’cause she’s so little. So I want to show you how I used a barrier because of her level of understanding to ensure success and I want you to think maybe this is something that’s appropriate for your leash walking at this point. For those of you with the smaller dogs, this is really going to create a clear line, a clear path for them to maintain that position. For those of you guys with the bigger dogs, this is going to be a lot easier because it’s easier for you to maintain their position. Now, I’ve chosen Hippie Shake to really make it more challenging for me and to give you a better example of how well this can work.

So to set ourselves up for this exercise, I’ve got a few treats already in my hand and I’ve counted the treats so I’ve got three treats. As I’m walking along this wall, I’m gonna reward Hippie twice and save that last treat. With that last treat, I’m actually going to lure Hippie into a sitting position. So at no time am I rewarding her for being out of position and I’m also not allowing her to make a choice to charge ahead of me when I run out of treats. So I’m making it really clear that when I ask her to “Let’s go” which is going to be our heeling term, that it means stay in at my side until I release you. Ready to give this a try? Let’s go. Good girl. See, I’m really careful about where I’m rewarding her, making sure she’s on all fours and with my last treat, I’ll place her into sit, I’ll wait ’til she puts another paw down.

Good girl. Yes, good girl. And you see, I kind of waited her out a little bit. I wanted to make sure that she understood that she was only going to be rewarded with all four feet on the floor. One of the most common things that I see students doing at the beginning of their training and it’s certainly something that I did and maybe it’s something that you’re doing now, but I want you to be aware of your leash tension and I want you to think the phrase, “If the leash is tight, it isn’t right.” Students are often in a hurry to reward their dog for the position that they’re in because they’re in at their side but what’s really important about teaching your dog not to pull on the leash is that there’s no leash tension when you’re rewarding them. And this is something that I’m sure I did.

I see it happen so often in our classes and we have to suggest to students that they be really conscious. I want you at home to keep an eye on the clip of your dog’s leash. We talk about the clip of the leash always hanging down and that way, with that visual queue for us, we’re very aware of what’s happening when we’re rewarding our dog. And when we’re talking about loose-leash training, we don’t want to be holding our dog in position. When we talk about the McCann method, we’re always giving our dogs a choice and then when they make the right choice, we’re capturing that moment or showing them how to be right and rewarding them for it. Oftentimes, we’ll see students walking along and as they go to reward their dog, they turn into the Statue of Liberty and they add some tension on the leash so that their dog is in a great position, then they take their treat out and reward them.

Now what do you think that dog is thinking? “Tension on the leash, then I get food.” We really wanna break that association so we need to make sure that every single time that we’re rewarding our dog down in position that they’re on a loose leash. This will be really great for that casual walking behavior. Your dog will be less likely to pull on their leash because they’ll know that anytime they keep that tension off their collar they’re getting rewarded for it. Be really aware of that leash tension. Sometimes, you’ll see this. The dog is doing an amazing job hanging out in at their handler’s side, walking on a loose leash and then the handler goes down to reward them and then they add that tension on the leash.

If you notice yourself doing this at home, I want you to do something. I want you to take that right hand, gather up the right amount of leash that you’re going to walk with so that your dog has an opportunity to remain in position, and then tuck your thumb through a belt loop. Hang on to your pocket. Do something so that you can’t tighten that leash tension as you’re rewarding your dog. They’re working really hard to stay in at your side. We really wanna let them know that by doing that, by keeping that leash loose, it’s worth it, that they’re being rewarded for it. Now that I have you thinking about your leash tension, I want you to set up so that you can be more successful. Get your dog in at your left-hand side and gather up enough leash so that the clip hangs straight down and there’s just sort of a gentle J shape in the leash. Keep that same amount of leash in your hand. If your dog does happen to start to leave that spot at your side, you can easily bring them back in with just a little bump-bump on the leash, but this will allow you to not let them get six feet away.

