A lot of you are working on loose leash walking! Gotta admit that the KP system for training this is a little complex. But it is absolutely worth it!! There are lots of different methods for training leash walking, and trust me, I have tried them all. In the end I’ve come up with what I believe has the very best results.
Here’s a reminder/list of terms/concepts that go along with the official KP loose-leash walking!
“Here”: Verbal cue for your dog to get into walking position (on your left side.) Can be accompanied by hand signal (use your right hand) pointing towards the ground – where you want your dog to stand. Extend your left arm slightly from your body to give your dog a space to move in to. No walk will begin until the dog is in position.
Honor Stand: Before cueing “Let’s go” and taking the first step, you want to know that your dog is committed to remaining with you and not just surging ahead once it gets the chance. To do the honor stand, you will lower your left hand so there is noticeable (to the dog) slack in the leash. The dog needs to be aware of this slack and choose to stay with you and not surge forward.
“Let’s go”: Verbal cue that you are about to start moving. You can also use it when you are turning right.
Reset: A reset is when the dog moves out of position (gets ahead of you) and you are going to stop your forward motion and get the dog back into position. For beginner dogs, this means you will walk backwards until the dog commits to going along with you, and until its shoulder is in line with your left leg. For more advanced dogs, this means stopping and letting the dog find position on its own.
Slow Stop: If the dog is going to lunge and you are preparing to stop it, you can slow the stop so it’s easier and less jarring on both the dogs neck and your arms/neck/back/shoulders/entire body. To do the slow stop: You will be holding the leash in your left hand. Move your right hand to take a hold of the leash about halfway between your left hand and the dogs collar. As the dog pulls, slide your right hand up the leash until it has met your left hand. It sounds complicated when you write it all out but give it a try; it really makes things easier and more comfortable for everybody! Or I can show you if you want.
Hard Stop: A hard stop is when you purposely come to an abrupt stop so that the dog hits the end of the leash hard. It functions as a punisher for lunging or pulling. You usually do not want to do this; it can be painful for the dog. Usually the only circumstances you would do a hard stop in would be final set-up or “proofing” type situations; for example if the dog has received extensive distraction training around squirrels, understands what to do around squirrels and is fairly reliable even close-in, and suddenly lunges for a squirrel anyway. For the vast majority of dogs you will never use a hard stop.
Mark: This is your verbal “yes” (or clicker if you’re using one.) You will “mark” the moment when your dog is doing leashwalking correctly – at your left side, in good position; pace should be a walk (not trot), and the dog should be looking straight ahead. If all of these are happening, mark! To the dog, the mark means that he has performed correctly and is now going to get a reward.
Reward in position: After you mark “yes” for correct walking, you are going to use the treat itself to further reinforce the dog’s position. Most dogs will naturally step in front of you to get a treat – this is what they’re used to in everyday life! But your leash walking treats will be delivered at your left side, right at the seam of your pants, knee level or lower. If you have to do a reset to get your dog back into position for its treat, that’s fine – just use the treat to lure it back into position. The information you want to be giving to your dog is “Yes, your walking was correct just there; here’s the reward and by the way you have to be back in this specific position to get it.” With consistency the dog will remain in its spot (since this is where the treat is coming from) and you will be perfectly set up for your next “Let’s go.”
Silky Leash: Early in leash training, you teach the dog to respond to following the leash if it makes tiny, extremely soft (“silky”) pulls in various directions. You can continue this practice until the dog is responsive to almost imperceptible cues.
Slow Down Cue: A verbal signal “Slow down!”, “Woah!”, etc that you can give if the dog is close to hitting the end of the leash. With consistency, the dog will learn that if it does not slow down, it will come to the end of the leash and then will be required to stop and reset.
Sidewalk Work: Your basic unit of leash walking practice. In sidewalk work, you focus on “length of time” of practice rather than “how far you go.” So instead of say, “I’m going to walk five blocks to the park,” you would instead practice by walking for 20 minutes, and it doesn’t matter how far you go. This is helpful for practices because you can avoid for example being 2 miles from home and all of a sudden your dogs brain is fried and it can’t do the work any longer and is pulling and you’re frustrated and need to get home and so let the dog pull “just this once.”
Repeat the sidewalk: A good general guideline is that if you are doing sidewalk work and the dog requires three or more resets (because it has pulled ahead), then you are going to do an about turn and repeat that same stretch of sidewalk “until you get it right.” A great goal is to do each block with no pulling and for either one treat at the very end or no treats.
Novel sidewalk: As you do your sidewalk work, you will start to perfect certain sidewalks. This means that now you get to go and do new sidewalks! A “novel” sidewalk is a sidewalk that the dog has not practiced on before. Most young dogs require lots of loose leash practice on lots of different sidewalks before they fully understand that the “no pulling” rule works everywhere – not just on places where it’s practiced before.
“Turn”: Announces to the dog that you are going to make a left turn. (Not a required cue, but use it if you think the dog’s not paying attention.) The process is 1) When your left foot comes down, “Turn.” 2) You may need to point the dog back into position as you swing your right leg around for the turn. 3) Mark/treat when the dog is straightened out again and the turn has been completed and you are moving out of the turn.