How to Train a Dog to Walk on a Leash

How to Train a Dog to Walk on a Leash

There are a few things to keep in mind before deciding you’re going to start leash training your dog. First your dog will fall into two main categories of what type of training they need. Many tend to be overly excited and pull on the leash and refuse to listen to simple commands. Some are also terrified of being on a leash and may even refuse to move when they are taken outside in a new environment. Every dog is different and one training method may work for one dog and not for another.

Before beginning leash training it will be beneficial to teach your dog a few simple commands that will help ease frustration for those who may take a little longer to learn what is expected of them. Teaching your dog the three staples of training, sit, come, and stay, will help long after you’ve completely leash training. If your dog is easily distracted try teaching inside the home of backyard. When you feel they understand the concept try introducing distraction into the surrounding environment.

A trick some dog trainers will tell you before teaching your dog any new trick is to have them release some energy. This may mean paying fetch, swimming, running, or playing. A dog with built up energy will become too excited and easily distracted from the task at hand.

After your dog has learned to sit, come, and stay you can start applying it to leash training. Your dog will become familiar with the meaning of taking out the leash and putting on the collar. Preparing for a walk is as important as training on the walk. If your dog becomes excited and bounces around, whines, or barks, simple put the leash back and ignore the dog’s behavior until he/she settles down. Try instructing them to sit and stay, only once the dog has calmed down trying taking out the leash and repeating. If the same behavior occurs simply repeat until your dog has learned to remain composed. Depending on the dog this may go smoothly the first time, or may take many tries. Waiting can be frustrating so working on this task while you are not busy will help.

If your dog is resistant to go for walk or have a leash and collar on, start slowly inside the home. Start by leaving the collar on, then leaving a leash on while walking around the house. Graduate with picking up the leash and walking around the house with it, then the backyard. Use praise and treats when introducing each step to your dog and when they become more comfortable and calm with having it drag at their feet. (Remember not to leave it on without supervision to prevent any accidents). Eventually you’ll be able to start walking around your neighborhood.

After you have set the precedent for the walk to come you can start a variety of different training techniques that may suite dog with different personalities.

In order to properly control your dog it may be beneficial to keep your dog on a 4 or 6 foot leash. If your dog is particularly challenging it may be necessary to use a head halter that will divert their attention directly back to you when they starts pulling. Also remember that by keeping training session short and fun your dog will enjoy learning. Positive reinforcement has been shown to not only be an easier way of training but has longer lasting beneficial behavioral changes.


Option 1: Rewarding with Treats

If your dog tends to be food motivated try rewarding them with small treats that can be quickly chewed so training doesn’t become interrupted.  Remember to use positive reinforcement to help your dog understand. If your dog begins pulling on the leash immediately stop, call the dog to your side, and make him sit. When he listens to all of your commands reward with a treat and praise. Try giving a treat every 15-30 seconds when they walk without pulling. Continue this reinforcement but tapper off on the amount and how often they receive treats.

Options 2: Redirection

If your dog is consistently pulling on the leash and becoming distracted you may want to invest in a head halter such as Halti or Gentle Leader. This type of leash will correct your dog behavior for you. When negative behavior starts use this leader to change your walking direction. Remember to make direction changes quickly. If you continue to put pressure of the dogs face, it will become normal and something that your dog will “expect” to happen during walking. Also remember to praise your dog when they not pulling or distracted.

Options 3: Clicker Training

This type of training requires that your dog be familiar with the meaning of the clicker. If this type of training has been used in the past your dog will catch on quickly to what is expected during a walk. Use the clicker when they are doing something positive and rewards them with treat and/or praise.

Any of these training options can be used in conjunction with each other or can be tailored to your dog specifically. The most important thing when training is consistency. If you are trying to teach your dog a different technique each time they will get confused with what is expected of them. Once you have decided which may work best, stick with it, and do not let the rules slip every once in a while. If you and your dog can remain faithful to training the aggravation you once felt when walking will be a distant memory.

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