Before we begin our lead walking, I want you to be aware of my 7 step formula. This is 7 stages that It takes to train beautiful loose lead walking.
1 RELATIONSHIP & CONNECTION
We need to build a good relationship with our puppies if we want them to listen to us and want to walk with us. See TPS bonus games and play these lots in the first weeks with your puppies, indoors, gardens and while on walks. You can pick the ones suited to your puppy as every puppy may enjoy a slightly different play style. Note, just sitting and watching the world go by or physical contact also counts. Relationship building extends to every interaction with your puppy so be sure to advocate for your puppy, be there when they need you and develop trust, try not to use force or fear to train or communicate with your puppy, this will only have the opposite effect.
2 CUES & EQUIPMENT
Equipment is super important when it comes to lead walking. The type of lead you choose and how you handle the lead can have a huge impact on the way your puppy walks. We also need to help our puppies learn how to be calm outside, an excitable puppy will only be chaos on the end of your lead.
The best leads for puppies tend to be longer ones. Puppy leads are often too short, meaning puppies have very little room for error when walking on the lead, leading to lots of frustration for both you and your puppy. I advise a flat cotton or nylon lead that is around 1.5-2 metres long. I don’t advise you to use flexi/extendable leads for lead walking. Despite these often being used in a dangerous manner, these often give mixed signals to your puppies. Do they have to walk with you or can they walk 5 metres ahead of you doing their own thing? In order to move forward on flexi leads, dogs need to pull and create tension on the lead, we want to be teaching the opposite.
When walking your puppy, try to keep your arms relaxed and by your side. Keep your hands loose to avoid any tension from your end. Lead walking is two sided, if you want your puppy to not pull and keep a slack lead, you need to do this too. If your puppy pulls, we gently stop and relax our lead, try not to yank them back or hold a tight lead where you don’t need to. If your puppy is pulling lots, adjust where you’re walking. Try to pick more dense areas where there’s lots to sniff near you and slow down your pace. Aim for mooch walking rather than marching. Slow, sniffy walks will hugely help you keep your end of the lead slack.
3 LEAD WALKING GAMES
We then need to build a foundation and teach our puppies what is expected of them on lead. Often we skip this stage and wonder why our puppies are not following the rules.
Games can help us teach and embed key foundations while making a relatively dull skill exciting for your puppy. I’ve included a couple of these in TPS for you.
4 ADDING DISTRACTIONS
Next up we’ll look at adding distractions. Notice this step comes later on in TPS. Try to build the first 3 stages before expecting your puppy to walk nicely in distracting environments.
You can use food as we do and begin to fade this out as your puppies begin to learn to walk nicely as a habit. But really, a little secret, you don’t get rid of your rewards, you just change them up! Environmental reinforcement is a big one. Letting them stop to sniff, say hello to that dog, get off lead to run or simply move forward, now become your rewards. This is why I encourage you to use a capture technique and not a luring one. Be sure your puppy is walking to your cues and you’re not using ‘what’s this’ and a treat to hold your puppy with you.
6 ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE UP
When you feel your puppy is getting this in and around your local area you can begin to practise in different environments. Start in low distracting environments and then gradually build to more distracting ones such as the high street. Highly distracting situations will be hard for your puppy so do expect to spend a lot of time helping them adjust on the outskirts first.
7 REAL LIFE WALK STORY
Think about the story of your walk. It has a beginning, middle and end. Each bit of the story is important. We want to start it calm, with leads being put on calmly and exiting the door calmly. We then can have mad middles for running and games and then calm it down again before going home, try lots of sniffing here or sitting and watching the world go by.
Generally overall we want to encourage mooching rather than marching, which is super important for your puppies first walks. Stop and watch the world go by, slow it down and don’t feel the need to get anywhere just explore the environment with them nice and calmly. Often we encourage hyped up walking which encourages our puppies to pull on lead.
Add games throughout your walk to encourage listening and helping your puppy learn that you are in fact still fun outside rather than their chaperone.
These 7 steps gradually build over weeks of training but if you follow these steps, your lead walking should be something we dream about.