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3 Super Fun Games to Teach Loose Lead Walking

Nov 17 / Holly Leake
Pulling on the lead is one of the most common behavioural issues that guardians face.
Unfortunately, due to the behaviour being reinforced for a long time, it can be a difficult behaviour to reverse and requires a lot of practice and patience. In all honesty, lead training isn’t the most fun form of training, however it is a necessary evil if we want to enjoy walks without getting a bad shoulder. Nevertheless, lead training doesn’t have to be boring and this blog is going to show you why. We are going to consider 3 games you can play with your dog to teach loose lead walking.

Magic Hand

Magic hand is a simple but fun game for teaching your dog to walk in the heel position. However, it does require your dog to catch treats, so expect hilarious fails until you are both well practiced. So to play this game, you will need a handful of treats and for the time being you can play with your dog off-lead. You can play this game indoors or in your garden. 

Start by allowing your dog see that you have some treats and lure them to follow you. When your dog is by your side, drop one treat into your dog’s mouth and then take one small step forward. You may have to drop the treat quite close to their mouth to begin with and this may take some practice before you can start walking forward. Just ensure you are consistent and only drop the treats on the side you want your dog to walk to heel on. Also, we want your dog in the standing position, not a sitting position, so if they, sit take a step forward to encourage them into a standing position and then quickly drop the treat into their mouth while they are still standing. 

When your dog becomes confident at catching, you can take a step forwards every time your dog finishes the treat and practice walking in a straight line. As your dog gets better at the game, you should be able to walk in a straight line quite quickly with your dog catching each treat. Now start changing direction and continue dropping the treats to keep your dog in the heel position. At this stage, they should be anticipating that standing in this position gets them a treat so they should be sticking close to you. 

Once you feel your dog is competent at the game you can put their lead and harness on and follow the same steps. Then you can move the game to different environments to develop your dog’s lead skills. 

Drunk Walking

Everyone gets excited at the sound of drunk walking. Unfortunately, it doesn’t involve alcohol but its still a fun game to teach your dog to improve their lead skills. 

Drunk Walking is classed as a concept game as it teaches your dog that being by your side is a great place to be. Pulling often occurs because the environment is so rewarding, so this game teaches your dog that being near you is far more rewarding.  

So to play this game, have your dog off-lead in the garden and have a hand full of very tasty treats. Start by placing one treat on the ground and then stepping away 3 steps as you count each one aloud. Then place another treat down and take another 3 steps in another direction as you count to 3 aloud. Make sure you are moving fast enough that you are walking away before your dog approaches the last treat you put down, however, don’t go so fast that your dog doesn’t see you place the treat down. Keep repeating this game, until your dog understands the rules. 

Eventually, your dog should become very quick at the game and eager to keep up with you.  Once your dog is confident with the rules of the game, try putting your dog on a long line and playing in different environments, such as your local park or field.

Shaky Waters

This quirky game is actually lead training for us, which is an essential part of your dog’s lead training. 

So to play this game you need to put on your dog’s harness and lead and then carry a paper/plastic cup full of water, into your garden. You are going to hold that cup of water in the same hand you are holding your dog’s lead in and practice walking around your garden. The aim of the game is to try and keep as much water in the cup as possible. If you use the lead to pull your dog, the cup will spill, so you need to rely on your cues and body language to encourage loose lead walking rather than the lead.

Now this may seem like a strange game but bear with me. As a mantra, I tell clients that a dog’s lead isn’t for control, it’s for safety, however, one of the most instinctive reactions to a dog pulling, is us pulling back. Thanks to the term ‘opposition reflex’, we become trapped in a battle with our dog of pulling backwards and forwards to steady ourselves. This isn’t achieving any learning and is just causing you both frustration. Nonetheless, avoiding using the lead to pull your dog can be a difficult habit to break, which is why this game will be so beneficial. It will help you become aware of how much you use the lead and encourage you to use your cues, body language and treats instead. 

Each game will go a long way in teaching your dog that being with you is such a fun and rewarding place to be and it will also give you the skills to encourage desired behaviour using communication rather than force. 

So have fun training and you will soon see a huge improvement in your dog’s lead skills!

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