​​Here’s how to master the art of loose-leash walking with your pup — and it starts before you even leave the house

Dog on leash going for a walk in the forest
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s a good idea for your dog to learn loose-leash walking, if you haven’t practiced it with them already. When you walk your pup on a loose leash, it’s likely to be a more relaxed experience compared to walking your dog at your heel. A dog who has more freedom to sniff and explore when they’re out and about will probably in turn be a dog who’s happier and more focused. 

But if you’ve not yet practiced loose-leash walking with your pup, how do you get started? Fortunately, expert trainer Julianna DeWillems, who’s also the founder of JW Dog Training & Behavior, has some advice to share in a recent Instagram post – involving some of the best dog treats.  

“Some of the best training you can do to improve your dog’s leash walking skills doesn’t involve the leash at all,” DeWillems explains. In the footage, she’s walking around the house with a dog – no leash involved – and giving them treats as they stay close to her. 

She explains further in her caption that it’s a good idea to practice walking with your dog close to you when preparing to teach loose-leash walking. However, you don’t need to use the leash to teach this, with DeWillems saying that you actually don’t want to rely on the leash at all. In her words, “We use the leash for safety, not teaching.”

Practice the exercise at home, rewarding your dog for walking within 1-3 feet of you. Doing so will make this behavior more reliable going forward, even when the sort of distractions walking outside will add. 

DeWillems finishes, “Another thing we love about this is our dog can choose to be anywhere in the room and they are choosing to train with us. They can leave at any time. That choice is important to us and a cornerstone of our training.”

By practicing this skill at home, you’ll be able to make your walks more relaxing and less stressful for both you and your pup. You’ll be able to trust your dog on a loose leash (so no more wondering how to stop a dog pulling on a leash) with confidence that, while they might be sniffing and exploring, they’ll be happy to stay close by you too. 

If loose-leash walking is something you’re trying to tackle at the moment, here are three of the most common loose-leash walking mistakes (and how to fix them).

Milo's Kitchen Chicken & Apple Sausage Slices  
$9.99 at Chewy

Milo's Kitchen Chicken & Apple Sausage Slices 
$9.99 at Chewy
Made with real chicken and apples, these deliciously wholesome meaty morsels are made without artificial flavors or colors and are great as a snack or training treat. 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at DogTime.com, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.