It will allow you to not have constant tension on their leash as you’re rewarding them. It’s really gonna set you up to be more successful. And just to step back and talk about some of those fixes, imagine yourself driving down a long straight piece of road. A long straight highway. As you’re going along, you’re making tiny little fixes the whole way. If you start to get off track and you cross the yellow line, you’re not waiting ’til the last moment to make that fix. You’re making lots of little adjustments the entire way. I want you to focus on that. You’re keeping your leash loose but when your dog gets out of position little bump-bump, little touch-touch on that leash to bring your dog back before they get too far away and those little fixes make your life so much easier.

So much easier than making a great big fix. It can seem like there’s a lot to remember when you’re trying to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash, especially if you’ve been struggling with it for a little bit. What actually happens for a lot of people is that they slow down, they’re really in their head as they’re trying to train their dog and they slow down their walking, hoping that somehow that will help their dog to be more successful.

In fact, it has the opposite effect. Manage your pace. So something that’s so interesting about walking with a dog on a loose leash is that by moving a little bit more quickly, moving purposefully kind of like you’re late for something will actually teach your dog to be less distracted by the things on the ground, be less distracted by things that are passing by. It will actually cause them to be more interested in you, a little bit more focused. Something else you can do especially if you’ve got a wide open space is make a couple of turns, especially right-hand turns which forces your dog to be on the outside working a little bit harder.

But you’ll really quickly see that if your dog is often sniffing the ground or getting distracted by a leaf that’s blowing by, increasing your pace and walking more purposefully can make a huge difference. It’s more fun for your dog. It’s actually more fun for you, as well. But adding in a couple of turns keeping that pace up, you’re way more likely to get a dog who remains in that great position at your side, allowing you to acknowledge it.

Now often, the first response that I get from students is that they start walking really fast and I don’t want you to think fast. I want you to think deliberate. You are intentionally going somewhere. You’re intentionally walking in that direction and then you’re gonna make a 90-degree turn maybe and you’re gonna walk in a different direction, but pace doesn’t necessarily mean go fast but it means be deliberate. Be intentional about where you’re walking. Do you have any check marks yet? Have you noticed something that you’re doing wrong? Usually by now, there’s a couple things you may recognize that you’re doing and it’s gonna help you the next time you get out and train your dog. The next thing I wanna talk about is consistency. We always talk about being clear, consistent, and fair with the McCann method and consistency for walking on a loose leash can be challenging sometimes and what I mean by that is that we are working really hard to keep our dog in at our side on a loose leash when we’re training.

But then, we feel I’m gonna go to the store with my dog or maybe I’m going into dog training class and on the way in the door, because maybe you have something in your hand and you have your purse or your bag or something, you allow your dog to pull the entire way and that’s really confusing for your dog. We need to be really fair with them and give them consistent information. So if that means that when you asked them whatever your heel position, we use the term, “Let’s go” when we talk about the McCann method and that “Let’s go” means remain in at my side. No pulling on the leash. So when you ask for that behavior from your dog, be consistent about it. If you aren’t able to follow up, if you aren’t able to work on it and train through it, then don’t ask them for that. Maybe this is a great opportunity for you to check out our other video on teaching your dog to have leash respect, to never pull on leash when they’re in an informal position.

But if you’re trying to teach your dog to remain in at your side with whatever your command is, be consistent about it. Don’t allow them to pull sometimes when you’re going to the park with the kids or when you’re going into your favorite pet store. Be consistent. Let them know that any time you asked them for this behavior or your let’s-go walking, that you mean it, that you insist that if they a mistake, nope, it’s not a big deal but you’re gonna train through it.

You’re not gonna allow them to pull half of the time and then the other half of the time, insist that they walk correctly so be consistent. Something we have to talk about during this exercise is value and frequency of reward and those two things work together. If you have a dog who just loves to pull on their leash, couldn’t care less that you’ve got food in your hand, then you need to really up the ante.

Really give them something to consider. Let them choose between do you want to pull on the leash or do you wanna have some of this delicious chicken? Or maybe you wanna have some of this delicious steak? I know which one I would choose. But you really do need to set your dog up so that they are feeling super-rewarded. If walking is the exercise you struggle with, then now is the time to pull out their favorite thing. Now is the time to pull out that rewarding kind of food, whatever it might be.

