Loose Lead Walking Tips - Absolute Dogs

3 Steps to Achieving Loose Lead Walking


Does your dog’s pulling drive you crazy?

Are you tired of days where your dog is the one taking you for a walk instead of it being the other way round?

Perhaps you look with envy at other owners who seem to have it all sussed out as their dog trots happily by their side.

Loose lead walking is a dog owner’s dream. It makes outings with your canine companion enjoyable and stress free.

And yet we know loose lead walking is not everyone’s current reality. 

Pulling on lead is such a common struggle, so if walks with your dog  are not quite that picture of perfect, loose lead walking, you are not alone!

The problem with loose lead walking is that the world is full of distractions!

As you and your dog head out on adventures together, the world is full of distractions.

Those distractions might be things your dog has huge value for and desperately wants to interact with…. 

  • The squirrel that just shot up a tree
  • The neighbourhood cat who ran across the street in front of you
  • The lure of the park up ahead
  • The whiff of a freshly delivered pee-mail waiting to be sniffed
  • The dubious delights of that half eaten hamburger someone has discarded

The world is beckoning, and as far as your dog is concerned, you don’t exist! At best, you’re the person on the other end of the lead who is holding them back from all that fun to be had up ahead!

Equally, those distractions could be things your dog is worried about and is desperate to get away from…

  • The noisy truck that just drove past
  • The dog approaching from the opposite direction
  • The paper bag blowing down the street
  • The strange-looking man in a high-vis jacket

Either way, the result of all those distractions along the way is often a dog who pulls on the lead, destroying that loose lead walk that you had in mind!

A lead restricts your dog’s natural movement.

It can create frustration because things your dog wants to interact with are not immediately accessible.

In some situations, being on lead may cause your dog to feel inhibited from acting on their flight response when their natural instinct is to run away.

Common misconceptions about walking on a loose lead

It can be easy to assume that your dog should instantly know how to walk nicely by your side on lead - and have value for doing so!

In reality, walking on lead is a skill. Dogs don’t come knowing how to do this. In fact, they actually come with a built in opposition reflex, which means pulling AGAINST the lead is hardwired!

If a walk with your dog is currently an exercise in trying to stay on your feet while their nose takes them from sniff to sniff or their enthusiasm for life means you get dragged from one experience to another - don’t despair.

If your dog’s worries about the world mean they’re frequently pulling you away from things they’re scared of - there is hope!

That loose lead walking dream doesn’t have to be a distant one.

Once you understand what creates that picture of pulling on lead, you’re one step closer to transforming it.

Reshape your dog’s brain and reshape your walks for those loose lead dreams

At AbsoluteDogs we train concepts. It’s a way of re-shaping your dog’s brain. Solving your loose lead walking struggles needs to be worked on by training much more than just a behaviour.

But why is training concepts going to help when other things you’ve tried in the past haven’t?

By inspiring the concepts your dog needs in order to have value for walking WITH you instead of pulling AGAINST you, loose lead walking transformation really is possible - no matter your dog’s history or lead pulling struggles!

The key to transforming that picture of pulling on lead is to dive into your dog’s brain. 

What skills are they lacking? Which is just another way of saying what concepts do you need to boost? 

Once you understand what motivates your dog to pull, you can begin to transform that picture.

In fact, teaching your dog to walk beautifully on lead can and should be fun - for both you and your dog - and it can be as simple as these three easy steps.


The power of proximity to inspire loose lead walking

The most common reason for pulling on lead is often a lack of value for proximity.

A dog who has amazing value for proximity will naturally want to be close. Not only will this help create that picture of loose lead walking, it will allow your dog to enjoy amazing off lead freedom too!

Value for proximity can completely transform your dog’s lead walking. To grow and have a value in proximity means that your dog WANTS to hang out with you! 

The outcome? No more pulling!

Being intentional about the games you play and making sure you are showing your dog that hanging out close is the very best deal, is so, so powerful.

(If you want to see how we use food in training then check out our Ditch the Bowl blog)

Game 1 -  Proximity Vortex

This game is all about showing your dog that hanging out with you is the best thing ever!

1. Have low value food in one hand and higher value food in the other. Every dog is different, so your choice of food will depend on your individual dog.

