Taking your dog for a walk is great for their physical and emotional well-being. It allows you two to bond while keeping your pup active and fit.
For your dog’s safety, it is important to use a leash. While the idea of using a leash may seem simple enough to just slip on the harness and start walking, that is usually not the case. Training your dog to be comfortable around a leash can be challenging.
This article will teach you the fundamentals of leash training. The blog covers the following topics:
- The right age to start
- Supplies needed
- Training methods
- Tips and tricks
- Potential challenges
At What Age Should You Start Training Your Dog?
There is no age restriction when it comes to leash training; however, starting while they are young is always better. You can begin leash training your puppy as young as seven weeks old.
Like other forms of training, leash training requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement.
Before you start training your dog, make sure that you have the following supplies:
- A collar or harness: Choose a comfortable collar or harness that fits well. Having one that is too tight or loose can be dangerous.
Measure your dog’s neck to ensure the right fit for the collar. Wider collars are recommended for large dogs, while smaller breeds do fine with narrow ones.
A harness that fits right will keep your dog safe and won’t damage its fur or skin. Try inserting two fingers between the dog’s body and the harness to check the fitting. The right harness won’t cause the skin to bunch up along the shoulders and neck and won’t leave indentations once removed.
- Leash: Consider the leash’s length, style, and material before making a purchase. The average length of a leash should be 4 to 6 feet.
Available material options are nylon, rope, leather, and hemp fiber (plant-based).
Nylon leashes are economical and easy to clean but are not a great option if your pup is an aggressive chewer.
Rope and leather are far more durable but harder to keep clean. Hemp is a hypoallergenic material and is perfect for dogs with sensitive skin.
Leashes also come in various styles, such as retractable, adjustable, and umbilical cord. Retractable leashes can be dangerous and cause injuries, especially if your dog tries to run, so we recommend avoiding this one.
Adjustable leashes work well if you have to walk multiple dogs or have a few chores to do along the way. It has fasteners on each side.
An umbilical cord leash with two handles and a bungee cord to block injuries is the most appropriate option. As the name suggests, this leash can be buckled around your waist, making it easier to walk your dog.
- Treats: Positive reinforcement is a great motivation tool.As your dog learns to walk on a leash, you can gradually lower the number of treats given to your pet.
Now that we’ve covered the supplies let’s move on towards the training methods.
1. Positive Reinforcement
This method of training your dog involves plenty of positive reinforcement and repetition. Start by keeping a treat in front of your pup as you put on the leash. Once done, offer the treat to your pet and wait for a couple of seconds. Then, remove the leash and give your dog a treat once again. Do this over and over.
Remember only to treat the pup when it reacts calmly to the leash.
As soon as your dog relaxes around the leash, you can move to the next step – walking. Try to walk the pup while the leash is on. If your dog behaves and walks calmly beside you, reward it with praise and a treat.
Don’t reward negative behavior. If your dog tries to pull, immediately stop walking and gently tug in the opposite direction. Keep all toys and treats away until your pup follows directions and behaves.
It is important to remain patient yet firm.
Once your dog is fully trained, you can stop giving it treats.
2. Subtle Introduction
Your dog may get agitated and uncomfortable when being forced to learn new commands or tricks. One way to begin training your dog is to introduce the leash and collar gradually. Keep the leash around your pup; it can be by its bed or a favorite spot. This way, the leash will retain your dog’s scent and make your pet feel more comfortable around it.
As soon as your dog is relaxed around the leash, start calmly placing it on your puppy. Offer your dog a treat and start walking them inside the house. With time, your pet will become used to the practice, and you’ll be able to walk your dog outside.
If your puppy is uncooperative and starts misbehaving, halt the walk and wait for it to be at ease. When it starts behaving, praise your dog and try again. Remaining consistent is of absolute importance.
Acclimating your dog to the leash is one of the most effective training methods. Most pups start getting nervous and try to put up a fight. Start by putting your dog on a leash inside the house and leave it on for a long time.
You can also put the leash on during mealtime so your dog registers this as a positive experience. Let your dog carry the leash around the house even after they are done eating.
Gradually start leaving your dog outside with the leash in a safe, enclosed space like a yard. Repeat the same process of letting your dog become accustomed to being on a leash and you walking beside it.
As your dog learns this new behavior, take the training up a notch and start walking outside with your dog. Use positive reinforcement to encourage your dog to walk with you. If your pup tries to pull away, gently tug the leash to a side, forcing your dog to follow you. Don’t forget to stay calm and refrain from punishing or rewarding your pet for unwanted behaviors.
4. Motivating to Move Forward
This kind of technique combines several tips to make it more effective. It starts with familiarizing your dog with the leash outside in a controlled environment. The next step is to train your dog to respond to the off-leash command. You can pair the “come” command with a hand gesture and use treats to encourage your dog to come straight to you. Give your pup a treat when it complies.
Once your dog is trained to follow this command, hold the leash and use the command to signal your dog to move forward. Offer a treat when your dog follows the direction given. Keep motivating the dog to walk on, using the command and treats every time your pup behaves appropriately.
Once your dog is trained, you can ditch the treats.
5. Remedy Any Pulling Behavior
Some dogs are okay with being secured on a leash. However, walking them outside is a completely different story. They start pulling the moment you step out.
You can remedy this behavior and train your pup to behave using this simple technique. Stay still when your dog pulls. If it starts walking, quickly tug at the leash and then let go. Reward your dog with a tasty treat when it is calmer and stops pulling; repeat the process each time it tries to pull away. Remember to be gentle and not tug too hard when pulling at the leash to get your dog’s attention.
Choose a training method depending on your dog’s temperament and your capabilities. Let’s look at a few tips that make the training path easier!
Tips to Help Train Your Dog
- If you want your dog to walk on a specific side, put the treats in that hand to keep your pup focused.
- Gradually reduce the amount and frequency of treats being given.
- Remember that training is all about repetition and consistency. Be patient and keep repeating the steps over and over again.
- To keep the dog in the “heel” position, i.e., standing beside you, keep the treats at the same level as their head.
- Teach the “heel” and “relax” cues to your dog to let them learn when they should walk beside you and when they can be free to move around on their own.
- Always practice inside the house first so there are fewer distractions. Your dog may initially be more comfortable in its own space as new experiences can be overwhelming.
- Stay vigilant, and if your dog is about to attack a stranger or an animal, redirect its attention using treats.
Leash training can be challenging despite using all the tips and tricks. Knowing what problems could arise may better equip you to deal with them.
Challenges of Leash Training
- Pulling the Leash: This is the most common issue dog owners face while training their pups. When your dog pulls, stop walking and remain in your place until your dog returns. You can use positive reinforcement to teach your dog that pulling gets them nowhere. Don’t yank the leash too hard, as it can harm your dog. You can also use a head halter as a preventive measure that goes around the dog’s muzzle instead of the neck.
- Lunging: Some dogs get excited easily when outside, which may cause them to lunge at animals or people. Staying proactive and redirecting their focus with treats can help avoid accidents. Add space between your dog and its target to easily divert their attention.
- Barking: Some dogs love to bark for no reason at all. You can prevent this behavior by offering your dog plenty of physical and mental stimulation. If your dog continues to bark despite the training, create distance between it and its trigger. Use treats as a welcome distraction.
These problems are likely to arise from time to time, even after the training process is over.
The key is to remain calm and patient and avoid punishment. Even fast learners require time and consistency, so be prepared to spend plenty of time training your pup! Good luck!