Trainer shares the three biggest mistakes people make when loose lead walking - and what to do instead

Dog on loose lead standing beside owner
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're struggling with loose lead walking, rest assured, you're not alone. For many of us, getting our dog to walk nicely while using a loose lead can be one of the most challenging and frustrating training tasks that we undertake as pet parents. In fact, it can feel so difficult that it makes trying to decide on which of the best puppy toys to buy seem like a piece of cake in comparison! 

The good news is, loose lead walking doesn't have to give us a headache. Expert dog trainer Amelia Steele (opens in new tab) has noticed that the majority of us are unknowingly making a range of mistakes that are making loose lead walking with our dogs harder than it needs to be. 

In a video shared to Steele's Instagram (opens in new tab), which you can view below, she says that people often feel exhausted when they take their dog out for a walk only to have them drag them up the street. Others, she says, are simply exasperated because they feel they've tried everything to train their dog but to no avail. 

To help make loose lead walking that little bit easier, Steele outlines the three most common mistakes she sees pet parents making when using a loose lead with their dog and shares some simple tips to turn things around. 

1. You skip straight to loose lead walking

"Loose lead walking is a combination of skills," explains Steele. "At its core, it requires  good focus and engagement between you and your dog. The first thing to do before you start teaching loose lead walking is to build really solid engagement, focus, eye contact, and teach your dog that you're just generally fun to pay attention to. Once you've got that, the rest will come a lot easier."

2. You're focusing too much on the pulling

"Think of loose lead walking like any other behavior," Steele says. "You wouldn't tell your dog to sit and then tell them off for not sitting if you've never taught them how to sit and it's the same with loose lead. If you're waiting for your dog to pull and then you're stopping and turning, your dog's going to get really confused and you're going to get frustrated." 

Instead, Steele advises you to teach your dog to walk next to you and then reward that behavior, something that she says will get you much quicker results than focusing on the pulling. 

3. You're expecting too much from your dog

"So often people expect loose lead walking to be a perfect heel right by their side. However, when it comes to loose lead, you want to focus on exactly that - keep the lead nice and loose and as long as it stays loose, you're all good. Don't worry about keeping your dog in a really strict heel." 

Like with any other form of training, loose lead walking takes time to master, so patience and consistency are going to be key here. That being said, if you find after several weeks that your dog is still struggling to get to grips with walking on a loose lead, we recommend reaching out to a professional dog trainer for some 1:1 support.

Kathryn Rosenberg

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.