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Training

How to Teach a Dog to Walk on a Leash?

At A Glance

Teaching a dog to walk on a leash requires the right leash and collar or harness, along with time and patience. You also need to use verbal cues and positive reinforcement like praise, petting, and treats to help it learn good behavior.

Train indoors at first. Once your dog gets used to the leash, take your walks outdoors.

Pulling, lunging, and barking are common issues you’ll face on walks with your dog. Just remain calm and use a mix of cues and rewards to encourage better behavior.

Just as human beings need daily walks for exercise and fitness, so do dogs. Daily walks help them maintain good health and present opportunities for socializing with other dogs. Walking your dog every day can also be a great bonding experience for the two of you, whether you do it in the morning or after you’ve had a long day at work.

Contrary to what some people may think, a dog does not automatically learn to walk on a leash obediently. You need to train it to ensure good behavior when it’s on the leash so the walk can go smoothly for you and your dog.

How do you train a dog to walk on a leash without pulling? How long does it take to train it? Should you use a harness instead of a collar?

We’ll answer these questions and more in our guide on how to teach a stubborn dog to walk on a leash. Read on!

How Do You Train A Dog To Walk On A Leash?

Leash training involves several steps, which we’ve listed below for you. Follow them, and you’ll learn how to teach even a stubborn dog to walk on a leash!

Here are five things you need to keep in mind while leash training your dog or pup:

Get the Right Leash Training Tools

First things first. You need a training leash for puppies if you want to train your pup to walk with it! Choose one that is sturdy yet comfortable, and of the right size and thickness for your pup. A good leash length would be about two meters.

Smaller breeds need relatively lightweight leashes, whereas heavier breeds and pups that chew a lot or are teething will need stronger ones to keep them in check.

Make sure to get a good-quality harness or buckle collar to attach the leash to. If you have a hyperactive or aggressive pup that tugs a lot, a front-hook harness or a head halter would be a better option than a traditional collar.

Avoid shock collars, prongs, or chokes as they can harm your pup. Do not buy a retractable leash as it is better suited for more disciplined dogs.

Introduce Your Pup to Its Leash and Collar or Harness

Take the time to slowly introduce your pup to its new collar or harness and leash. It may feel trapped when it wears these accessories the first few times — this is perfectly normal. Be patient and give your pet time to feel comfortable with them before commencing with training.

Put the collar or harness on when you’re at home, and attach the leash occasionally. If your pup whines when it’s on the leash, remove the leash and try again after some time has passed. You can also try petting and rewarding it while putting on the collar or harness and leash to keep it calm.

Once it stops whining when on the leash, feed it and let it play so that it will get used to the feeling. Soon enough, your dog will associate the new accessories with fun times instead of punishment or entrapment.

A man giving treats to a cute puppy with a red leash

Use Cues and Food Rewards

Once your pup becomes comfortable with its leash, train it to walk around the house with it on by using cues and treats. Sound cues work well in this case.

You can use words like “food” or your pet’s name or make random sounds like clucking your tongue or clicking a pen to get your pup’s attention.

In a quiet area of your house, make the sound you plan to use as your leash cue. Once your pup looks at you, give it a treat. Choose healthy snacks for your dog as you’ll need to feed it treats often during leash training.

Repeat the process a few times, and then start moving away from your pup before you make the sound. It will begin walking over to you every time you make the sound. Make it walk a few steps with you, and then give it its treat.

Do this for some time, but keep your leash training sessions short and sweet, as pups have short attention spans and get bored or distracted easily.

The key is to keep doing this until your pup becomes excited to walk with you while on the leash to get its treat, not until it gets tired or drained of energy.

Train Indoors

Now that your pup has learned to walk a few steps with a leash on, start walking around the house. Most owners prefer their dogs to walk on their left side.

Whichever side your dog walks on, keep the treats on that side. For example, if your dog walks on your left side, keep the treats in your left pocket or left hand and hold the leash with your right hand.

The aim of training indoors is for your dog to get used to walking on a leash beside you. It will encounter a few distractions, but there is no danger of lunging at strangers or vehicles.

At first, seeing the leash in your hands while you walk together will be a distraction for your pup. Once it gets used to that, walk with your pup in the busier areas of your house. The living room may be a good place for this, as there may be more people, sights, and sounds to distract it.

If you find it getting distracted and running after things, use your verbal cues to make it return to you. Don’t forget to reward your pup for good behavior with praise and treats.

