Leash Training Your Puppy –
The Dos and Don’ts
Leash training is one of the most important things you can teach your puppy, as it will help them stay safe and happy during walks. However, if you aren’t careful, you may end up frustrated with your pup and not enjoying your walk as much as you’d like!
So what can you do to prevent this from happening?
Leash training can be a challenge if you don’t follow the right strategies, but it can also be rewarding if you do! With a little practice, your puppy will learn that walking on a leash is pleasant and fun. In addition, it can help your pup to pass their Canine Good Citizen exam.
Start your leash training inside first, in areas with fewer distractions. This will make the process go much quicker and will give you more time to establish your dog’s leash manners.
During these training sessions, try to keep your dog on the short end of its leash as much as possible so that it can see and hear you better. This will help them focus on you, and it will also give you a chance to maintain control while you teach your dog how to heel.
Then, take your training outside to familiar, distraction-free areas where there are no new sights or sounds that could catch their attention. Avoid new places, especially if they are very populated or your dog is already prone to pulling.
When you are out in these more distracting locations, use a high-value treat to keep your pup’s attention on you. If your dog pulls on their leash, use a high-value treat to get their attention back on you as soon as they do, and continue working in these distraction-free areas until they are consistently pulling on the leash without being distracted.
If you’re not sure how to train your dog to walk on a leash, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trainer for help! There are many qualified trainers in your area, and they can show you the best ways to train your puppy.
To get started, you’ll need a collar and leash for your puppy. Don’t use retractable leashes, as they can teach your dog to pull and put stress on its neck. Instead, choose a simple, soft-handled 6-foot leather, biothane, or nylon leash that is comfortable to hold.
You should also invest in a treat bag to carry around so you can quickly reward your puppy with treats for walking on their leash properly. Once you have mastered the Heel routine and your dog is walking on a leash politely, you can move on to teaching them to sit, stay, and down.
Your next step is to practice these commands with your dog on a short leash in your backyard or on the sidewalk in front of your home. When they’re successful, slowly increase the length of their walks.
You can also reward your dog when they walk by your side, which will help them understand that walking by your side equals treats. You can even start using a clicker to help you establish these commands.
Whether you’re a new puppy parent or have had a dog for years, leash training is one of the most important skills your pup can learn. Not only is it a safe way to walk your dog, but it also teaches them how to behave around other people and dogs in public.
It’s common for a puppy to pull on the leash when they feel overwhelmed or unprepared, but this behavior should not become a habit. Rather than punishing your dog when they pull, use positive reinforcement to reward them for walking nicely on the leash.
Start off by putting on your pup’s collar and leash and taking them for short walks in the home, away from busy streets and other distractions. This will help them associate the collar and leash with being a fun, rewarding thing to do.
Keep the training sessions short and sweet – don’t overdo it and give your pup lots of praise and treats for a job well done. This helps them get the hang of it and understand what they need to do to be successful in the future.
Another don’t is to walk your pup with a harness or head halter until they’ve mastered walking on the leash. Harnesses can be uncomfortable and annoying for a puppy and even more so when they’re trying to figure out how to behave around other dogs.
Once they’re ready to try the harness, make sure you have a treat handy so you can reward them for staying on their leash when it comes time to take a break. This will prevent them from figuring out that they’re supposed to ignore the leash or bite it when they need to be on their way home.
When you do finally decide to go on a longer outing, make it fun by giving them treats, playing with them, or doing something else they enjoy. This will also make them more likely to want to work hard when you start leash training them again.
It’s always better to teach your pup in a safe place, so don’t take them on a long walk in the park or on a busy street until they’re a little older. This will help them develop confidence and be more comfortable in the environment, avoiding a situation where they might accidentally lunge at someone or something.
This is especially crucial if your pup has a prey drive or is prone to jumping up, as it’s more difficult to curb these behaviors when they are in a busy environment. You can do this by distracting your pup from the stimuli they’re focusing on with verbal commands or a treat, or by increasing the distance between you and the object that is causing them to lunge.
- Start by practicing inside your home, where there are fewer distractions to get your pup used to walking in the heel position on a loose leash. This way, they will be more likely to stay focused on you and ignore any other sights or sounds that might be happening around them when they’re outside.
- Once you’re confident your puppy is consistently heeling indoors, it’s time to take them out for a walk and test their skills in different areas with more distractions. This will help you “proof” your dog’s abilities to reliably heel in new environments, which will ultimately help you avoid having to resort to leash training whenever they encounter any unfamiliar or distracting things.
- Use a short leash so you can easily see where your dog is at all times, and don’t forget to reward them frequently while they’re on the leash. This will help them associate their leash with the rewards they receive for good behavior.
- Don’t use a retractable leash, as this isn’t ideal for dogs and can teach them to pull on it. Instead, use a simple 6-foot leather or biothane leash that’s comfortable for you to hold in your hand and doesn’t become tangled when they pull.
- When your dog is pulling, don’t yank or jerk the leash; instead, tuck it behind you and turn around and walk in the opposite direction. Repeat this several times until your dog realizes that pulling means being turned back.
- If you have trouble getting your dog to heel with a loose leash, try using a front-hook harness or head halter. These can be purchased at any pet store, or you can have a professional trainer custom make them for you.
- Another alternative is to keep your dog in the heel position all the time, whichever side they choose to walk on. This will ensure they keep to your pace and stop when you stop.
Once your puppy understands that the heel command means they must stay close to you and not move ahead, you can then begin walking them on a loose leash outdoors. When they’re accustomed to being close to you without a leash, start adding more distance and walking at a faster speed until they’re ready to be off the leash completely.
It can take a while to learn to leash train your puppy, but it’s well worth the effort. Once they’re walking well on a leash, you’ll be surprised at how easy it will be for you and your dog to navigate public spaces together.