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Leash Walking – Is It a Battle of Wills?

I often hear from clients that their dog walks better off the leash than on, well that maybe so but all dogs should be able to walk politely on leash for several reasons.

a.       Safety, when you are walking beside traffic or a potentially dangerous environment.

b.       When leash laws demand that you do so

c.       Another dog owner has requested that you leash your dog because their dog is not ok with your dog approaching them.

Walking is Good For You

According to the American College of Sports Medicine walking for just one minute can extend your life by two, that’s a great return on investment! To put it simply, walking your dog is best when you do it together because you’re a team, and like any team, success comes with training.

Starting as a Puppy

Teaching leash walking to your dog is easier if you start them as a puppy. They get used to the collar, then a light leash dragging on the ground following them around, then with you holding the ending and following them and finally with instruction.

However, if you adopt, or foster you often have a pup that is going to test you to find out if you, or she is in control of the leash/walk. Walks should not be a battle of wills, times of frustration, a chore, or a challenge. They should be times of shared companionship and joy. With the use of consistent cues your dog will learn your requests, and associated body language, and be able to walk politely on her leash.

A Training Example

It can also help walking with a friend, who has a polite dog to teach your dog the skills and norms of a dog walk. I have a client who adopted a rather rumbunctious bully who was all over the place on a walk with his owner, he had lived in a crate, so we walked him through the park alongside my dog Jackson. To start with we had Kevin follow Jackson on a sniffing leash so when Jackson stopped to sniff and pee, Kevin learnt to do the same, they would do the pee-pee dance and then we would walk on.

Later in the walk we would shorten the leashes and do some walk to heel side by side, no sniffing, just casual walking, whilst my friend and I chatted and pretended to be unaware of the dogs but really on high alert. If we met another dog, we would move off the path to minimize the opportunity for Kevin to lunge (his version of playing) with the passing dog. Fortunately, Jackson would ignore them and Kevin. Emulating Jackson’s behavior, Kevin learnt to do the same. Another time we would have our dogs move off the path and sit while the other dogs passed us, all the while talking to our hounds and reassuring them everything was cool, then of course giving them some K9CRACK for good behavior.


Learning to leash walk should be enjoyable for both you and your dog. Like anything, to be good at it takes practice and training. Having a dog as part of your family is like having a child, it is a lifelong journey, our patience will sometimes be tested but there are moments of great joy and pleasure at having this furry companion by our side as we navigate life together.

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