A dog sitting with a leash on looking to its owner

Train Outside

Once your pup gets used to walking on a leash indoors, you can try taking it outside. There are more distractions outdoors, such as other people and dogs, traffic, and many other sights and sounds. There may also be smells that may make your pup want to stop and sniff.

If you find it getting distracted for any reason, use the sound cue. Once it comes back to you, give it its due of treats and praise. Always keep a couple of treats handy for this purpose.

At first, keep the outdoor leash training sessions short as you don’t want your pup to be exhausted on its very first day of training. Prolong the duration of the walks once your pup becomes comfortable with the leash when you are outside.

Slowly, you can transition to loose-leash walking, where you can relax your hold on the leash and know that your dog won’t pull or tug at it. This will be more comfortable and pleasant for you and your dog, and you can enjoy the walk.

You can also give your dog off-duty walks so it can look around and sniff at things, explore, or even lie down, as long as it doesn’t pull.

 

Troubleshooting Leash Training

Despite your best efforts, you may run into trouble when walking with your dog on a leash outside, especially when you discover new places together, which means new experiences and unexpected distractions.

Leash training is not a done-and-dusted job, as your dog can occasionally forget your training in pursuit of new sights, sounds, and smells. When this happens, be patient and simply follow the tips below:

Lunging

Always keep an eye on your dog. If it tends to move towards other dogs, humans, trees, or vehicles, use your verbal cues and move back a few steps. Your dog will likely respond and return immediately to your side.

If it doesn’t, offer it a treat. Once it comes back to you, give it the treat immediately and praise it. This will reinforce good leash behavior, and by the time your dog finishes enjoying the treat, it may have forgotten all about the distraction. You can then quickly move away from the scene and continue on your walk.

A dog on leash pulling its owner while walking

Pulling

Do you sometimes find yourself wondering, “How do I get my dog to stop pulling on the leash?” If your pet tends to pull at the leash at times or often, stand still and become immovable like a tree. Wait for your dog to return to you.

Never yank the leash or forcibly drag your dog along. Doing so regularly can cause your dog eye and ear damage, thyroid damage, epilepsy, and paralysis, among other health issues.

As mentioned before, use a front-clip harness or a head halter instead of a collar if your dog tends to pull at the leash.

Barking

Barking is normal dog behavior. But you may find your dog barking more than usual when it goes out on walks, especially when you encounter other dogs. This may also be due to a lack of activity or socialization, leading to too much excitement.

Make sure that your pet gets enough exercise and mental stimulation during the day before going on a walk. This may keep it calmer.

If your dog still barks at others on walks, use verbal cues, move back, and offer treats. You can also try calming supplements meant especially for dogs before walks.

Brown dog trying to pull away on a leash

Frequently Asked Questions

At What Age Do Dogs Walk Well on the Leash?

It’s best to start training your pup to walk on the leash soon after you bring it home. Ideally, leash training should begin when a pup is 4 to 6 weeks old, as this is the age when it can pick up training really quickly.

Since pups are not fully vaccinated at this age, you should begin with training at home until it gets all its vaccine shots.

How Much Time Does It Take to Leash Train a Dog?

If you have a young pup, it may take about a month or two for it to learn to walk on the leash without pulling. The duration of the training also depends on your commitment.

If you have an adult dog, it may take more time, especially if you have previously indulged its bad leash behavior such as pulling or tugging. But don’t lose hope yet. With positive reinforcement in the form of rewards, any dog can learn better habits.

Why Is My Dog Bad on a Leash?

There are no bad dogs, only bad behavior. Your dog may pull on the leash if it wants to walk faster than you, it’s excited about its walk, or it’s generally hyperactive or aggressive.

Older dogs have more difficulty learning than pups, so seeing a leash may lead to stress-related reactions.

A woman walking with its dog on leash

Leash training can seem tough and complex, but with our comprehensive guide on how to teach a dog to walk on a leash, you’ll be able to train your dog in about a month. The key is to start early, be patient and positive, and keep lots of treats in your pockets!

With time, you’ll notice that you won’t even need as many treats as your dog becomes more obedient and learns to stay by your side on walks.

We hope that our guide can help you leash train your pet. Do you have any more tips on leash training that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below!

Training dog training how to teach a dog to walk on a leash

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Paul Andrews
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-andrews-172490189/

A digital marketing expert by profession, Andrews is a gifted writer and animal lover at heart. A self-confessed "pawrent", Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents. He believes in spreading the joy that comes with being a dog dad and advocates more families to adopt pets.