Leash training your dog is important for many reasons. If you want to take your dog out for a walk in public, she’ll need to be on a leash. If you need to take her to the vet, she’ll need to be on a leash. Traveling with your dog will necessitate his being on a leash. While dogs on leashes seem to be something fairly common, many dogs do not naturally take to being leashed, so it’s a good idea to start leash training as soon as possible for best results.
What Will I Need for Leash Training?
First, purchase a collar or harness that properly fits your pup. We’ll discuss this momentarily, but sometimes a harness is better for your dog. Next, you’ll want a four or six-foot leash that easily attaches to the harness or collar. Finally, you’ll want plenty of treats for Fido’s good behavior.
Now, let’s discuss the collar vs. the harness. Some dog breeds actually need a harness rather than a collar. Dogs that are considered brachycephalic – Boston Terriers, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Pugs – tend to need a harness versus a collar. A collar can further impede the breathing of these dogs, and, if they pull at the leash, they could damage their esophagus. However, dogs with a “normal” snout – German Shepards, Beagles, and Yorkshire Terriers, for instance – can wear a collar comfortably.
However, there’s another reason this dog lover prefers the harness over the collar— your dog is much easier to control when she’s wearing a harness. The harness goes across the shoulders and chest of your dog, and you can control him much easier when he’s wearing harness. So, choose the item with which you feel more comfortable.
It is also important to consider the fit of the collar or harness. Another reason to choose a harness is the lack of probability your dog could get caught on something and injure herself. If you choose a collar, you should be able to easily put two fingers between the collar and your pup’s throat. A harness should fit snugly but not too tight. Make sure your dog can walk easily without the harness restricting her legs.
How and When Should I Begin Leash Training?
You can begin placing the harness or collar on your puppy shortly after bringing him home for the first time. It’s also a good idea to place the leash on your puppy in the comfort of your home before truly beginning leash training. Get him used to the weight of the leash. Allow him to smell it and make sure he’s not anxious about the leash. Do this a few times before ever heading out to truly begin training.
Fill your pockets with treats before heading out. Be prepared to supply treats for positive behavior.
You’ll first want to work on teaching your dog to accept the leash. Keep in mind some dogs will have a little difficulty learning to heel at first. These initial sessions should be short and as positive as possible. Let your dog walk leisurely beside you, getting used to the harness/collar and leash. Be ready to offer praise and treats.
Work up to teaching the dog how to stop and heel. Now, if you want to put your dog in shows later, you’ll need to teach him to walk on your left side. Keep the end of the leash in your right hand, but treats it in the left hand. As he walks on the proper side, be sure to praise and offer treats. It is important that you do not allow the dog to weave back and forth in front of you. You’ll need to keep the leash short enough so that he isn’t allowed to go back and forth.
If you don’t intend to show the dog, you can teach him to walk on your preferred side.
Once your pup has learned how to walk beside you, you can begin teaching him to “heel.” Walk several paces, then stop and say “heel” to your dog. Gently pull back on the leash. If your dog takes to this fairly quickly, then you can begin taking longer walks incorporating the command to heel at intervals. Remember to always praise good behavior and offer treats often.
However, you may encounter some problems at this point. Some dogs will naturally “pull” at the leash. Let’s discuss how to counter this behavior.
Although it sounds counterintuitive, let the dog pull for a bit. Resist the urge to pull back on the leash. What you’re shooting for here is to reward the good behavior. You’re waiting for the moment when Fido allows the leash to go slack. When he does, praise him and offer a treat.
If your dog is persistent in pulling you, then adapt the idea that you simply will not allow him to go forward. That’s right – stop right where you are! Wait for his leash to go slack, praise him and reward him. ONLY walk forward when your dog has stopped pulling the leash. Now, you may have to mimic a statue (by standing steadfast) several times before your energetic pup will give up the pulling. This is where patience and persistence must be practiced! You may have to do this several times – over the course of several sessions – in order to get the point across. However, at some point, your dog will realize he’s not getting anywhere by pulling, and he’ll also realize that he gets rewarded when he is NOT pulling at the leash!
What should you do if your dog seems to have the opposite issue – refusing to walk beside you at all? You’ll have to make him WANT to come to you by using treats. Walk slightly ahead and offer a treat (if you wondered why you were told to keep some treats in the hand of the side you wish for him to walk, well, this is the situation). Once he begins to walk to you, offer the treat, and slowly move forward. If he continues without stopping and refusing to move forward, then walk a few more steps before you praise him and reward him with a treat.
If your dog is especially stubborn about pulling, you may have to try another approach. Turn in his direction and walk in the opposite direction. It is important that you show no emotion. Don’t speak to him. Don’t offer a treat.
Let’s talk about some other common problems you may encounter when teaching your dog to walk on a leash.
Remember it’s your dog’s duty to keep up with you. Should you have to turn and walk in another direction, when your dog DOES catch up to you (and he will), THEN stop and offer him praise and a treat.
Some dogs will be headstrong when it comes to leash training. You may want to talk with your vet and ask for suggestions regarding a different harness or collar. Some dogs need a head halter to help with leash training. The head halter will give you better control over your dog.
What should you do if your dog runs around you or weaves back and forth in front of you? Show him a treat and ask him to come to stand beside you. Even a few steps in your direction should be rewarded with praise and a treat. Work to getting him to stand quietly beside you without pulling or dancing around. Once leash training is accomplished, you can further teach your dog loose leash walking.
Keep the leash short enough that he can’t get out of control and dance around.
If all else fails, you may need to enroll in an obedience class. These experts are professionally trained to deal with the very problems mentioned throughout the article. Sign up as soon as you see what you are attempting is not accomplishing anything – don’t wait weeks or months allowing bad behavior to become a habit. Remember, you haven’t failed if your spirited pup fails to take to leash training. Some breeds are simply a little more of a challenge to properly train!
FAQs for Leash Training
1. How long does it take to leash train a dog?
Every dog is different when it comes to training! Your dog may take to leash training almost immediately; in some cases, you may work with your pup for days, weeks, or even a few months in order to get him trained as you’d like.
The key is to be patient and consistent. Remember, your dog can pick up on your emotions. If you are apprehensive or anxious, your dog will know. This can actually make training more difficult!
Try a few different approaches if the initial try at leash training does not work. Talk with your vet or fellow dog parents. You may garner some really good tips from them!
As stated previously, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a trainer or to sign up for obedience classes! The only wrong way to train your pup is to allow him to continue with bad behavior that can become a bad habit.
2. How do I get my dog to stop pulling on the leash?
First, always remain calm. Never raise your voice when Fido begins pulling. Stand like a statue, and work to lure him to your side with a treat. If he continues to pull, turn and walk in the opposite direction. He will have no choice but to follow you. Remember to reward good behavior.
3. How do you train a dog to walk on a leash?
Very patiently, in some instances! I do prefer introducing the leash and harness fairly soon after bringing your puppy home. Let him become accustomed to it. Once he has had all vaccinations, you can begin taking him outside for some short trips on the leash. Use the praise and treat method of rewarding positive behavior.
4. Is it too late to leash train my dog?
Not at all! However, you may find that older dogs benefit from training in an obedience class in order to prevent pulling or other undesirable behavior while on the leash. An older dog may require a little more training than a puppy, but it is never too late to leash train a dog.