How to Get Your Dog to Walk on a Leash: A Comprehensive Guide
How to get your dog to walk on a leash is one of the most common questions that trainers get. Pups feel quite uncomfortable with a leash, which means they’ll do a lot of pulling – a process that gets exhausting for all parties involved.
If you want to learn how to train your dog not to pull on a leash, you’ll need to be patient and committed to the process.
Very often, the improvement is going to be gradual. It’s also quite essential to focus on positive reinforcement rather than punishments. You don’t want a puppy that’s afraid of you. Needless to say, you want a puppy that’s both happy and obedient.
The following training your dog to walk on a leash guide will acquaint you with the most important steps and provide some actionable tips you can undertake to make the training sessions painless and even enjoyable.
How to Get Your Dog to Walk on a Leash: Choose the Right Leash and Collar
Before you move on to doing any kind of leash training, you’ll need to buy the right products for your pup.
Collars and leashes are not created equal and some will give you better results than others.
A good dog collar should fit well and it should also be made of a safe, soft and non-irritating material. When you buy the collar, put it on for some time and let your puppy get used to it.
In time, you can turn the collar into a permanent accessory, after which leash selection will become a priority.
There are specialized training leashes that are both lightweight and durable. If you’re dealing with a really rambunctious pup, you can opt for a harness and leash combo. This product will feel more comfortable for your pet, which mean they’ll tolerate it better for a longer period of time.
Finally, choose the right length and if you want to, you can also choose a leash that allows you to do length adjustments.
A few additional characteristics you may want to look for in a good leash include a quick release mechanism and a hand loop that will give you a better grip.
How to Get Your Dog to Walk on a Leash: A Step by Step Guide
Now that you have your pup accessories, it’s time to learn how to get your dog to walk on a leash.
It’s a good idea to start practicing inside. This way, you’re more in control of the environment and there are no threats for a pup that manages to run away.
The first and easiest thing you can do is test walking on a leash. Your dog will definitely pull and act crazy. Still, there are moments in which they’ll do exactly what you need them to. These are the moments when you need to offer some praise and a treat.
Eventually, your pup will establish the connection between the specific behavior and the reward.
You can also use your backyard for such training sessions. In the beginning, keep them short and sweet (up to 15 minutes). Refrain from using retractable leashes because chances are that you’ll only get your dog confused by the puling.
So in essence, here’s what you need to do when conquering the challenge of teaching your pup how to walk on a leash:
- Walk around randomly at your home or in the backyard
- Hold the leash with your dominant hand and keep some treats in your other hand
- Whenever your pup doesn’t pull and walks by your side, offer verbal praise and a small reward
- As you get better and your pup understands the gist of the exercise, you can start offering rewards less frequently
- In time, you can take the exercise to the outside world (it’s still essential to offer positive reinforcement for good behavior in such brand new environment)
Troubleshooting Common Leash Problems
The procedure mentioned above is a good choice for a pup that doesn’t demonstrate too many behavioral problems.
If you are dealing with such issues, however, you will need to troubleshoot them in the correct way.
Here are some of the most common leash walking problems and what you can do about them:
Puling on the Leash
Whenever your dog starts pulling or attempting to go in the wrong direction, stand still. Refuse to move until your pup comes back and is ready to continue the walk. Yanking on the leash or trying to jerk your dog back in the right direction will not work. Dragging your pup is another big no-no that can be particularly painful and confusing. Alternatively, you can release the leash and go in the opposite direction (it’s best to do that in the backyard). Once your pup gets back to you (and they most definitely will), show some excitement and provide a reward.
Another very, very common problematic behavior you’re going to experience when doing leash training . Dogs will get excited about many things – other dogs, cars, cats, even people. This is when they’re likely to lunge, even when leashed. In time, you’ll get better at recognizing your dog’s behavior and their triggers. When this happens, you can offer a reward and calm them down before lunging has happened. It’s also a good idea to back up and increase the space between your pup and the subject/object they find intriguing or threatening.
Biting and Chewing on the Leash
Every single dog parent has experienced this sign of protest at least once. Not only will some dogs pull, they’ll turn around and bite the leash. In essence, the leash will be turned into a tug toy. The bigger your pup gets, the more out of hand this behavior is going to be. To discontinue such behavior, you have to stop rewarding it. This means that when your puppy tugs, you refrain from tugging back. A dog will perceive this behavior as a game and a definite reward. Once again, you need to remain still. When your pup calms down, do reward their behavior. And also – get the right kind of tug toy so that your pup can have a bit of fun.
No Leash Walking Strategy Works
If this is the case and you find yourself being dragged around, you may have to choose a different kind of collar and leash. A head halter may be a good idea in such instances. Apart from choosing an alternative, accessory, however, you’ll once again need to take a look at your own behavior. Have you been encouraging your dog to get out of control? If you hurry up and pick up the pace each time they pull, chances are that you’ve been sabotaging your own training efforts.
Shock Collars: Should They Ever Be Used?
One highly controversial topic is that of using shock collars when learning how to get your dog to walk on a leash.
Shock collars come in several varieties but all of them are designed to do the same – make your pup feel uncomfortable whenever they’re not engaging in the correct behavior.
In other words, you’re not offering positive reinforcement. Rather, you’re relying on discomfort or even pain to get the outcome that you want.
Apart from the shock collars, there are several other barbaric varieties out there – choke collars, prong or pinch collars and even choke chains.
Some of these products can cause trachea and neck injuries, especially if your dog is an aggressive puller. This is why you should never opt for products like that. There have even been instances of dogs being strangled by their owners who used such training accessories.
On top of that, shock collar training is ineffective.
Shock collars work by instilling fear. Your pup can learn to fear the collar, fear walks and even fear you. If you want to have a healthy, wholesome relationship with your pet, fear should never be a part of the training experience.
Even if you’re dealing with a puppy that has serious behavioral problems, a shock collar is not the way to go. Rather, you should consider looking into professional training that can address the nature of the issue and eliminate it altogether.
A Few Additional Leash Training Tips and Ideas
The leash training process should continue well into adulthood.
Get your dog excited about walking with you. Turn walks into a special moment and enjoy them often together. The more excited you are about the experience, the better behaved your pup is going to be.
You also need to maintain your patience.
Young dogs have a ton of energy. They want to run around. Needless to say, they don’t understand the need for a leash and they will rebel every now and then.
It’s up to you to maintain your composure and help your pup discover another kind of energy outlet. There are places where you can let your dog run wild. Having a stroll in the park or walking on the city street doesn’t constitute such an opportunity.
Finally, remember to vocalize.
Choose words associated with the things you want your dog to do.
Slow, steady, stop and come back are some of the command words your dog should understand. Again, you can give your pup a good idea about what you want by using treats. The tone of your voice will also give your pup some indication about your happiness level and if they’re doing what you want them to.
In time, some dogs get so good in terms of walking by their parent’s side that the leash turns into an optional accessory. Even if this seems like an impossible feat at the time being, chances are that you’ll get there. Don’t give up and don’t feel discouraged by a few unsuccessful training sessions. Being patient and loving will sooner or later result in the outcome you’re hoping for.