Walking on a Loose Leash

It’s amazing how strong a Wheaten can be!  If your Wheaten doesn’t learn to walk on a loose lead and stop pulling you as if he were a sled dog, you’ll find out quickly just how strong they are.

Pulling makes walks frustrating for owners as well as dogs.  It can even be dangerous in bad weather – or when someone, maybe a child, has less strength and can’t control the dog.  Teach him from the start how to walk on a loose leash.

Leash pulling is normal for dogs.  Force gets resistance.  When the dog’s leash gets tight, you pull back to try to keep from being pulled down the street, to get the dog out of the flower bed, or to simply change direction.  As soon as you do that, the dog pulls even more.  What happens?  The dog is rewarded for pulling when you keep going where he wants, so he can do dog things that he likes to do.  It’s all about who is in charge.  The dog that is out in front is the leader of the pack.  Guess where that puts you?

You will need lots of patience.  This is not an overnight cure for pulling, but it does work.

What you need

Have a supply of treats that your Wheaten loves. Keep them readily available on your person in a pouch or fanny pack, but not in your pocket. Your Wheaten should be on a leather or web buckle collar, never a choke. Use a 6-foot leash.

Getting Started

Hold the leash at your waist with two hands in a baseball grip, much like holding a baseball bat. Your Wheaten should have the full length of the leash. Always, keep a piece of food in your hand so you can reward quickly.

When they pull

  • Stop walking.
  • Plant your feet apart for maximum stability.
  • No talking. This is critical!
  • Rotate your body to keep the leash straight between you and the dog.
  • If the leash is not really tight, step back and a make it tight.
  • WAIT as long as necessary.

Wait for What?

Wait for your Wheaten to look back and see why you are not moving or talking.  The leash will loosen at this point.

Reward them NOW…

Praise them, give them a treat, and start walking.  Yes, your dog gets three rewards for looking back and loosening the leash:

  • Praise
  • Food, and
  • Continue the walk.

When it happens again

When the leash gets tight again, REPEAT ABOVE.  It may be necessary to turn as you are walking to keep the leash from wrapping around you.  Whatever you do, always keep your hands gripping the leash at your waist.

When Good Things Happen

  • If your Wheaten IS walking on a loose lead, praise and keep walking.
  • If your dog looks up at you while walking on a loose lead, praise, give a piece of food, and keep walking.  This will begin to focus your Wheaten on you instead of every other distraction that is around you.

It Takes Time

A word of caution –  If you are accustomed on going for a half hour walk, you still will be out for that long but you may only get to the end of your driveway and back!  Either allow for a longer time out with your Wheaten or expect shorter distance walks for a while.  You will know your Wheaten understands the concept when he either quits pulling or purposefully hits the end of the leash and turns around for a treat.  Oh, yes, they’ll figure it out!

Adapted from articles by Carol Crouch previously published in Benchmarks.