2. Throw one piece of lower value food a little distance away from you for your dog to locate.

3. When your dog comes back to you, reward that choice with the higher value food.

4. Repeat! Throw the lower value food out and when they come back to you, feed them the higher value food in close proximity. This communicates and reinforces very clearly where the value is.

5. Once you’ve mastered this game in your house and garden, you can start to play in other more challenging environments - always remembering to set your dog up for success.


Disengagement (aka “It’s none of your business”)

Disengagement is a powerful concept which helps your dog notice distractions and see value in moving past them without feeling the need to get involved, or pull towards them.

Your dog might currently pull towards other dogs they encounter on walks, because they find them worrying or exciting, or because they are experiencing those feelings of frustration at being unable to interact.

Disengagement is your dog’s ability to see whatever distractions they encounter as none of their business, and to move on past without pulling. Even more than that, it’s your dog’s ability to do a metaphorical hair toss and carry on as if those distractions weren't even there!

It can be easy to assume dogs come with the skill to disengage, but more often than not we need to teach them this important concept before we can even think about working on loose lead walking.

Game 2 - Disengagement Pattern

This is a great game to play to build your dog’s ability to disengage from distractions. The predictable pattern of the game helps your dog understand there is more value in moving away from things they find exciting or worrying than in checking them out.

Choose a suitable distraction. This will depend on your dog. Pick something they are interested in but not something that is so exciting (or worrying) they are going to struggle to leave it alone. This might be a toy, a neutral object or even a person.

1. Place one piece of food towards the distraction. Your dog should go towards the distraction to find that piece of food, and then look back to you to see if you’ve got any more on offer.

2. The moment they check back in with you, start moving away so they have to follow you. When they catch up, feed, feed, feed (give them several pieces of food). This tells your dog very clearly that the choice to disengage is the best deal! By marking the moment they turn to look at you and giving them a jackpot reward (lots of pieces of food), your dog learns that there is more value in moving away from the distraction than in checking it out.

3. Repeat. The more repetitions you do, the faster your dog should disengage from the distraction. If you find they’re struggling, help them out to begin with. Make the distraction less exciting, or play a little further away from it.

4. To progress, you can make the distraction gradually more exciting, until you can take it out and about and play with real life distractions that you come across on a walk or in the park. 


Calmness is King! (yes even for loose lead walking!)

When it comes to your dog’s ability to walk loosely on lead, calmness is King!

Dogs who are overstimulated or over-excited by the environment have much less capacity to walk calmly on lead.

A dog who is so excited by the prospect of a walk and whose brain is already several streets ahead anticipating that off lead run around the park, is very likely to be the dog who drags you down the road instead of walking calmly by your side.

Dogs who are highly vigilant, anticipating all the things they might encounter that could worry or scare them, are much more likely to pull on lead too.

Calm dogs make all round better choices.

Pairing novelty in the environment with calm, positive outcomes can be a true gamechanger.

Game 3 - DMT

DMT is THE game to boost your dog’s optimism, disengagement and calmness! DMT works by acknowledging that novel things are happening (distractions), signalling to your dog with a calm word that you are aware and have noticed them too (mark) and following up with a positive outcome (treat). Make sure you’re starting at home in a non-distracting environment.

1. The first step is to teach your dog the significance of your marker word. Say your marker (“Niiiiice”) and follow up with a calmly delivered food reward. Repeat this until your dog hears that magic word and knows that a positive outcome (some yummy food) is going to follow. Leave a short pause between your marker word and your food.

2. Once your dog understands your marker word signals that food is coming, you can start to pair your word with distractions. Begin with easy distractions, not things your dog is obviously worried by.
 Spot a distraction, say your word and follow up with some calmly delivered food.

3. Take your game on the road to pair novel events with a positive outcome and show your dog that a calm response to distractions is the very best option!

There is hope for your loose lead-walking dreams!

Whatever your walks currently look like, we want you to know that there is hope!

Every dog can learn the skills to walk beautifully on lead.

Pull No More Playbook

Do you want to unlock the secrets to loose leash walking success? Download our free Pull No More Playbook for our top games and strategies to eliminate pulling on lead and transform walks with your dog.

Stop Pulling Mini Course

Or why not jump into our supercharged, value-packed struggle-focused mini-course, overcome your dog’s pulling on lead struggles and unlock real-life results with our Pulling on Lead mini course!!