The other thing you need to think about is are you rewarding them frequently enough? So often, we will get to a point with our dog where they’re walking pretty well on a leash, but then maybe someone will go by or a car will drive by or there’ll be some distraction and we will maintain that same reward every 30 steps or 20 steps. You will find that rewarding your dog every two steps if they have a distraction that they absolutely love, maybe it’s kids playing at the park, maybe you need to reward every two steps and after a couple of repetitions, maybe walking back and forth, and then it’s every four.

You can start to reduce the amount of times or the frequency of reward that you’re giving them, but it’s so important that at these times when they’re struggling and if you’re watching this video, ya probably feel like “Geez, I’ve tried everything and it’s not working,” think about the value of that reward and think about how often you’re rewarding your dog. We’re working towards a situation where you don’t have to reward at all, that your voice is enough. But at this point, if your dog doesn’t understand, then we need to give them something to think about. Give them a reason to pay attention to you and so often with dogs ’cause food is a resource that they find valuable naturally, using a better food, a more desirable food. In fact, we have a video for our tuna treats that I’ll link out to in the description below. Dogs seem to love those. Those smelly treats, dogs go crazy for them and you get the focus you need when you need it. Be proactive about increasing the frequency of reward with your dog, especially if you have a dog who gets really interested in visiting another dog that’s coming toward you or walking on the other side of the street.

If you have a dog that just wants to go visit people, you need to start increasing that frequency of reward before they make that choice. Before they’ve chosen to leave you and go visit that other thing or follow up on that distraction, make it more valuable for them to remain in at your side by proactively giving them a reason to be there.

Using your voice to bridge the gap between rewards when we talk about value of reward is really important as well. We can be rewarding our dog every couple of steps but we wanna be supporting them to bridge between each time we’re putting those treats on their nose with our voice. – Let’s go. Yes, good boy, this way. – Praising them for remaining in position. – Good job, buddy. – It gives them something to think about. – It allows you to take that food away for a moment because you’re staying connected with them and staying connected with them is a huge part of maintaining some of that focus. Use your voice. Reward with the frequency that’s appropriate for your dog. That’s gonna help you to be successful. I want you to check out a quick demonstration that I did with Funky Monkey and Grand Slam when I talk about a dog passing another dog and the frequency of reward. So you’re gonna get your spouse or your friend or maybe it’s a neighbor with a dog and this is how you’re going to practice this exercise.

Get them to stand still with their dog. It’s a little bit less distracting if your dog really loves to meet and greet other people and other dogs. But as we pass by them and as you pass by that top distraction, feed your dog. Let’s go, Slam. And really keep them focused on you. Good, let’s go. Good boy. We’re making it a lot less interesting to check out those other dogs and those other distractions as we walk by by being proactive, by giving Slam something so that he pays attention to us rather than that distraction. (light upbeat music) So the next way we’re going to challenge our dogs is by walking them by one another, but you can see we’ve got the dogs on the outside of us. We’re gonna make it a little bit easier and a little bit more likely for them to be successful by keeping them on the outside as we pass.

So let’s give this a try. Let’s go. Good boy. Let’s go. Good, let’s go. Good job, buddy. And sit. And just lessens that distraction a little bit, but it adds a little bit of challenge to the exercise. (dog barks) Then finally, we’re gonna try it walking dog-to-dog. Now, this is gonna be really tough for some of your dogs at home, so make sure you pull out those really valuable rewards and you really are proactive about rewarding them before they get next to that dog that’s passing. Ready to give it a try, Slam? Let’s go. Lots of rewards, especially as Funky passes by to keep Slam’s attention directly on me. Good boy. If your dog is pulling on the leash even when you’re standing still, then I want you to check out that video right there. It teaches you how to teach your dog to have a little bit of leash respect. Now, if you still have questions about walking on a loose leash, make sure you drop them in the comments below.

And on that note, I’m Ken. Thanks for watching. Happy training..

Read More: How to Teach your Dog to Walk on Leash

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