How to Leash Train Your Dog

By: Sondra Wolfer

“Let’s Go For A Walk!” is the most frequent refrain of dog ownership. The jingle of collar and leash make the music, while wagging tails and prancing paws dance by the door. But if you’ve got a new puppy who hasn’t learned walking manners yet or an adult dog who never learned them, daily walks can be a bit of a drag. Your dog may constantly pull, or bound ahead, yanking you as he goes. Or, alternatively, he may lollygag, making a walk to the corner feel as though it takes a century.

By leash training your dog, you bring your daily walks back under control so they are more of a pleasure than a chore. Get started now and you’ll be surprised how quickly your dog trots easily by your side. But remember you’re not putting him through his paces for the Westminster Dog Show. Don’t expect your dog to anticipate your every move or keep his shoulder at your leg. It isn’t realistic and you and your dog deserve to relax on your walks.

Leash Training Tools and Troubleshooting

  • If your dog is a chronic puller, consider training with a harness that has an attachment for the leash in the front of his chest. Whenever he pulls, this type of harness will force him to turn sideways away from where he wants to go.
  • Exercise your dog before leash training to get out any excess energy. Play games with him in the house or the backyard for a while. Once he is leash trained, a lot of his exercise will come from your walks.
  • Use extra special dog treats for rewards during training.
  • If you have more than one dog, train them separately.
  • Establish a brisk pace for walking so your dog has less opportunity to be distracted by the interesting sights, sounds, and smells around him.
  • Never jerk your dog’s collar or harness. Keep your movements firm but smooth when you turn or stop so you don’t hurt your dog’s neck.
  • For the purposes of training, avoid retractable or extra-long leashes.

Read on to learn how to leash train your puppy, or jump ahead to learn how to leash train an adult dog.

Leash Training a Puppy

As with all dog training, it’s best to start when your puppy is little. If you begin leash training as soon as you bring him home, he’s less likely to learn bad habits.

  • Introduce your puppy to his collar or halter and leash, and put them on him.
  • Put some space between you and your puppy and then call to him, having him come to you as you back away a few steps. When he reaches you and settles down, reward him with a treat and a “good boy.”
  • Repeat this process until he associates good and yummy things with coming to you wearing his leash and collar, and sitting or lying down.
  • Next, head outside for short walks where your curious pup will encounter more distractions. Put his collar and lead on and stand still with your arms down and wait for him to stop jumping around with excitement. Depending on your puppy’s personality, this might happen quickly or take some time. When he settles, reward him with a “good boy” and a treat.
  • Walk forward a few steps and use a command such as “let’s go” or “let’s walk.” As soon as he starts to jump, gets overexcited, or pulls away from you, stop and stand still again. When he settles down give him a treat and praise him.
  • Lengthen your walks over time. Each time your puppy pulls, jumps, or bolts after a squirrel, stand still until he settles and reward him with a treat. Then repeat “let’s go” and continue your walk.

Leash Training an Adult Dog

If you’ve adopted an adult dog with poor leash habits, or never got around to training your own pup, it’s not too late.

  • Fill your pockets with extra special treats.
  • Head out on your walk as you normally do. As soon as your dog tugs at the leash stop and put your arms at your side. Call your dog to you and back up a few steps until he comes. Reward him with a treat and continue your walk.
  • Repeat this process each time you go for a walk. It’s probably going to happen again and again for a while.
  • Don’t walk too far at first so you aren’t tempted to let him pull again when you get tired and want to go home.

Once you begin leash training your dog, consider canine school in session every time you go for a walk. You’ll need plenty of patience because the process is repetitive at the start. But with focus and consistency, soon your dog will know how to stick by your side when you go for walks rather than lagging behind or racing ahead. And with his good company, you’ll enjoy your daily outings together in a whole new way.

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