How to Train a Dog to Walk Without a Leash
Many owners dream of taking a walk with their canine companion without the tether of a leash, and those dreams are not just impossible fantasies. Even the most stubborn dogs can be molded into quiet, obedient walking companions with consistent training. Teaching your dog to walk without a leash requires a solid on-leash foundation, but leash freedom is an achievable goal.
Man walk dog or Dog walk man?
Secure a collar around the dog’s neck and attach a leash to the collar. Even though your ultimate goal is to train the dog to walk off-leash, starting his training with a leash keeps him under control and boosts his confidence. Choose a flat, buckle collar and a flat, smooth 6-foot training leash; choke collars and chain leads may look nice, but they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.
Teach the dog a “watch me” command. This command teaches the dog to focus on your face and watch your eyes, which is important to keeping the dog’s attention when you transition to off-leash work. Call the dog’s name and hold a treat close to his nose. Say “watch me” and bring the treat toward your eyes. As soon as the dog looks up and focuses on your face, give him the treat. Ask him to “watch me” frequently during training sessions until he maintains eye contact with each command.
Stand with the dog on your left side and ask him to sit. Hold a treat in your left hand and raise it over the dog’s head while saying “sit,” and give the dog the treat as soon as he sits. The sit is an important tool in walking off leash, as it teaches the dog to halt forward momentum and be still when you stop walking.
Walk forward a few steps, encouraging the dog to walk beside you with a treat. Slowly come to a stop and ask the dog to sit again, giving him the treat when his hindquarters are firmly on the ground. Repeat the walk and stop process until the dog sits without a command as soon as you stop.
Encourage the dog to walk close by your side. Keep a treat in your left hand, holding it just out of his reach. Tell him “heel” or “walk” and step off, taking a few brisk steps forward. Speak in a happy, cheerful voice and keep the treat within reach so he can smell it but not reach it. Slow your steps to a stop, reward him with the treat when he sits, and praise him for staying in position. Grab another treat and repeat the exercise, incorporating turns into the routine until the dog maintains perfect pace and position each time you say “heel.”
Unclip the leash and give the “watch me” command. Once the dog is focused on you, say “heel” in a happy voice and walk forward. If the dog slacks or slows down, say “heel” again and tempt him with a treat. Walk on until the dog maintains a steady pace in heel position, then stop and reward the dog when he sits. It is vital to reward the dog only when he maintains proper position. If you slow down or give him a treat when he wanders, he’ll learn that he can stray without the leash.
Visit a local dog park or training club frequently once the dog is heeling on-leash. Perform a few practice heels on-leash to make sure the dog isn’t distracted, then find a quiet corner and remove the leash. Say the dog’s name to get his attention and walk forward, asking the dog to heel. If he stays with you and pays attention during the entire exercise, give him a treat and plenty of praise. If he moves toward another dog or wanders away, immediately put the leash back on and make him heel on-leash before repeating the off-leash exercise. It is imperative that you don’t allow the dog to walk off under distraction or he will learn that wandering away is permissible behavior.
By Ellie Annadel