A leash is must for safety when working around other dogs and people or in unsecured environments.  Your leash handling mechanics contribute greatly to your training success.  We communicate stress and tension through tight leashes and we can increase anxiety by limiting our dog’s ability to escape from frightening situations.  Mastering the mechanics of leash handling will help build your dog’s confidence! 

The handler anchors in place with one foot slightly in front of the other. He has a relaxed grip on the leash.

As the name implies, an anchor holds you in place.  Your dog can move around the anchor unobstructed but is limited in how how far he can move away from you.  You are the anchor!  When your dog pulls anchor in place.  This leash handling foundation will effectively manage your dog’s access to resources. Keep your feet  shoulder width apart with one foot slightly in front of the other.   Your more forward foot will generally be the same side as the hand holding the leash.  

Keep your upper body relaxed, arms loose, and let your arm pivot from the shoulder whenever your dog pulls on leash.  If you’re holding your leash in your left hand, your left foot will be more forward than your right foot.  If your opposite foot is forward switch your leash to your other hand or switch your stance.  The larger the dog the more important it is to have a wide stance and a low center of gravity.  


Good leash handling means keeping your arms relaxed at your waist or by your side.  With the wrist loop hanging from your arm, gather the bulk of the leash in one hand and drape the middle of the leash over your thumb pinching the two sides together in your palm.  Let the leash flow in the direction of the arrows in the picture below.  Carry your leash in one hand so that your other hand remains free for treat delivery.  Avoid wrapping the leash around your hand or allowing it to entangle your dog’s legs.  

This draping technique uses the friction of the leash to keep it from sliding through your hand. This reduces the effort it takes for you to hold your dog in place. You can use your treat hand to hold up the slack, if you like. Remember, though, that you will have to pass your leash to the other hand in order to access your treat pouch.  Remember to release the slack if your dog pulls to allow yourself to anchor.

max and handler demonstrate the j curve in the leash
Max and his owner walk with leash in the desired ‘J’ Curve.

Allow the leash to remain slack so that there is a slight curve in the leash as it connects to your dog’s collar.  This is known as the ‘J’ curve.  If your dog pulls you may either maintain your grip or release the slack but keep your arm relaxed.  This way when your dog relaxes slack will return to the leash.



There are two main techniques for gathering leashes.  If your dog is pulling at the end of the leash walk your hands one over the other, moving up the leash, toward your dogs collar.  Apply only enough pressure to hold your dog in place while you move closer to your dog.  Once you’re at their collar show them a treat then lead them away from the trigger.

With a long leash, stretch the leash from the handle extending it across your chest.  Transfer the bulk of the leash from one hand to the other.  Avoid wrapping the leash around your palm multiple times or using your treat hand to grip the leash as this often creates tension when none is necessary.  Our goal with any leash is to feed the leash material out on demand as the dog moves forward and gather the slack as the dog returns to us.  

The dog stands in one place while you move closer to their head. The wider you stretch your arms the more leash you can gather at once.  This will help keep your leash up off the ground and out of the muck.

If you have any questions about your dog or training program please call or text us at 913.712.8742. Join us remotely for our Weekly Q&A and Nail Trim sessions hosted on Zoom and streamed live through Facebook. On a tight budget? Check out our FREE courses available online.