Teaching your dog to walk on a loose lead

By Honor Coulter | training, walk, behaviour, teaching

Equipment Needed

  • Dog
  • Treat bag
  • Treats
  • Flat collar or fixed harness
  • Flat lead

Before You Start

  • Ensure you are set up ready to carry out the exercise.
  • Decide which side you want to start teaching loose lead walking.
  • Hold your lead in the opposite hand to the side that your dog is on.
  • Have your treat bag and treats on the same side as your dog (this makes sure that your dog is not crossing in front of you to get their treat from the other hand).

Getting Started

  • Hold the treat in the hand closest to the dog to get their attention and guide them into the position at your side.
  • When they are standing beside you, facing the same way you are, give them a treat
  • You are now ready to start!

Lets go!!!

  • Using the food guide your dog forward 1 or 2 steps and if the lead remains loose, give the dog a treat.
  • Take a couple more steps and if the lead is still loose, then give the dog another treat.
  • Do this several times.
  • Continue giving treats when the lead is loose and you are moving.

If Your Dog Pulls!

  • Stand still and keep holding the lead in the same position.
  • Get your dog’s attention and guide then back to your side.
  • Start again.
  • Be consistent.

Allow Your Dog To Sniff!

  • It is important to allow your dog sniffing time.
  • If your dog pulls during sniffing, stand still and guide then back.
  • To make sure you dog know when to walk next to you and when he or she can sniff, you can give them a cue to go and sniff.

Practising Without Distractions

  • Once your dog is successful, increase the number of steps before giving a treat, i.e. 3-4 steps then 5-6 steps.
  • If your dog pulls away after the treat or during the exercise, stand steady, guide them back into position, and then take a couple of steps and reward.
  • It may be that you need to back a stage if they continue to pull forward or are getting distracted.
  • Once you can walk a dozen paces without the dog pulling, add in a command whilst it is happening, such as ‘heel’.

In The Real World!!

  • As with all training exercises start in an area with very little happening to distract your dog, and gradually build up to more exciting situations. For example start at home, then in the garden, then out on a quiet street – in this way the behaviour becomes established before there is too much distraction, and you are setting up your dog to succeed!

Out And About

  • Now you are ready to build up some distractions.
  • Start with a quiet road or quiet area of the park, then onto a busier road and in the park with other dogs and people.
  • It is unrealistic to expect your dog to walk nicely on a loose lead for the whole walk when you are first teaching this behaviour.
  • Set realistic targets whilst on your walk, i.e. from the second lamppost from your house to your home, then increase the distance this way.

Being Prepared!!

  • Always have a variety of tasty treats on you.

Always have poo bags to hand too, as accidents will happen!!


Check out Dogs Trust Dog School for fun classes led by experienced trainers around the UK. Our classes are science led, use only positive reward based training and help you build foundations with your dog to ensure a strong bond and avoid future problems.