What is Great Loose-Leash Walking?3 minute read
You've probably felt it—that blissful moment when you forget your dog is with you and you're just enjoying the walk. Maybe it only lasted a few seconds, maybe it only happened because your dog slowed down so she could get a better look at the squirrel across the street, but that doesn't make the feeling any less real.
That is great loose-leash walking. It's a #bigmood more than it is a specific set of behaviors. Getting to that mood is about identifying your expectations and understanding what's realistic and what's not.
Remember, most of our dogs' struggles are a result of asking them to adapt to a world that was built for humans. Next to nothing about being attached to a rope while walking past perfectly good half-eaten food is natural for your dog. So while you may dream of a 90-minute walk where your pup never leaves your side and doesn't show interest in the cacophony of distractions around her, it's not very realistic and not really fair to our dogs.
Reasonable Walk Expectations For Your Dog
So what are some good, realistic expectations for you to have for your dog?
Mostly loose leash
Staying close enough to your side for the majority of the walk so that the leash is not tight (i.e. the leash is loose)
Walking at a pace that's comfortable for you to maintain—not too slow and certainly not too fast
Asks for permission
Asking for permission to access distractions or areas, like a patch of grass, instead of immediately yanking you to them
Limited reaction to strong distractions
Your dog will not overreact to strong distractions like other dogs, squirrels, people, or whatever gets them really excited
Can perform perfectly in short bursts
Short bursts of very high levels of obedience, including coming in close to your side when you ask and staying there as needed, like when walking through a crowd of people or past a child eating a slice of pizza
Reasonable Walk Expectations, By Your Dog, For You
Just as important, let's look at what some realistic expectations your dog should have of you:
Opportunities to enjoy the walk
You will give them opportunities to enjoy the walk, whether that means stopping to sniff interesting things, taking potty breaks, or having some freedom to wander
Rewards for good behavior
It's only fair that your dog be rewarded for adapting to this human world. Sometimes that reward means treats, but sometimes it might mean permission to "go see" and sniff that interesting trash can
If a walk ends up tiring your dog out, it probably wasn't a calm walk with great loose-leash behavior. If you expect your dog to be relaxed while on the leash, you need to give her other opportunities to burn off some of her energy.
Attempts to avoid challenging areas
No dog wants to spend an entire walk struggling to fight her impulses, so try avoid overly challenging distractions when you can.
Consistency with rules
Finally, your dog expects you to be consistent with your rules. If some days you allow your dog to go off into the grass without asking permission, you can't get frustrated when she does that another day.