All dogs, regardless of size, age, or lifestyle, should be taught to walk nicely on leash. They are not born knowing that they shouldn’t pull ahead or lag behind so it’s our job to teach them good leash manners. Dog leash training can be challenging, though, because dogs move faster than us and are excited about exploring the outdoors. Some dogs want to run around as fast as they possibly can and others want to stop, sniff and urinate on everything they pass. Like many other kinds of training, teaching a dog to walk nicely on leash will require some time and effort. But the payoff is a dog who is a pleasure to walk. You can use various methods to teach your dog to walk without pulling on leash, but no single method works for all dogs. Here are some overall guidelines and methods:
1. Before you start – Pick the right leash and collar
To get your dog walking on a leash you need the right equipment. Sounds like an obvious step, but there are many different types out there. Your dog needs an appropriate collar that fits properly, as well as a suitable leash.
Always bring enough treats to reward your dog when you do leash training.
2. Basic commands for dog leash training
Before you start the leash training, there are a few basic commands your dog should know. “Stay” and “Come” are very important commands when you want to teach your dog to walk nicely on leash. “Stay” teaches your dog to stand still and stay calm for a short time while you put on the collar and leash, or when you have to wait somewhere in traffic before crossing a street. “Come” means that your dog should stop what he’s doing and return to you. “Come” is an important command when you want to prepare your dog for a walk – in case he/she is somewhere else in the house.
3. Keep it simple & short
The first step is to get your dog familiar and accustomed to a collar. A simple way to do that is to attach the collar whenever your dog is going outside to be in the garden. You can also try to put it on when you are doing some basic training or games. If you let your dog wear the collar and leash for short periods of time during which you are playing with him/her and offering treats, you pup might end up loving “collar and leash time” because it represents food and fun. Your dog will quickly get used to the feeling of the collar and leash.
Always watch out that the collar isn’t too tight that it is uncomfortable and irritating.
If you have a puppy or an adult dog who has never been leash trained, begin with simple, short sessions (maybe just around the house). As the leash-walk improves, you can make the sessions longer and more difficult. But first when your pup is ready for it!
4. Don’t forget rewards
Teaching a dog to walk without pulling requires plenty of rewards. Each time your dog masters the leash walk (even just for a few seconds) reward him/her with praise and by feeding a treat. It’s a good idea to bring your dog’s favorite treats to encourage the leash training. Give a treat every few steps at first and then increase the distance you walk between treats until he/she forms the habit of walking at your side without treats. In general, soft treats are best so your dog can eat them quickly and continue training.
If your dog won’t walk with you, stop walking and apply a gentle leash pressure. The leash pressure is meant to be a reminder of your presence and to make it slightly unpleasant for him to ignore you. But never force your dog towards you! Praise, reward and release pressure once your pup begins to come towards you.
5. Leash Training for Puppies
When you’re dealing with a puppy, remember to take baby steps. Before going for a walk on a leash with him, start by only attaching the leash indoors and play with your pooch to keep him occupied and distracted from the new, strange accessory. Make the leash loose enough, to avoid irritation and to ensure your puppy feels comfortable. Then practice putting your puppy on a leash in your backyard while you’re enjoying familiar surroundings. The most important thing is to slowly get your puppy familiar with leash training: indoors, while playing, while going to the local grocery just around the corner. In time, with some practice, you can increase the length of your walks with your puppy, because he won’t even notice the leash anymore.
6. Be patient
Dog leash training requires time, patience and effort. Therefore, stay calm and be patient! Take your time and keep your cool, but be persistent in what you do to achieve the results you want. Even if the results are only a small step towards what you wish to achieve, in time, the small steps will get bigger. Very quickly you will find your dog accepting the leash and eventually he will come to walk nicely on it as well.