Lead Walking – the inside turn

When you are walking your puppy on the lead against your left leg in the “Close” position, it is easy to turn clockwise as you are the centre of rotation and your puppy is turning around you. It’s much more difficult if you were to turn anticlockwise as you puppy ends up becoming the centre of the rotation.

To teach the anticlockwise turn when your puppy is the centre of the rotation:

  1. Start by doing some loose lead walking
  2. Ask your puppy to sit by your side
  3. As soon as your puppy is sitting, present a treat in front your puppy’s nose whilst turning around it toward the next direction you want to take.
  4. As soon as you are in position just invite your puppy to walk “Close”.

The overall manoeuvre should be slick; you should not be spending too much time with your puppy sitting.

Lead the Fun

Take a moment to visualise what your routine is or will be when letting your puppy off the lead.

Typically:

  • You start with the puppy on the lead.
  • When you reach a safe location, you unclip the lead and your puppy runs off to go and play.
  • At the end of the walk, you call your puppy to you and clip the lead on again.

For many of you it is likely that you will often use the same route when going for a walk.

The result of this routine is that your puppy will start to:

  • Associate the sound of unclipping the lead with being able to rush away to have fun within the surrounding environment.
  • Anticipate the end of the walk and associate this with being clipped back on the lead and the end of the fun.

Typically, the end result is the development of habits such as pulling on the lead with anticipation and excitement at the start of the walk, rushing away as soon as the lead is unclipped, and running away or avoiding coming back close to you at the end of the walk.

One trick to avoid these behaviours is to develop an association of the lead and grabbing the collar with the start of the fun with you and not the environment.

From now on each time you clip or unclip the lead to your puppy’s collar, I would advise you to engage your puppy in a game. Good games in this situation are playing “Middle”, having a tug of war, playing “Say Hello”, or even just giving a few pieces of treat. Do not stick to the same game each time, mix them up.

The most important aspect is teaching your puppy that you are far more fun to be with than anything else in the surrounding environment. The aim is to condition your puppy to think that having the lead clipped on and off is just a sign that the fun with you is just starting!

When you have unclipped the lead and have finished playing your games and are ready to let your puppy go, do not forget to give your release command so your puppy knows the game is over.

You can start teaching this game anytime. It can be done in the house, in the garden or even when you clip or unclip the long lead on your puppy during a walk.

When your recall is solid enough and you start going for walks without a long lead, I advise you to call your puppy back to you multiple times during the walk. Each time, during the walk, do the game of clipping and unclipping the lead and playing so there is no association of this behaviour with simply either the start/end of the walk or when you come cross other dog walkers and need to restrain your own puppy.

Loose Lead walking with distraction

To get your puppy to continue to walk with a loose lead whilst there are potential distractions, you will need to introduce distractions slowly when you are in a “working mode”. If you try to get your puppy to walk to heel when there are too many distractions do not be surprised if your puppy does not want to work with you.

When playing this game, I introduce distractions gradually. When the puppy is responsive to heel walking indoors, I then take the puppy into the garden. At this point simply being outside should be the only distraction. If you remember last week’s video with Mehwi you might have thought that it was a calm environment however, in my view, it was not. There were a lot of distractions for him; there was the ladder that he wanted to go to play with, the toys on the bench and just the environment in general. I had to work hard to keep his interest on me.

Start by leaving some toys to the side of where you are walking. Try to not look at these toys and concentrate on keeping your puppy’s attention on you rather than the toys. When you are proficient at this start to place some toys directly on the route you are walking with your puppy. When I do this game, I sometimes will walk a little bit faster and increase my click and reward frequency when I see a potential distraction hot spots; this way the puppy is more driven to concentrate on me.

From this stage you can increase slowly the number and size of the distractions to the environment.

The length of the working phase needs to be short. Just like the number of distractions, increase the amount of time walking with the lead slowly. Alternate a minute’s work phase with a minute of relaxed phase. Start increasing the work phase by blocks of no more than 15 seconds.

Make sure that you are including some games in the working phase such as “Sit by my side” or “Say hello”. This will help stopping your puppy from getting bored.


You do not want to teach your puppy to give up. Stop the game before your puppy has had enough. It is also good for you to finish on a positive note.


Loose Lead Walking

Loose lead walking can be a stressful skill to learn for both the puppy and the owner. But it does not have to be like this. For me teaching loose lead walking is just another game.

Before starting your loose lead walking, your puppy must have a lot of value for sitting at your side so make sure you have played the “Sit by my side” game a lot.

I usually use the word “Close” to teach my puppy to walk to heel and I tend to prefer to only walk with it on my left side to start with.

Start to train your puppy in a boring environment with no distractions. I tend to start in the kitchen.

Clip the lead to the collar of your puppy, not a harness (A harness tends to teach the puppies to pull).

For a “Close” position next to your left leg:

  • The lead is in your right hand.
  • The clicker is in your right hand.
  • The treats will be given with your left hand.
  • Start walking and call your puppy.
  • As soon as the puppy acknowledges you and the lead is loose click (or say yes) and then reward.
  • Provide the reward at your left side with your left hand next to your leg, along the seam of your trousers.
  • Make sure the reward is provided low enough, so you do not encourage your puppy to jump. I am afraid if you have a small breed you might have to bend to give the reward at your ankle level.

To start with, click & reward very frequently so long as your puppy is not pulling on the lead. Do not reward in front of you, do not reward away from you and make sure your puppy comes to your hand positioned next to the seam of your trouser to get its reward.

You might be clicking and rewarding at every step, every 2 seconds; this is OK. You want an energetic fun exercise to keep the attention of your puppy focused on you. Do not worry that you are rewarding too often, with time you will reduce the frequency of the clicks and the rewards but at the beginning a high frequency of clicks and reward are key to keep your puppy focussed on you.

Do not stop moving forwards when you reward your puppy so there is a momentum and flow of movement all the time, hence less chance for your puppy to get distracted.

  • Do not make it too difficult or your puppy will give up.
  • If your puppy passes you or is pulling on the lead turn your body to change direction so you are again ahead of it.
  • Stop the game before your puppy is bored, we often stop too late.  
  • To finish the session do not forget to give your release word so your puppy. knows the loose lead walking exercise is over and that he can now go and smell (or pull on the lead). This is especially important! You do not want your puppy to start to guess when the game is over.

When your puppy starts to get the hang of the game it is time to start making it a little bit more fun. This can easily be done by changing speed so that you are jogging a little, then walking again. Be mindful though that some energetic dogs start to jump at this stage, and if it is the case you might want to keep the game calm and avoid jogging.

You can also add some of the tricks your puppy knows such as “Say Hello”

from the side or “Sit by my side”.

Remember Make it fun, make it a game!

If the clicks and the rewards are not frequent enough it means the exercise is too hard for your puppy and you are going to lose its attention. Make the criteria easier. To start with my frequency is nearly 1-2-click (but I always click for something positive) followed by 1-2-reward (the reward comes after the click, not at the same time); 1-2-click; 1-2-reward. With time you will be able to reduce the frequency of the clicks and the rewards, but it takes time.

Train this game every day, keeping the sessions short and entertaining. You want your puppy to get excited and love the game when you are saying “Close”.

When your puppy is getting good it is time to increase the difficulty. The list below is in order of difficulty. Only move to the next stage when you have mastered the preceding one.

  1. Trying with no lead in the same boring environment.
  2. Try in the garden on the lead.
  3. Trying in the garden without the lead.