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Before you go out walking your favorite pooch this spring, brush up on his loose leash walking skills!

If you're like most pet owners, leashed walks are few and far between in the winter when it's cold and the daylight hours are short. Try these games to remind your dog of his job on walks—to keep slack in the leash!

1. Connect the Dots. Use cones, 2-liter bottles of soda, or even canned veggies and set up four-to-five in a straight line spaced approximately 5 feet apart. With your dog on leash and some treats or kibble in your pocket, start at the first cone and walk toward the second. Stop at the second cone and reward your dog. Continue until you've reached the last cone, turn around and walk back through the cones stopping at each one to reward your dog. If your dog is not able to keep the leash loose with the cones 5 feet apart, try spacing them closer until your dog is successful, and then work back up to greater spacing. If your dog is too distracted, set up the game in your yard or even in your house to increase your dog’s chances of success.

2. Chase Me. This game might sound counter intuitive for loose leash walking, but it actually teaches the dog to focus on you since your dog will be chasing you backwards. Start in your house or yard with your dog on leash and with some yummy treats in your pocket. Take a few steps forward, if your dog is paying attention to you and keeping the leash loose, use a marker word like “yes” and immediately step or jog backward for several steps. When your dog turns toward you and follows you backward, reward with a treat. Repeat this and mix up the number of steps forward and backward as your dog learns to keep the leash loose at all times.

shiba walking

3. Egg in Spoon. Resurrect this game from your childhood field days! You can use a plastic egg or even a ping pong ball, anything that will fit in a spoon will work. This game will remind you to use your voice to call your dog and not rely on your leash to pull your dog around. Put your leash in the same hand as the egg and spoon and take a walk around your house or yard. When you see your dog start to get distracted or tighten the leash, call him and walk backward to get his attention, verbally praise and reward him with a treat when he reorients his attention to you. Relying on leash pressure to move your dog around makes your dog less sensitive to when he is getting too far ahead of you and causing a tight leash.