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How to Train A Dog to Walk without A Leash (Top 5 Tips)


15 min read

How to train a dog to walk without a leash?

Do you ever wish for the day when you can take your four legged best friend on a walk without using a a leash? A time when you’re able to give your dog the freedom of walking next to you or running freely when they’re allowed to without compromising their safety?

Today’s post is going to provide you with a solution because I’m going to share with how to train your dog to walk without a leash!

The overall view of “How to train a dog to walk without a leash?

How to train a dog to walk without a leash?

1) Start training your dog to walk next to you with a leash

2) Teach your dog basic commands such as “Sit!”, “Stay!”, and “Come!”.

3) Train them to do these commands in different and new secured places.

4) Maintain control of your dog by implementing ” Double Control” tactics.

5) Remember to practice positive reinforcement and always reward your dog for the smallest accomplishments.

Now that you have a basic understanding on how train your dog to walk without using a leash, let discuss that in more details.

Tip number one: Use a leash

I recognize how this first tip might seem irrelevant to your end goal. I mean, that is how I felt as well while I was looking up ways to train a dog without a leash. However, it makes perfect sense, and it absolutely works!

You’re not going to use a regular walking leash. You’ll need a long training leash to give your dog room to walking jog away from you in secured areas, while still maintaining overall control on them.

What I have just mentioned is basically double control in a nutshell, but I will talk more about that in step four.

The leash’s purpose is not only to control your dog’s movement and behavior, but also to boost their confidence. It makes it easier for them to understand what’s considered to be acceptable behavior and what isn’t.

I will also explain how to make you develop good behaviors and response via positive reinforcement in tip number five, so make sure you continue reading the post or simply jump to tip number five.

Using a leash that is twenty to thirty inches look should be good enough. However, you shouldn’t allow your dog to wander away from you twenty or thirty miles. Instead, call them to come back to you once they’ve used half of the leash’s length.

You should be careful while using long leashes because if other dogs are running around, they might trip over the leash and get injured. Stick to using the long leash when you have big, secured places that are distraction-free; aka, no other dogs running around and no traffic.

I personally prefer using harnesses instead of collar to reduce and prevent neck injuries due to the stress being exerted on the neck. If you’re interested in learning more about harnesses, then check out my Dog Training Harness: Ultimate Guide blog post.

Don’t be in haste to stop using a leash while training and walking your dog. One huge mistake most dog owners make is assuming that because their puppies ( five months and younger) are always walking next to them with their leash on, that they’re ready to walk next to them without a leash.

Don’t confuse your puppy’s obedience to them being trained!

Puppies that are five months or younger appear to be obedient because they’re still young and attached to you.

Their obedience has nothing to do with them being trained, so please continue training them with a leash and don’t attempt to walk them Off-leash until they’re older and you’re confident that they’re well trained.

Tip number two: Teaching them basic commands

This tip is going to be split into two different parts. These parts are:

  • What commands should you teach your dog to make them walk without a leash?
  • Where should you teach them these commands?

A) What commands should you teach your dog to make them walk without a leash?

The three most important commands that you should teach your dog are:

  • Sit!
  • Stay!
  • “Insert their name here”, come!

Playing fetch and hide and seek are also considered to be great ways to make them follow your commands in a fun way. Note that these games should take place in confined areas and while your dog is wearing their leash.

But how are you going to teach them these commands? Well, never underestimate the power of food and treats.

Just make sure you don’t feed your dog right before their training session, and you will be able to train them to sit, stand, and come to you when you call more swiftly.

Training your dog to “Sit!”

Getting your four-legged best friend attention is the staple rule that should be used in all sorts of command training. Start by standing in front of your dog and making sure that they’re looking at your eyes. You can do that by holding a small piece of hotdog in front of your face for only a moment.

A man commanding a dog to sit down
Photo credits: pets4homes.co.uk

Then you’re going to close your hands around that piece of hotdog and place your hands near to your dog’s nose. Allow them to sniff it, then raise your hand above their heads. Don’t raise too high though so they don’t jump to get to it.

