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Many dog owners use retractable leashes and love them. A retractable leash should give you and your dog the ability to loose leash walk while also being able to stop the dog in his tracks while you catch up very quickly. When used correctly, a retractable leash should not pull on your dog but just give you the loose leash between the two of you and the ability to close that very quickly should the need arise. With a retractable leash, your dog shouldn't necessarily know there is a leash between the two of you. Retractable leashes are meant to be kept loose and not tight. They are not meant for pulling the dog towards you. If your dog slows down or walks back towards you, the retractable leash should retract inside the handle. This is very convenient if you don't want the slack in between you and your dog to get in your way.
Training your dog to walk on a retractable leash will begin with teaching your dog how to loose leash walk. As mentioned above, your dog shouldn't really know there is a leash between you and him. A retractable leash just gathers excess leash into the handle rather than leave it lying on the ground or leaving you holding the excess leash in your hands. You can teach any dog at any age how to walk on a retractable leash. The key to using a retractable leash is knowing how to train your dog to loose leash walk with you. If you have a dog who can overpower you and pull you along on a regular leash, loose leash walking on a retractable leash is probably not going to happen with your particular dog. Be sure you understand how well trained your dog is before you introduce a retractable leash. If your dog is strong enough to pull from you, he can pull the retractable leash handle right out of your hand, causing himself injury or someone in between you two.
To teach your dog to walk on a retractable leash, you will obviously need a retractable leash. But you will also need some other fun items such as high-value treats like hot dogs or cheese. Have some patience and go on short walks close to home or even start in your backyard when you are first teaching your dog to walk on a retractable leash. Understand how the retractable leash works when your dog pulls away from you as well as when your dog comes back towards you, so you know what you are supposed to be doing with the leash as your dog moves far from you or nearer to you.
The Retractable Leisure Method
Sit and stay
Start your training by having your dog sit and stay. Offer him a treat once he sits, and with a hand signal, ask your dog to stay and slowly back away from him.
As you slowly back away from your dog, begin to pull out excess leash, making a loose leash between you and your dog.
Release your dog from his stay position and ask him to come to you. As soon as your dog is released, let the leash lock go, so it retracts at the same time your dog is running toward you.
Practice these steps before walking on a retractable leash with your dog so that he understands commands and how the leash works based on his movements and your commands.
Allow the leash to become loose again and walk with your dog.
As your dog gets too far ahead or potentially becomes out of your control, stop the leash, locking it in position so your dog can go no farther away from you. As you walk closer to your dog, retract the slack of the leash, bringing the distance between you and your dog to a close.
The Explorer Method
Take your dog for a walk and allow him to loose leash walk as far away from you as you are comfortable.
As soon as your dog is far enough away from you for you to become uncomfortable with the distance, lock the leash so he is unable to get any farther away from you.
When you would like your dog to be closer, you can retract the leash. Though this will not reel your dog in, so to speak, it will begin to close the distance between you and your dog as the leash is spooled up and you walk closer to your dog.
Allow your dog to be the explorer he is with a retractable leash while you control the distance you allow him to roam.
As a dog owner with a retractable leash, you have a responsibility to keep your dog within your sight and to be able to get to your dog quickly should trouble arise away from you with a long loose leash. This might mean retracting the leash and running ahead to catch up with your dog. Also be sure to always hold on to the leash, so it does not retract and find its way to your dog hitting him or startling him.
The Loose Leash Method
Attach the retractable leash and extend the length as long as you are comfortable. Walk next to your dog with the slack in between you two.
As you walk with your dog, praise him and offer him treats every few steps.
Loosen the leash more and slow your pace. If your dog knows the command to heel, use it, expecting your dog to slow with you. If your dog stays at your pace next to you with the slack leash between you, offer him a treat.
Continue to increase the challenges your dog faces by changing your pace to slower and then faster while asking your dog to heel, keeping the retractable leash loose between you.
While you are walking, stop with your dog and ask him to sit. If he continues, he will eventually stop as the slack tightens. If he obeys and sits as you stop, offer him a treat and slowly retract the slack in the leash. As the slack tightens, if he obeys and sits while you wait, offer him a treat and slowly retract the slack in the leash.
Continue walking your dog on a loose leash, asking him to heel, changing your pace, and now and then stopping and asking your dog to sit. Be sure to remember to ask your dog and retract at the same time.
Reward your dog for a job well done as you practice this training. Your dog should be getting used to how to walk with slack on the leash. He should not notice the excess leash and should be stopping when you stop, feeling the leash retract until you are close to him should he get too far away.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 11/15/2017, edited: 01/08/2021
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