Before heading out on the walk, be sure to gear up your dog with the setup we determined worked best during your session (harness, EZ-walk harness, standard collar, prong collar, head collar, gentle leader, E-Collar, etc.). If you’re working with your air tool or E-Collar be sure to grab that too, and don’t forget the poop bags 😉.
Make a point of getting out the door, (perhaps) down your building’s hallways, and to your first pet potty relief zone with the same expectation (no pulling) as the rest of the walk. While we like to have dogs earn their sniff/potty parties you should make that a first-order goal of the walk. Once the urgent business has been done, we can ask for longer durations of excellent walking while being fair.
Work in a lower temptation area (i.e., a familiar setting with minimal distractions) to get started.
Below you’ll find specific instructions for your walk depending on your toolset. If you’re familiar with the walk basics and your dog struggles with reactivity, you might check out our Reactivity Training Resource.
Basic - E-Collar No Pull Walk:
- Before getting started, make sure your system is on and the batteries are charged. Also, set your E-Collar to the lower normal effective level range as discussed in your last session (this may be 3-7, it might be 50-65, it just depends on your dog).
- To start the walk, step into position so your dog is on your preferred side and just slightly behind you. Shorten up the leash to about three feet keeping it loose with plenty of leash to swing your arm if not getting pulled.
- You’re now ready to start walking, say “let’s go” and start to walk. As soon as your dog starts to put any tension on the leash (like 2 pounds of tension or more) you want to provide immediate, silent, E-Collar feedback. Don’t say a word, just press the stim button.
- The feedback should be motivational, not merely perceivable; we are aiming for a “foot off the gas”, stop-pulling response with a minimal flinch and no yelp. So, if you don’t get a “foot off the gas” response, increase the number of quick taps or press duration. If still no response, then increase your level 2-5 degrees depending on your dog’s sensitivity. Adjust quickly to provide timely educational feedback and do so as often as needed.
- Now, post feedback, when the dog is the most receptive to leash guidance4, you want to guide your dog back closer to you. This gives them a chance to take a few steps without encountering stim feedback again from pulling, providing a taste of success. As soon as you stop needing to provide feedback every other second you may start to lightly praise the dog. You want to praise him lightly so as not to cause over-excitement and more pulling. This helps them see what they are doing well without making the challenge more difficult. Continue this process of feedback for pulling, gentle guidance post feedback, and praise for walking with slack until your dog drops its general pace enough to not pull the leash much at all. Now you’re ready for the more advanced “nose behind toes” walk (see below) which is great for reactive dogs.
Basic – No Pull Walk
- Before getting started, make sure your collar (standard, slip, martingale, prong) or harness (standard or EZ-walk) is fitted snuggly, but not tight. Grab the leash with a ski-pole1 style grip
- To start the walk, step into position so your dog is on your preferred side, and just slightly behind you. Shorten up the leash while keeping it loose, just enough to swing your arms. Without an E-Collar, it’s important to keep some vertical leverage, so while this isn’t a “nose behind toes walk” quite yet, your dog is going to be on a shorter leash than our E-Collar variant of this protocol. But, if you’re working with us and we decided to go this route, it’s because we believe you’ll be successful without one based on what we’ve seen from your dog.
- You’re now ready to start walking, say “let’s go” and start to walk. As soon as your dog starts to put any tension on the leash, as in pulling, you want to provide immediate, silent, double leash pop feedback. Don’t say a word, just pop-pop the leash.
- When issuing a pop, you must begin with a little bit of slack in the leash, or there will be no pop. This is the hardest part about this method for some folks because the dog is actively doing its best to eliminate the slack in the leash by pulling. This is why we want to keep that vertical leverage (gripping down on our leash). We’ll need to create a couple of inches of slack by extending your arm towards the dog ever so slightly, and then immediately pop-pop.
- The double leash pop should be motivational, not merely perceivable; we are aiming for a “foot off the gas,” stop-pulling response with a minimal flinch and no yelp2. So, if you don’t get a “foot off the gas” pulling stopped response, continue popping (pop-pop, pop-pop-pop) until you do. If you’re not getting a response, start increasing your strength (do not muscle it above 50% of your max force leash pop, never enough force to lift the dog off the ground). If you get to five successive pops (usually the first two should do), then stop popping and pull the leash up and back with enough strength to slow the dog down while you step ahead. When done correctly with a dog who’s receptive to the current collar or harness you’ll get a “foot off the gas” response with the first few pops5.
- Now (post feedback) when the dog is the most receptive to leash guidance4, you want to gently pull him back, slightly behind you. This gives the dog a chance to take a few steps without encountering any leash pop feedback again from pulling, providing a taste of success. As soon as you stop needing to provide feedback every other second you may start to lightly praise the dog. Praise them lightly, so as not to cause over-excitement and more pulling. This helps them see what they are doing well, without making the challenge more difficult. Continue this process of feedback for pulling, gentle guidance post feedback, and praise for walking with slack until your dog drops its general pace enough to not pull the leash much at all. Now you’re ready for the more advanced “nose behind toes” walk (see below) which is great for reactive dogs.
If you aren’t getting a response with the leash pop method contact your trainer. We’ll likely fit your dog with an EZ-Walk harness, prong collar, or E-Collar system so feedback becomes more valuable.
Advanced - Nose behind Toes Walk
Now that your dog is pretty good at not pulling, you can graduate to a nose behind toes walk. The goal is for your dog to keep his nose behind the toe line of your leading foot (whichever is the furthest forward) at all times, regardless of your pace, while not lagging too far behind. This mode of walking is very helpful for dogs that struggle with overexcitement or reactive behavior on a leash as it helps build a relaxed confident mind. While not every dog needs to walk like this, every dog benefits.
- Before getting started, make sure your dog is properly geared up, see your corresponding No Pull Walk instructions above. Grip the leash with a ski-pole1 style.
- Step into position so your dog is on your preferred side, and just slightly behind you. Shorten up the leash while keeping it loose, now just enough to swing your arms (5” to a 12”) depending on your height). The leash should be just long enough so that the dog can, in fact, get past your toes without pulling on the leash, but that doesn’t mean we allow them to do so.
- Begin to walk, and as the dog’s nose starts to get past your toes first, provide your form of feedback (E-Collar preferred if equipped), and then guide4 the dog ALL the way behind you, so the dog’s nose is behind your hip. Start to lightly praise, and even offer the occasional treat if the dog is food-motivated when he starts to stay nose behind toes without constant feedback. This might take some practice, but if you have taught a No Pull walk already it’s very realistic to get this in a couple of walks.
We are training the dog to understand that he is supposed to stay behind you on the walk and keep his impulses to pull or get otherwise distracted in check. In the end, this means inclusion, more adventures, trust, and more freedom so he will get back far more than he gives up.
Key Training Terms:
- Ski pole grip – Holding the leash so the end of the leash that connects to the dog’s collar/harness comes out of your hand along the base of your pinky finger.
- Flinching and yelping – feedback can on occasion cause a more pronounced reaction from the dog; however, the vast majority of the time, you can achieve the desired ceasing response with a minimal flinch and no yelp. If your dog is yelping consistently, lighten up your feedback. If the dog then fails to cease the inappropriate behavior with lighter feedback, contact your trainer for guidance.
- As often as needed – feedback frequency occurs often during the initial phase of training. Do not be surprised if you are correcting your dog once a second while getting started.
- Leash guidance – gentle directional pulling (not yanking or tugging) with the leash. This should be only about two pounds of tension on the leash. More than that and you are starting to tug your dog. You can use very light pops to increase perceptibility to your dog, but again, no strong tugging.