How to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Leash – Easy Loose Leash Training

Walking in the Woods with Husky

In my opinion one of the best things about having a husky is they’re a great excuse to get out of the house and go for a walk! Our husky Aura is much calmer than most but she still enjoys the adventure of new sights and smells that come with exploring our neighborhood and nearby parks.

At the time of this writing it’s the middle of summer here in Phoenix, Arizona so it’s usually too hot to go outside for long stretches of time, but when fall rolls around the weather will be more accommodating. This gives us plenty of time to teach Aura some good leash manners. Enjoying walks with your best friend is much more enjoyable when they’re not constantly trying to pull you to the ground in pursuit of the countless distractions of the world.

We’re currently going through a six-week training course through Petsmart and this week we’re learning about loose leash training. This is essentially getting your dog to walk next to or slightly in front of you while keeping slack on the leash. As usual I’ve done the research and assembled the best tips for how to train your dog to walk on a leash.

First we’ll cover the necessary things you’ll need to purchase before getting started, then we’ll go over loose leash training, troubleshooting some typical challenges that might arise, and finish with some additional parting tips.

Loose Leash Training Supplies

If you used our new dog checklist you should have everything you need already but if not don’t worry because I’ll cover that information here as well.

The first thing you’ll need is a suitable collar for your husky. I recommend a martingale collar as this is what we have for Aura and it works wonderfully. Martingale collars have an extra loop in them that tightens just enough to be uncomfortable if the dog pulls on it but can’t tighten so much that it damages their throat like a choke chain collar can. This functionality also keeps your dog from slipping out of the collar.

Pink 5 Foot Leash

Next you’ll need an appropriate leash for your pet. For loose leash training purposes a length of less than 6 feet is ideal. Any longer and it’s possible for your dog to get enough force running that they can hurt themselves. We have a pink leash that matches Aura’s collar and is just about 5 feet long.

The last thing you’ll need is something to help you hold your dog’s attention. In most cases dog treats are great but you can also use a favorite toy if your husky responds well enough to it. If you’re planning on purchasing treats from a store check out our top recommendations or if you’d rather make your own look into our recommended homemade recipes.

How to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

Here is a step-by-step process for loose leash training your husky.

  1. Put the collar and leash on your dog. If your dog knows how to sit make them sit calmly before you put their leash on. If your pup isn’t used to wearing a collar or leash just let them hangout inside with both on, leash trailing behind, to get used to the sensation. Giving them treats and praise at this time will associate positive emotions with the leash and collar.
  2. Decide which side of you, left or right, your dog will walk on. It doesn’t really matter which side you choose, just that you’re consistent with it. Traditionally working dogs such as police and guide dogs are taught to walk on the left.
  3. With the dog on your preferred walking side, give the command ‘let’s go’ and begin walking forward. You can also use ‘follow me’ or any other string of words you’d like but again, remain consistent.
  4. As soon as your dog gets too far ahead and pulls on the leash, immediately turn around and take two steps backward. Careful not to yank on the leash, pull gently. You can also give an audible ‘uh-uh’ as soon as they pull on the leash to help them know what they’re doing wrong.
  5. Lure your dog back to your preferred walking side with a treat or toy. Anytime your dog looks up at you give them a treat or toy. This will teach your dog that they are rewarded for staying near you and for keeping slack in the leash.
  6. Again give the command ‘let’s go’ and begin walking in your original direction. From here you’ll simply repeat the last three steps until you reach your destination. This can take a long time depending on how persistent your dog is on pulling at the leash. Stay even more persistent with it though and your dog will learn that they need to pay attention to you to know where to go.
  7. Give your dog treats every few seconds if they are walking near you to reinforce the good behavior. As your pup gets the idea of what’s expected of them you can give treats out less and less frequently.

Some Typical Challenges And What To Do

Walking Husky in the Woods Short LeashFor some people their dog may trail behind or stop altogether during a training session. If this is the case try to lure them into catching up with a high value treat. If that doesn’t work bend down to your dog’s level and many times they will naturally want to come closer to you.

