How to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Leash
Leash laws may specify that your dog must be properly trained to walk on a leash and to heel when it is outside of your property. Even if they don’t, however, understanding how to use a leash properly is merely decent puppy behavior. With proper leash etiquette, your dog has more freedom to safely explore the world outside of your front or garden.
Large breed puppies have the potential to grow up to be powerful, leash-yielding pulling tanks that can drag you around. It can be fatal for both of you if you fall over when they dart into traffic, become tangled far from your reach, or get into a fight with another dog. Even sweet pups have anxiety, and a leash provides protection and comfort when a responsible owner directs them through a crowd of strange people or dangerous situations.
Puppies do not naturally know how to walk on a leash. Dogs naturally retrench when you pull on them, and if you allow the puppy to succeed, it can become tougher for them to resist the urge in the future.
A small puppy is much easier to train than a large adolescent or adult. If you have a leash, this is the perfect moment to teach your puppy how to use it. Start immediately away as soon as you bring the puppy home.
Starting with the Collar
Many purebred puppies are marked from birth with temporary collars (or colored ribbons) to help them stand out from their littermates. Give your puppy some time to become used to the collar if he or she has never worn one before. The ideal collar has a metal clasp, is flat nylon, and has space underneath for two fingers. Start with less expensive ones if you can because you’ll probably need to buy bigger ones as the puppy grows.
Harness a Pulling Dog
If you have a strong dog that might try to pull you down the street, use a no-pull harness. Older, obstinate puppies respond especially well to these training aids because they educate them not to pull. By attaching the leash to a clip on the dog’s front chest, the harness causes the dog to turn back toward the person holding the leash as it pulls. The dog is effectively taught not to pull.
Make Use of Your Dog’s Sense of Smell
Prior to fastening a leash or donning the harness for the first time, encourage your dog to sniff them. Getting a good whiff is essential because smell is the main means of communication for puppies. But you shouldn’t let your dog chew on or play tug of war with a leash because it’s not a toy.
Get the Correct-Sized Leash.
Select an appropriate leash style for your puppy’s size. Larger dogs may benefit more from heavy leather leashes than larger dogs do from lightweight nylon leashes. Avoid the urge to purchase a retractable leash. These leashes may be appropriate for toy-sized dogs, but because they reward jumping up, puppies may pull when using them. At six feet in length, puppies frequently have adequate mobility without owners losing control.
Right now, all that’s needed is for your dog to stroll calmly on either side while wearing a loose leash (not tightly). Avoid pulling or dragging the dog; if you keep the leash taut, the dog will pull naturally against you. To prevent dragging, double up any additional slack in your right hand while you hold the leash at the level of your belt buckle.
Reward Good Behavior
Distribute food, cherished toys, or other goodies with your free hand (a smell of something stinky for curious dogs). Using a clicker to train your puppy can also be a good idea.
Give your puppy a treat while it is sitting or standing by your side. If you plan to participate in obedience trials or other canine sports in the future, it’s traditional to walk your dog on your left side. If you don’t care about competition, it doesn’t matter which side you are on as long as you are consistent.
Wait for the puppy to focus on the treat. After that, say “Let’s go!” or any verbal cue you frequently use. To interact with a puppy effectively, you must master its language. As you begin to move, hold the reward right in front of the dog’s nose to entice it to follow.
After the puppy understands the concepts of loose-leash walking and sitting when asked, you might want to experiment with different speeds. Your dog should follow you closely no matter how you are moving—stroll, trot, or run. Work on changing your course as well. When you spin or pivot to the right while walking your dog on the left, it should be rather easy for the dog to follow you. At first, it could be required to persuade someone with the reward by turning to the left. Make it into a game so you can generously treat the dog when he grasps it.
Problems and Proofing Techniques
When a behavior is “confirmed,” it means that your dog will keep displaying it in challenging situations. To show your dog how to behave on a leash, move the practice sessions to areas with more distractions. You want loose leash walking to be the norm everywhere you go because you’ll have to leave your backyard or living room when you go to a park or drive to see friends and family. You should practice in the front yard unless your husband is throwing a ball across the room or it is early in the morning.
As your dog receives more training, you can start “heel” training him. The “heel” position is when someone walks next to you on your left side at knee level, stops and starts when you do, and sits when you stop. Once your dog has mastered listening to the “let’s go” command and anticipating the “sit” command when you stop, you might want to attempt teaching them to heel around the entire perimeter of the yard or complete laps around the house.
You may need to reinforce some of the training you’ve done to help your pet understand actions and get beyond everyday hurdles without receiving immediate rewards. Even the most clever canines occasionally struggle to sustain a habit.
- Leaping to win anything. Reduce your position if your puppy tries to jump up for the treat or toy because it isn’t what they should be doing. You can also use a long wooden spoon with a sticky treat on it or a commercial “treat stick” designed for that purpose to avoid bending over. After a short distance, stop and tell your dog to “sit.” As a reward, give the dog a treat.
- Tugging at the leash or charging in front. Repeat the leash walk exercise using the lure. Stop every few steps, place your dog in the down or sit position, and reward it with a goodie. The puppy should rapidly understand that strolling by your side wins a treat when the dog sits when you stop by responding to commands like let’s go or other consistent commands.
- Only behaving properly when rewarded. After a few sessions, the puppy won’t need to be lured, but it will want to know that you have rewards available. The puppy’s attention span may be extended if you finally just give the reward occasionally—every second, third, or fourth time, rather than every time. This teaches your dog to constantly follow because it is not always obvious when a reward will be delivered.