If you raise your hand above your dog’s head slowly and not too high, they will end up sitting down to be able to sniff and see your hands closely. As soon as they sit down, point downwards and say “Sit!” and give them the piece of hotdog. Feel free to pat them and praise them as well.

With repetition, your dog will understand what the word “sit” means and correlate the act of pointing downwards it with the command as well, so make sure you practice this often with them.

Training your dog to “Stay!”

In order to train your dog to “Stay!“, you’ll have to command them to sit down. luckily, we’ve already covered that so go ahead and command your dog to sit down.

Make sure that the weather isn’t too cold or too warm when you train your dog to stay. For example, do train your dog in the snow or in the rain cause it is going to be very uncomfortable to stay in these positions during these extreme conditions.

Now, place your hand in front of your dog’s face and command them to stay. Right now, they don’t know what that means, but we’re only attempting to make them get used to that work.

Say that word a few times, with your hands making the stop sign in front of your dog’s face. Avoid making any sudden movements, and continue repeating the word stop.

Now, slowly move one step away from your dog. What is most likely to happen is that your dog might start following you. When that happens, stand in your place and put your hand in front of your dog’s face while telling them to stop. Try to use a firm voice while commanding your dogs.

Command him to sit, and reward them with some treats. Pat them as well to reward them for their good behavior. Repeat the process again until your dog begins to understand what “Stay!” means.

Once they understand the meaning of that word, start taking more steps while moving away from them.

It is important to note that you should go and give them their treat; otherwise they might end up understanding that they should walk to you to get the treats, which might leave them confused.

If you want to train them to break free from this “Stay!” command, you can create a release work “Come!”, which we’ll be discussing next. For this scenario, you can put your hand down and command them to come to you. Don’t forget to give them some treats!

Training your dog to “Come!”

This is an important command that you must teach your dog in case they stray ahead of you. If they’re trained to respond to this command, then they’ll come back to walking right next to you without using a leash.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. Let us begin with the basics. You’re going to need a friend or a family member to help with this command training. You’ll also need to pick your four-legged best friend’s toy, and of course some of their favorite treats.

How to Train A Dog to Walk without A Leash - A dog running towards someone

Start by making whoever is helping you hold your dog, then go sit a couple of feet away from them. Call your dog’s voice with enthusiasm to make them come to you. When they do so, reward them with a treat and praise them. You can even give them their favorite toy to play with.

In case you have no one to help you, that is okay. You’ve just trained your dog to stay in their place, so all you have to do is to command them to stay, then proceed with the remaining training steps as mentioned in the last paragraph.

Continue repeating this training process until your dog masters it! If you want to read more about basic dog commands train, then make sure you read this  How to Train A Dog to Come – Dog Training Basic Commands 101 blog post.

Now that you know what types command training you should teach your dog and how to actually do that, you should now understand where you should teach them these commands.

B) Where should you teach them these commands?

If this is your first your teach your these commands, that you should start by doing so at home. There would be no need for the leash in that case, since you teaching the commands and not testing how capable they’re off ignoring any surrounding distractions to follow your comands.

Also, since your dog is familiar with their home, there isn’t going to be many distractions to start with in the first place. Now that your dog understands and complies with commands you give them, it is time to change your training location.

Please note that any training location should be confined and secured.

If you have a garage or a fenced garden, then that could be a great location for you to train your four-legged best friend. This time though, you should use a leash since there are going to be more distractions.

Don’t stop at your garage and garden, and try to find other, new confined places where you can train your dog. At this point, they’re already capable of responding to commands, so you’re mostly training them not to get distracted to ensure their safety when they eventually walk next to you without a leash.

Tip number three: Training your dog in different, new locations.

The main reason why you repeat your command train process in as many different places as possible is that you’re challenging your dog to concentrate on what you’re saying and following through instead of them being distracted by the new environment.

Teaching your dog to follow your commands at home is easy. They already know that environment by heart, and there isn’t much distraction going on.

Imagine you take them to a fenced park, and your dog sees a squirrel running towards a tree. Would they listen to you when you tell them “Stay!”, or run after the squirrel? Chances are, they’re going to chase the squirrel during the early stages of training them.

That one important reason to use a leash to be able to prevent these distractions from taking over your training sessions. In the next tip, I explain how using a leash in a confined place is considered to be a double control tactic.

