Polite Leash Walking, Part 1

Set yourself up for success in teaching your dog to walk on leash without pulling. Learn why it’s so unnatural for dogs to walk this way, and how you can help your dog get it right.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #139

An alternative is to reward whenever the leash makes a J shape in the air – the short end of the J is the part of the leash that’s attached to your dog’s collar, and the long end comes up to your hand. Many trainers like this because it’s clean and objective: All you have to do is keep an eye on the leash and reward whenever you see that J.

5. Use Different Equipment on Walks When You Can’t Train

Dogs are good at distinguishing situations and at learning that different rules apply in different situations. You already know this if your puppy has learned to greet you with all four feet on the floor but still jumps up on your spouse, who encourages her. Use “different situations, different rules” to your advantage. Suppose you usually practice loose-leash walking with a plain flat collar – then use a front-clip harness on walks when you absolutely have to get from Point A to Point B and don’t have time or inclination to train. Use a different leash, too, while you’re at it.

Encouragement for My Fellow City Dwellers

Every bit of training advice you read, everywhere, will begin by telling you to start leash practice with a tired dog whose bladder and bowels are empty. But some of us don’t have backyards. We don’t have cars in which to drive our Dogalinis and Zippys to the dog park, where they can run themselves ragged and then practice leash walking afterward. Nope, we have to step out the door first thing in the morning with a dog who’s full of pep and also full of pee and poop.

All is not lost. I live in New York City and I have taught all of my dogs to walk politely on leash. You can too.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).