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How to Train Your Dog to Walk Without a Leash

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It takes a lot of patience to train a dog to walk without a leash, but it can be done.

It takes a lot of patience to train a dog to walk without a leash, but it can be done.

It Takes Careful Training and Patience to Go Leash-Free

Training your dog to walk without a leash is not an easy task; therefore, you need a lot of patience. Trainers need to know that the dog will stop to smell every animal excretion along the way, react to every animal they meet, get curious about every new thing they discover, and be excited or scared of vehicles passing by. With all of this in mind, the trainer must build up their trust and authority to avoid accidents while training.

Bruno the dog is ready for action!

Bruno the dog is ready for action!

Is Your Dog Ready to Walk Without a Leash?

Here is a checklist of things you might want to check before you attempt to train leash-free walking:

  • Does your dog recognize his/her name? This is a very important factor for this training. You want the dog to follow and focus on you at all times, but this is not what usually happens. Dogs are very curious creatures, so it is not hard to distract them. Even the slightest scent or movement can drive their attention away. If this happens, you need to call your dog's name to get its attention back to you.
  • Does your dog recognize your "angry voice"? The tone of your voice when you issue a command that your pet must obey is what I refer to as an "angry voice." This tone is usually much stronger than your normal voice. Whenever you use this tone, your dog must stop whatever he/she is doing and attend. In some instances, it is not enough to just call your dog's name, especially when your dog is acting based on instincts (sensing danger, sexual attraction, etc.). In this kind of situation, the owner must use his/her "angry voice" to bring the dog back to his/her senses.
  • How does your dog react to other people? In bringing your pet out for a walk, you are going to come across all sorts of other people: people going to and from work, children running around, and even people who will want to pat your dog's head. And you should know how your dog will react to these people. Is your dog aggressive? Scared? Excited and trustful? If yes, then you may want to rethink walking your dog without a leash because your pet might lose control, or your dog might follow a stranger home and have itself a new owner.
  • How does your dog react to other dogs? Aside from other people, you and your pet may come across other animals: cats, birds and other dogs. And you should know how your dog reacts to these animals. Is your dog aggressive? Scared? Excited? Does your dog want to chase other animals around? If yes, then you may want to rethink walking your dog without a leash because your dog may try to start a fight, or you might lose your dog while he/she is chasing another animal.
  • How does your dog react to vehicles? The last thing you want to have a training conflict with is a vehicle. And you should definitely know how your dog reacts to one. Does your dog want to chase cars? Is your dog excessively terrified when encountering any kind of automobile? Or does your dog want to jump in front of one? If yes, then don't ever walk your dog without a leash. Do not even walk your dog in areas with high risk of car accidents.

If you do not know how your dog reacts to these situations, then always walk your dog with a leash.

Things You Will Need

Is your dog ready? Then here are some things you will need for the training:

  • Dog collar: Are you asking "What is the point of a collar if you will walk your dog without a leash?" Then here is the answer: So that people will know that the dog has an owner. If your dog runs away from you for some reason, then they will know that the dog is with his owner. You may want to write your address and contact number at the back of the leash so that people will know where to bring your dog or who to contact. It will save you and your dog from a trip to the dog pound.
  • Vaccination certificate: First of all, when you plan to walk your dog with or without a leash, make sure that your pet is well vaccinated. At the same time you must bring it with you to inform concerned people that your dog is in fact, well vaccinated.
  • A wide and relatively safe area: Your dog is just learning to walk without a leash therefore you want to eliminate unnecessary risks when it comes to training. You need to find an area where there are wide walkways and are quite far from rushing vehicles and rabid animals. Examples of this area are walking parks, open fields and jogging areas.
  • Food and water: You do not need to bring a full meal, just treats to give him when he is performing well and answers positively with your signals. You also need to bring water not just for your dog but also for you since walking is quite dehydrating.
  • A throw toy: Walking your dog around is fun but since your walking around without a leash you night want to maximize yours' and your pet's enjoyment by playing fetch.
Patrasche is gonna walk!

Patrasche is gonna walk!

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How to Train a Dog to Walk Leash-Free

  1. Practice calling your pet's name. Start everything in your house. Before going for the walk, find out if your dog is ready by calling out his/her name. If your dog comes towards you then pat your pet's head and you're good to go.
  2. Head out. If you have a car then do not use it yet. Try to walk your dog out of your house without a leash and see his/her reaction as he/she gets farther from your house. If your dog runs away from you in an instant to explore the outside world without looking back then you might want to go back to your house and build up authority upon your pet. If your dog goes wimp and wants to return to your house then put a leash on him and walk around to build trust. Finally if your dog is calm and stays with/ walk around near you then you are good to go ride your car and head straight to your training area if you please.
  3. Familiarize your dog with the area. Upon reaching your training area (park, open field, etc.) let your dog familiarize to his/her new surroundings, walk your dog with a leash a small distance to satisfy your pet's curiosities and to discover if the area is safe or not. Observe how your dog walks, is your dog walking ahead of you? or is your dog pulling the leash? Then pull the leash to you, use your angry voice and lead him to walk behind you at a fair distance. After sometime, you should be able to walk your dog with the leash with ease (the leash not stretching) and that is when you unleash him/her.
  4. Unleash your dog. If your dog has familiarized with his/her surroundings then you should not have any problems with unleashing your dog. Start to walk on areas of the field with not much distractions, at this point it will be natural for your dog to follow you around even without a leash. Do not be scared if your dog runs quite far from you, just call your pet's name or use your angry voice then your pet will get back on staying close to you.
  5. Carefully push the boundaries. Well, you can't stay on the safe side forever, can you? Then you must train your dog on how to react or interact with other people, animals and vehicles. Just walk near them and use your angry voice whenever your dog does undesirable reactions on them.

That's it. Enjoy comfortable and safe walking with your pet!

The video above is the result of our training. Notice that my dog can move slowly and adjust his speed as I go faster. We can also do pivot turns and he stops whenever I stop.

What NOT to Do

Here is a list of things you must NOT do while walking your dog without a leash:

  • DO NOT chase your dog: If your dog is walking or running quite far from you, do not panic; stop and use your angry voice. Chasing your dog will make your dog think that you are playing tag and you're "it". And if your dog enjoys this game every time he/she comes free off leash he/she will run for you to chase after him/her.
  • DO NOT give sugar to your dog: Giving your dog sugar rich drinks or food will make your dog feel really energetic thus your dog may become wild and wont listen to you. This could cause problems and accidents that you do not want to happen

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Jamie Becker on January 05, 2019:

As someone who is repeatedly chased by dogs, I think this is an irresponsible idea to promote. Also, I carry mace and I guess I'm just going to start using it.

Brian McDowell from USA on July 15, 2015:

This is one of the first things I taught my dog and I'm so glad I did. Now he can walk well on leash while also enjoying and controlling himself off leash.

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