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If you are like many dog owners, you might struggle to effectively teach loose leash walking. This is especially true in many cases where the dog loves to sniff and use their nose, and this especially includes Beagles! In this post we’ll look at how to teach your Beagle to walk correctly on the leash, as well as the gear that is best to set you and your Beagle up for success.
If your Beagle is like most, they love to explore with their nose and run. After all, that is what the Beagle was bred to do!
Now, if they’re pulling on the leash as they sniff, and they continue to get to walk and sniff, your dog has no reason to do anything differently. After all, it’s working for them! Pulling on the leash means their sniffing adventure continues.
Dogs also have an opposition reflex, as do people, and it works by trying to balance yourself when something is pulling you or pushing you in another direction. When you pull on the leash, their balance is thrown off backwards, so oftentimes they continue to pull simply because it feels like they’d go backwards and tip over otherwise.
This all means that in order to effectively teach loose leash walking, you will be working against a natural reflex, as well as undoing the fact that they’ve learned that pulling works.
Firstly, let’s set you up for success! The best leash for teaching your Beagle to walk nicely on the leash is a 4-6 foot long leash made of nylon, cotton, leather, or another soft material. Avoid walking your Beagle on a retractable lead.
Not only is the retractable leash more difficult to control in case of an accident or altercation with another dog, but it actually rewards your dog for pulling. When your Beagle pulls on the leash, they are rewarded with more freedom!
You can get a 6-foot ZippyPaws Climbers Mountain rope leash for around $10 that will be a good fit.
Other than the right leash, you will want to have plenty of delicious treats handy. Beagles are often very food motivated, and something enticing such as hot dogs, cheese, or chicken can make teaching loose leash walking a much faster process.
Once you’ve decided on treats, you should also decide if you will be using your pockets or a treat pouch to carry them with you on walks. A treat pouch is ideal if your pockets aren’t large and easy to access.
Finally, you can consider a flat collar, harness, or head halter depending on your needs. A harness will help prevent your Beagle from harming their neck if they pull. If your Beagle is wearing a harness that clips in the front, it can even help them to pull less!
Whether your Beagle is a puppy, or a dog that’s pulled on the leash for years, you can teach them to walk correctly on the leash without pulling if you are consistent. Consistency is a large part of making sure loose leash walking is successful!
Loose leash walking is different than a “heel” exercise. In a “heel,” dogs are expected to be on the left side of their handler with the area between their nose and shoulder in line with the handler’s left hip – this exercise is rarely useful outside of obedience and rally competitions for dogs.
In fact, it’s best to walk your dog while letting them sniff and explore. Not only will your dog enjoy the walk more, but sniffing helps relieve anxiety, lower blood pressure, and tire out a dog’s brain. Plus, your Beagle was born to sniff!
Loose leash walking involves teaching our dogs not only where we want them to be, but also how to react to pressure on their leash and collar.
The steps for teaching loose leash walking to your Beagle are as follows:
Decide where you’d like your dog to be while you are walking them – an imaginary “bubble” around you. For the majority of people, this will be a bubble that allows your dogs to walk on your left or right side as well as in front or slightly behind.
When your dog is in your bubble and engaged with you, reward! Do not reward and then wait for your dog to mess up. Reward often! A good rule when training a new behavior is to try and reward every 5-10 seconds. Keep up the happy talk, too!
As you progress, you’ll start to let your dog go a few seconds longer between rewards. However, if your dog seems to struggle, go back to more frequent rewards.
The steps above will start teaching your Beagle that it’s good to stay with you! Fun things happen when they choose to walk by your side. When they pull on the leash there’s no praise or treats coming their way.
However, you also need to teach your Beagle not to give in to the opposition reflex and pull hard on the leash. Not only is it not fun or safe for owners, but it can be damaging on your Beagle’s neck as well.
If your dog puts more pressure on their leash than you can control with your pinky finger, you should consider that “pulling.”
This is true even if your dog is small and you can handle them – imagine holding them with your pinky finger only. Is it strained? Is it difficult to do?
Pulling your dog back to you unfortunately works against the opposition reflex and often makes dogs lean in harder to the leash. It also doesn’t do much to teach your Beagle how to control the pressure on their leash on their own.
Instead, follow the steps below when your dog pulls on the leash.
When the pressure on the leash is greater than you can easily hold with your pinky finger, your dog is pulling! Time to immediately implement this plan.
Turn 180 degrees so you are going the opposite of the way you were going.
You can talk to your dog, or use a treat to help turn them, but don’t pause and wait for them. Turn and walk!
When your dog catches up to you, reward at your side.
After they catch up, you will turn 180 degrees so you are now going back the way you started.
If there’s a particular distraction your dog wants, you may end up repeating these steps. That’s OK!
This exercise, with consistency, teaches dogs to turn back to you when they feel pressure on their collar instead of leaning into it! Our goal is that your dog will be able to feel when they’ve (literally) reached the end of their rope.
This is the part that allows owners to have dogs that are trained to not pull on the leash and get to enjoy sniffing and exploring on walks, rather than having to only be directed to walk at their owner’s side.
If your Beagle is pulling constantly in all directions, you need to work on standing still first. Simply stand still (or walk in a small circle) and reward when the leash goes slack, until you can get your dog to come back to your side. The level of distraction might also be too much, so consider trying again under calmer circumstances as well.
Teaching a Beagle to walk on a loose leash is a task that takes consistency, time, and dedication. It is rare that a dog learns to not pull on the leash otherwise!
Finding this article and committing to following these steps is the first part in your training journey. Congratulations on taking that first step!
No matter if you use the steps we’ve given you in this post, or if you end up working with a trainer in person, your Beagle will thank you for dedicating the time to teaching loose leash walking. They can then go on more walks and sniffing adventures with you, without the worry!