Training your dog to walk on a leash is the first step toward being able to take him places. Once your pooch gets comfortable with the leash, you can go on walks around your neighborhood, bring him along to local stores, take him on hikes, etc. Mastering leash training is vital!
Let me start by saying each dog is different. Some take to the leash immediately while others can’t stand it. Some dogs will keep turning around to bite it and others will tug.
Leash training my Chihuahua, Diego, was somewhat of a nightmare. As a young puppy, he didn’t want any part of the leash. He would tug on it, bite it, spin around and get tangled up in it. He would do anything but walk! On the flip side, my toy Poodle, Gigi, mastered the leash within just a few minutes.
Check out the following 6 tips to help your dog master leash training in no time!
1) Choose The Right Collar And Leash
Before your dog even takes his first walk on the leash, make sure you have the right equipment.
First, your dog needs a collar or harness. I personally prefer a harness to avoid tension on the neck. Plus, during the training phase, I also liked to use a front-clip harness. It makes it harder for your dog to pull because, if he does, he’ll be forced to turn around. Check out my complete guide to dog harnesses here!
You’ll also need a basic leash (not a retractable leash) that is suitable for your dog’s size. You don’t want to use a thin leash designed for small breeds if you’re walking a large dog (and vice-versa).
2) Introduce The Leash
The leash should be associated with positivity. Before you hook your dog’s leash onto their collar/harness for the first time, show it to them. Let them sniff the leash and explore it. Once you get the leash on, give them praise and a treat! It’s all about positive reinforcement and a feeling of security. You don’t want your dog to view the leash as “scary” or “bad.”
3) Try Walking With The Leash Inside First
Walking outside can be rather distracting for your young puppy. After all, there are so many stimulating sights and intriguing smells! To eliminate that distraction, try walking your dog from one room of your house to another (while he’s wearing his leash, of course).
Start by standing with your dog in the heel position (AKA standing right by your side). It doesn’t matter which side he’s on. Next, reward him for being in that position. Then take your first step. If he stays in the heel position then give him another treat. When you’re starting out, go step-by-step. Reward him after every step once he rests in the heel position.
4) Take It Outside
Now that your dog has experienced the leash indoors, it’s time to take things outside. But, rather than lacing up your sneakers, clipping on the leash, and heading out for a long walk, my advice is to go slow. Spend a few minutes right in front of your front door or apartment building and work on your communication skills. Get your dog to make eye contact with you, priming them to listen to your cues. Use treats! This video by trainer Zac George shows a great example:
If Your Dog Pulls – If your dog starts tugging and pulling on the leash during your walk, the best thing you can do is simply stop walking. Remain quiet and let your dog keep struggling to pull until he settles down. This may take a few minutes. Once your fur baby settles down, give him a lot of praise and a treat. Eventually, he will associate a loose leash with getting a prize.
5) Give A Lot Of Praise
I know I’ve been mentioning the importance of praising your fur baby with treats in the previous steps. Along with treats, though, you should also give your pooch verbal praise. A sweet-sounding “good girl” or “good boy” can go a long way! I really can’t stress enough how important praise is.
6) Be Patient
Leash training your pup can be frustrating. There will be times that your dog will pull you in one direction that you’ll want to pull him in the other direction. Just stay calm and be patient. Don’t yank him or yell at him. Dogs can pick up on your emotions. If you are stressed out, they too will become stressed out. Also, know that your dog wants to make you happy. He just needs to understand what you want!