Let’s go back to why you should train your dog in different places.

You’re challenging your dog to do as commanded even when new distractions are around.

If you want your dog to walk next to you without a leash, you must train them the following your commands is more important than getting distracted by the new environment that they’re walking in. To do so, you must train them in different and secured locations, so you challenge their involuntary response of getting distracted.

You want to make them aware of what they’re doing, so the involuntary response becomes a voluntary one.

How to train a dog to walk without a leash?

You’re training them to be aware of the choices they make, and because they trust that you have the best intentions in mind for them, they’ll choose to follow your command over running after whatever distraction is calling them.

Keep in mind that sometimes curiosity is going to win, and that is okay. Just keep practicing with them. If they fail to respond to your command after you’ve moved on to training them without a leash in a confined place, then all you have to do is take a step back and put the leash on again.

That’s perfectly fine cause although some dogs can be trained to walk without a leash in a few weeks, it could take others months in order to achieve that. Every dog is unique and capable of learning anything.

It is important to remember every dog has a different learning pace just like us, so don’t get upset when you realize that you have to take a step back or if it is taking your dog a long time to learn to follow your commands instead of running after squirrels. That is perfectly normal and okay.

Tip number four: Implement double control tactics.

You might have a general idea about what double control tactics mean since I have briefly mentioned it in tip number one and three.

Double control is literally what it states to be. It is a tactic where you don’t just use one way to make your dog’s training session confined and safe, but you use two.

An example of that would be using a fenced or a closed space where your dog can’t get out of and hurt themselves, while also using a leash to have more control.

If you’re training them in a huge space and you’re not using a leash, then you won’t be able to easily train them because they are now too far away from you.

However, if you’re using a leash, you can gently tug on the leash when they’re ten to fifteen miles away and command them to come back to you when you call them.

How to train a dog to walk without a leash?

Remember that you’re only trying to simulate that your dog is in an space where they run around freely.

They’re indeed getting more freedom; however, without training them in a confined area and using a leash at the beginning of the training, it is never going to be safe for them to walk next to you without a leash in the future.

Tip number five: Positive reinforcement and rewards

If you’re a returning reader, then you’ve probably seen the term ” Positive Reinforcement” before. It is one of the most important training tools that you should use in any form of dog training.

If you’re interested in learning about other training tips as well, them make sure you check out my Top 5 Puppy Training Tips You Should Know blog post.

So, what exactly is positive reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is a conditioning technique that is used to bridge the communication gap between you and your dog. Since we don’t speak the same language as our four-legged best friends, we need a way to teach our dogs what is considered to be acceptable behavior and what isn’t.

Thankfully, positive reinforcement is a humane, ethical way that allows us to do so. It is a very safe technique that can be used on dogs who are eight weeks old and up.

But how does one implement positive reinforcement while training a dog?

It is very simple, theoretically speaking of course. All you have to do is reward your dog for their good behaviors and for following commands with treats and by patting them. That’s the easy part of positive reinforcement.

You see, the second part of positive reinforcement is what many dog owners struggle with, and that is turning a blind eye to unwanted behavior and ignored demands. In order to be able to do that, I highly recommend you practice yoga for mindfulness.

Patience and mindfulness are the two major things that you should have in order to be able to train your dog to do anything.

But don’t worry, cause I have got your back. One of my all-time favorite yoga instructor, known as Yoga with Adriene, has an eleven minutes yoga video that will help you find your inner peace and thus improve your mindfulness and patience. Here is her video:

By practicing this yoga sequence daily, you’ll be able to improve your patience level, and thus be able to implement positive reinforcement correctly.

Kindly note that yelling, hitting, and punishing your dog for whatever mistake they’ve done (yes, that includes ignoring a command) is absolutely not acceptable and is considered to be animal abuse.

That’s it for today’s post. If you have more questions about how you can train your dog to walk beside you without using a leash, then feel free to leave them in the comments section down below.

If you’ve already trained your four-legged best friend to walk right beside you without a leash, then please share with your experiences in the comments as well. Did something funny happen while you were training them? Do you have any photos of video footage of them walking leash-free?

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