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Training

Leash Training for an Older Dog

At A Glance

There are many ways to leash train an older dog such as using negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement, and scientific training methods.

The best way to keep your older dog in check is to stop and hold your position each time they try to tug on the leash.

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Leash training an older dog can be a challenge. Some dogs are difficult or even aggressive due to fear, confusion, or lack of physical ability.

Leash training can help your dog feel safe and less threatened by the world around them when you’re out for a walk. Let’s take a step-by-step look at how to do it.

Walk with leash barking on a walk

Can You Leash Train an Older Dog?

The most common question we get asked is: “does obedience training work on older dogs?”

The short answer is yes. At any age, leash pulling can be challenging to deal with for you and your dog.

Pulling on the leash isn’t only stressful on your muscles, but it could also harm your dog’s neck.

That’s exactly why putting a stop to it is important for your safety.

 

Common Problems with Leash Training

Leash training an older dog is not impossible. However, you might run into a few problems such as:

Submission

It’s common knowledge that puppies are much easier to train than older dogs. This is mainly because they haven’t developed their own routines yet and are keener on receiving information than dogs who have settled into their own habits.

It also depends on your dog’s temperament. Some dogs are eager to learn while others may be stubborn. 

No matter the age of your dog, don’t underestimate your dog’s ability to learn. They just may surprise you.

 

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Dog holding a leash in its mouth

Size

Older dogs are larger and more powerful than puppies. If you’re trying to leash train a large breed at their physical peak, you may have a harder time controlling them when they get out of hand.

While there’s nothing you can do short of putting them on a prong or shock collar, you can practice standing your ground when they get riled up. Make sure you plant your feet firmly on the ground and brace yourself whenever they start pulling.

Understanding the Cause

Dogs don’t just pull on the leash for no reason. Some may be too excited and want to head somewhere quickly.

In some cases, your dog may have caught a whiff of a squirrel they want to chase. Other times, your dog may simply be experiencing anxiety from being leashed.

It’s important to know why your dog is acting a certain way so you can try to avoid these triggers in the future.

For example, if your dog is experiencing anxiety from being leashed, you can pet it as reassurance or give a treat as a distraction.

When all else fails, you can also talk to your vet for possible solutions.

Also Read: The World’s Oldest Dog Breeds

two dogs walking in a park with there owner

How To Train an Older Dog

“I don’t know how to stop my older dog from pulling on their leash.” If this is you, here’s what you can do…

First and foremost, sit down with your dog to get them used to the idea of being on a leash.

You can do this by putting it on their collar while they’re standing still in a room. Once they realize that there’s nothing to be afraid of, you can slowly introduce them to walking around on a leash in an enclosed space.

Once your dog gets used to this, you can start to work your way into more rooms. Gradually increase the lead, so they get used to a bit of freedom as you walk around.

Once your adult dog is walking nicely on a leash without being pulled, you can try taking them for a walk around the block.

And when you feel confident about their ability to behave, you can try taking them on a long walk.

Once they’re used to short walks, you can try taking them on a trip to the park, and so on.

Dog in a park pulling the owner with a leash

Some older dogs will pull on their leash. If this happens, here’s what you can do:

Heel Command

Dog owners must learn to say “Heel!” in a clear and authoritative voice. This is the command you’ll need to discipline your dog during leash training.

Introduce this command to your dog when you’re in a closed-off area. Allow them to walk before you and use up the entire length of the leash. Once the leash becomes taut, stop walking abruptly and say “heel” in a loud and clear voice.

You can even accompany this with a gentle but noticeable jerk of the leash. The idea is to remain completely still, so your dog knows that something’s up. It may take several tries before they understand what’s happening, so be patient.

Once they get the hang of following this command, you can start to take them on outdoor walks. When they begin to pull and refuse to move in a certain direction, you’ll need to repeat the above process by pulling them back and commanding them with “heel.”

With this command in place, your dog will know that pulling on the leash leads to a complete stop.

This will help them understand that they must only walk within the limits of the leash.

Choose the Right Leash

There are a few things you should look for when picking out your leash.

You need to consider your environment and how far you can allow your dog to wander. 

An extended leash is not the best choice if you walk on traffic-heavy roads. Instead, pick something shorter yet long enough to get the job done.

This way, your dog will have room to walk safely and won’t feel confined by the leash at all.

 

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Dog holding a leash in its mouth

How Do I Stop My Older Dog From Pulling on the Leash?

There are three ways to leash train your dog: negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement, or scientific training. Dog behavior experts strongly frown upon negative reinforcement, but it can be an effective option for some dog owners.

Below, we describe each method in more detail.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement involves using aversive techniques to stop your dog from pulling on its leash.

These techniques can use prong collars, choke chains, or other more aggressive methods. Some owners use non-physical alternatives such as spray bottles and air horns that make loud noises when their dog exhibits bad behavior.

Typically, negative reinforcement can work because your dog will want to avoid things they don’t want to happen. For example, if you have a dog that loves to chase squirrels, then you should teach them that pulling on their leash to go after one will lead to something loud or painful.

There are several ways you can do this. You can use a prong collar that tightens around their neck whenever they pull on the leash. Alternatively, you can use a loud air horn to demonstrate that this behavior isn’t acceptable.

Unfortunately, this type of training can have long-term negative effects on your pet.

We do not suggest using negative reinforcement as a means of training your pet.

Dog in the park

Positive Reinforcement

How do I stop my older dog from pulling on the leash? One of the best answers to this question is positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement is the process of rewarding your dog when they do something right.

For example, if your dog walks well on the leash, you should reward their behavior with treats and praise.

There are several ways you can use positive reinforcement to train your dog to walk on a leash. You may think that the most effective approach involves letting your dog pull and giving them a treat once they’ve calmed down and stopped pulling. However, this process can take a long time to perfect and requires a lot of patience.

If your dog is particularly energetic and requires a lot of attention, you can try using a compression harness. It wraps around your dog’s shoulders and chest, and it squeezes on their ribs whenever they pull particularly hard on the leash. This can be an effective tool to keep your dog well-behaved on your walks.

Scientific Training

Scientific training involves the use of positive reinforcement and behavioral psychology to help your dog understand why a certain action is undesirable.

In this case, you would use positive reinforcement techniques to encourage your dog to walk well on a leash.

However, unlike positive reinforcement, you won’t ignore your dog’s bad behavior.

Instead, you can stop and wait for them to stop pulling on their leash before you allow them to move forward – allowing them to associate the action of pulling on their leash with not getting to go where they want.

This method may take much longer than negative reinforcement or positive reinforcement combined. However, it also has the most long-term benefits. Studies show that dogs trained with positive training methods are more adaptive to learning new things.

They’re also less likely to develop aggression in the long run.

Also Read: How To House Train Your Dog

dog walking on snow

There’s no denying that dogs, like people, can cause a ruckus sometimes. For example, they may bark or pull on their leash when you run into other people or dogs. If this happens regularly, you should find a way to correct their behavior.

If your dog always aggressively pulls on their leash, it may be because they want to go somewhere immediately and are frustrated at not being able to do so. It’s best to instill discipline and develop good habits through positive reinforcement and treats. You should also pick a collar and leash that will accommodate your dog’s needs.

Leash training for an older dog isn’t impossible and can be accomplished with the right strategy.

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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.