Some dogs love to bark and huskies especially tend to have a unique howl language they speak in. We’re lucky that Aura doesn’t howl too much, she does just enough for it to be ridiculously adorable. Some dogs are more talkative than others though and if you find your dog likes to howl or bark a lot simply stop where you’re at and don’t move until they stop. You can also give them a treat as soon as they do stop to reinforce the good behavior of not barking.

Often you’re not in a position to control outside distractions while walking your dog. They may become infatuated with something or someone outside of your control and in this case you will want to walk in the opposite direction of whatever the distraction is. Walking at a brisk pace will often help prevent your pup from getting distracted in the first place.

Final Tips

  • Before you begin your training session try to get your dog tired by playing with them or letting them run around in the Man walking red huskybackyard. A tired dog is less likely to pull and also less likely to bark.
  • Keep the leash short at first, forcing your dog to your preferred side. If your dog is progressing well and not pulling, gradually let out more slack.
  • Try a short walk that lasts about 5 minutes at first and then gradually work your way up to 15 minute sessions.
  • As you anticipate your dog about to pull on the leash, give an audible ‘easy’ to let them know they’re about to do something you don’t want.
  • If your husky is especially difficult to work with consider getting a chest-led (aka no-pull) harness or head halter which are more restrictive on the dog, inhibiting pulling behavior. If you go this route you should also consider enlisting the help of a professional dog trainer.
  • I mentioned it before but it’s worth repeating; be consistent and reward good behavior.

Further Reading

Hopefully by now you have basic knowledge on what it takes to loose leash train a dog, everything from the necessary training supplies to dealing with some typical challenges. For more information on training your dog to walk on a leash check out these resources from WebMD and The American Kennel Club.

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Kai

    Wonderful article! It is just what I need! I think the key is to be consistent. Reward if they are right, stop/punish if they are wrong.
    My dog gets super excited whenever I grab his collar and leash. When I try to put the collar on, he would not sit still and would roll around or starting to bite the leash, telling me to hurry up.
    So, I guess I have to teach him to stay calm first…before I can start with this training.
    If you have any tips on how to calm my dog, please share with me! Thank you!

    Thank you for sharing this great training!

    • admin

      Hey Kai thanks for sharing your experience with leash training! Yes, you’ll definitely want your pup to calm down before putting the collar on. For many dogs this is as simple as turning your back and ignoring them when they are acting hyper like that. Dogs are very social creatures and crave attention from people so when we deprive them of that they tend to change their behavior.

      If your dog is really out of control think about putting them in ‘puppy timeout’. This is where you put them in a room (we use our guest bathroom), turn the lights out, and let them sit there for about 30 seconds but no more than 3 minutes. A few trips to puppy timeout when they do something bad is usually all it takes to correct the behavior.

      As you mentioned consistency is key and also lots and lots of patience. Depending on how out of control your dog is just getting to the point where you can put a collar on can take awhile so just remember to be patient with your friend, they’re trying their best! 

  2. Michael

    Thanks for these tips on how to get your dog to properly walk next to you.

    Being as someone who’s only had a small dog growing up I nthink bee thought the importance of teaching a dog how to walk calmly next to you — but with a big dog like yours I can see why.

    About how long would you say on average it takes to teach a dog to walk next to you?

    Also what do you think about the leashes that have like 20 feet of rope that contract in? Are those good to use?

    • Jon

      Great questions Michael! As for how long on average it will take to teach your dog to loose leash walk is completely dependent on your dog. Some dogs will naturally do it while others will take more time and many, many practice sessions. The key is to be patient with your dog and eventually they will start to learn what you want from them. Many short training sessions is better than trying to do one long one because you and your dog will get tired or annoyed of it really quickly.

      As far as those 20 ft leashes they’re not a great option for loose leash training because you want your dog to stay near you, so a leash less than 6 feet long is optimal. If they have 20 feet of leash to run your dog could potentially harm themself by running with enough force. With less than 6 feet it’s hard for a dog to get enough momentum to hurt themself. 

      Hopefully that answers your questions adequately but if you have anymore feel free to shoot them my way! 

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