The Puppy Training Podcast

Episode #82 Three Types of Leash Walking

October 21, 2021 Baxter & Bella Puppy Training Season 4 Episode 82
The Puppy Training Podcast
Episode #82 Three Types of Leash Walking
Show Notes Transcript

It has been awhile since I’ve talked about loose leash walking and today I want to revisit it. 

Let’s talk about when to start, how to begin and the different types of walks I take my dogs on.

Whenever I talk about this there are always a LOT of questions involved. When you are done listening today, if you want more help, please check out our online puppy school. My team of trainers and I are happy to help you! Your membership never expires and you have access to classes, courses, learning modules and lots of videos!

Support the show (http://www.baxterandbella.com/learn-more)

Three Types of Leash Walking


Welcome back to another episode. If you’re new to the podcast, I’m so glad you’re here. My goal is to provide tidbits of information to better your understanding of how to train your dog. Thank you for spending a few minutes with me today. 


It has been awhile since I’ve talked about loose leash walking and today I want to revisit it. 

Let’s talk about when to start, how to begin and the different types of walks I take my dogs on.


But first, many have asked if we are hosting our Halloween Costume contest again this year. Yes we are! We posted details on our social media today so watch for that. Post a picture of your dog dressed up, tag us, and use the hashtag BAXTERSHALLOWEEN2021 between Oct 21 and Oct 28 for a chance to win. Should be fun! We love seeing the fun you have with your dogs! 


Now for leash walking! Whenever I talk about this there are always a LOT of questions involved. When you are done listening today, if you want more help, please check out our online puppy school. My team of trainers and I are happy to help you! Your membership never expires and you have access to classes, courses, learning modules and lots of videos! 


The first question I often get is...When to start?


Most people feel this need to go right out and start walking their 8 week old puppy. After all, they have a dog and that is the expectation right? I say nope. There you go! You have my permission to NOT walk your 8 week old puppy. Why? One, they are not vaccinated and we want to be really careful where they walk on public ground - really avoid that until vaccinated! Two, the leash is a dangly fun toy that is hard not to bite when you’re that age! But, mom! It looks so fun!! I know little puppy. Three, your young puppy likely has zero leash skills. Zero. If I wanted you to start playing a super fun video game, would you want to start on level 10 or 1? Me? I choose one. Why? I can start out at the basic of most basic levels, learn how to play, how to win, how to be successful. Then I climb up the levels as I get better. This turns out to be a much more positive experience. So it goes with leash walking. Don’t expect your new puppy to be at a level ten with leash walking. For all they know, the leash is a toy. So we start there. Level one - this is a leash. Here’s how we move around together with it attached to you puppy. Because I want to set my puppy up for success - or any age dog for that matter - new to leash walking - I begin inside my home. We graduate to walking through different rooms in my house, around furniture, between other people in my home, we work on greetings, etc. 


I typically start this work around week 11 because weeks one and two are full of housetraining, crate training, sit to say please and building a bond. There is no rush or race to master leash walking. So that comes in time. But what about exercise you ask? Puppies are very good at knowing when they need to run and play and when they need to sleep. Let them run and play in a private backyard or up and down your hallways after toys. Puppies need to move and play - but walking is NOT the only way to achieve that. It is better to let your young dog tell you when they need to move and let them rest when they need to rest. 


Okay, my puppy is 11+ weeks old. They know what a leash is. How do we begin walking?

Attention is key in puppy training and leash training is no different. Find a food reward that is soft and easily chewable. 20-30 pencil-eraser-size pieces will do. Make sure your puppy wants to follow your hand holding one of these rewards BEFORE you attach the leash. If your puppy will follow your hand around you are ready to start. Set a food reward on the floor and let your puppy eat it while you attach the leash, then feed them a second reward as soon as they finish the first to immediately bring their attention back to you, not on the dangling leash. Then start walking. Take one step and treat your puppy as you keep moving. After two steps, feed another, three, feed another and so on. Can you work your way up to 10 steps between food rewards? Inside this is very doable with a young puppy and really good practice. When you stop, lure your puppy into a sit, reward, then when you’re ready to go again, say, “Let’s go” to give them a heads up you’re about to move. This is important because the leash is just a connection between you and your puppy. We don’t want to use the leash to physically make our puppy go somewhere. We work together with mutual respect when the leash is attached and use verbal cues to help our puppy know what we are about to do. We want our dogs to be very interested in how fast or slow we are going and which direction we are turning next. Keep them guessing and you’ll see their interest in you rise! That’s how we start leash walking. Not too bad right? Inside your house, in different rooms, around furniture, help them sit when you stop (note how quickly they no longer need your help...don’t believe me? After 5-10 times of luring them into a sit, just wait. I bet they sit on their own.) The timing of this leash training works out well. Just as we complete the inside work, our puppy is likely getting to their final vaccinations and we can then go outside to keep progressing through the levels of leash education.



What types of walks do I take my dogs on? 


There are three types of walks I teach my dogs. First is a loose leash walk. This is what I just described. I use a 4-6 foot lightweight leash. I teach my dog they get rewarded for staying near my side, checking in with me and keeping the leash loose. Important rule of leash training is NEVER follow a pulling puppy. Just like a car, a loose leash means go, a tight leash engages the brakes. I practice this with a young puppy as we go out for potty trips, to get the mail, back and forth inside my home, back and forth on my driveway or in my backyard. Sessions are short and I mix play into it to keep it fun. Walking in a straight line is actually pretty boring to a puppy. Make sure you give your puppy recess time to go play and be carefree and gradually build time into how long they can focus on a walk.


The next type of walk you may hear about is a HEEL walk. This is more strict than a LET’s GO walk. My dog tucks in closer to me and keeps their head near my left heel. You can choose either side - in fact I teach my dogs to walk on both sides because I often need them to switch sides when we approach another dog on leash, etc. But to start out with, choose a side and help your puppy be successful before moving onto harder levels. There are many different ways someone might use a HEEL walk. Typically I only use this for short amounts of time as it takes a lot of focus and is only necessary when we are walking through a store or in a crowded area. It is a useful skill, but one I use only when needed really.


The third type of walk is my favorite. I’m pretty sure it is my dog’s favorite too. Once your dog is fully vaccinated it opens up the world and where you can go with your dog. I call it a GO SNIFF walk. This type of walk is where we can move about with our dog in a more relaxed setting, letting go of our feelings to control everything. That’s right! Isn’t that great!? Let go of the need to control your dog. It is a fabulous feeling. Use a long leash - 15 foot works well - and let your dog GO SNIFF as you walk along. Every so often, I encourage them to check in, pay them well for doing so and let them go sniff again. Soon your dog will be checking in on their own because it is worth it to them and they know they get to go back to sniffing. This type of adventure lets a dog be a dog. Sniffing is a natural way to relax a dog so if you have a dog who gets reactive on a leash, try this type of walk where the stress levels can come WAY down. The same rule applies - no following a pulling puppy - but because you have more line, you can move about more freely and cue your puppy back to you before they feel tension on the leash. You can drop the line and move into a game of fetch or frisbee easily. This is a sure way to see your puppy’s stress levels decrease, their mouth open up with tongue hanging loose and their tail move in happy ways! I highly encourage you to give this one a try. 


And there you have it! A few tips and tricks to help you with leash walking. This takes time, a LOT of patience and practice. Be consistent with your dedication to never follow a pulling puppy. Change directions often, keep your puppy guessing as to what you are going to do next and watch their desire to pay attention to you increase! Keep sessions short and mix in recess to keep it fun. Allow sniffing when possible to naturally relax your dog. I hope you have a great week and I’ll talk to you soon.