How To Teach Your Dog To Successfully Walk On A Leash


When you take your dog for a walk, run your errands or go to a friend’s house, they will need to know how to properly walk on a leash.

Training a dog to walk on a leash is not as easy as it may sound. You might wish that you could just strap that leash around their neck and that they automatically knows what to do, but it doesn’t happen that way. When you’re leash training your dog, there are some tips you can follow to ensure that the process goes smoothly.

1. Keep Training Sessions Short

If your dog is not used to walking on a leash, let them walk around the yard for a couple of minutes just to start out. Start slowly and work in increments. Don’t plan on taking them for an hour-long walk if this is their first time on a leash.

You should perceive all walks as useful training sessions. However, make sure not to push them too far. Since they are still learning, you should take them on short walks frequently and keep them fun for your dog. Like children, dogs don’t have long attention spans and they need to be interested in the training process.

Experts recommend 5-10 short sessions a day. You need to be patient because repetition is the key to success when it comes to leash training. Because of this, several short sessions are more useful than one or two long ones. Of course, as your pooch progresses, you can make sessions longer and less frequent.


2. Play Time Comes First

The last thing you want is your dog attempting to escape the leash by trying to pull their head out. If your dog is already tired from a play session, they won’t have the strength or desire to pull as hard on the leash.

As we’ve said previously, training sessions should be short in the beginning.  However, since those sessions don’t provide enough exercise, you need to find a way to tire them out so that they don’t have energy to misbehave.

In fact, you’ll teach your dog to walk on a leash more quickly if you exhaust them before taking them on a training walk.  Pooches actually pull because they are full of energy and need to release it somehow. Before you start the training, give them a chance to blow off steam and have some fun.


3. Rewards, Rewards, Rewards

As you might have notices, teaching a dog to walk on a leash is not an easy task. Therefore, if you don’t want them to pull, you need to prepare a lot of rewards.  You should use new, delicious treats that you don’t give your dog at other times. Soft treats are probably the best choice because they are easy to swallow – your pup will eat them quickly and continue walking and training.

Whatever treat you decide to give your dog, make sure to chop it into small pieces. Also, stock up because you don’t want to end up empty-handed during a session. According to ASPCA, most dogs love wieners, cheese, cooked chicken or ham, small jerky treats or freeze-dried liver.

Dogs need positive reinforcement and they have to be aware what it is that you want from them.  You don’t need treats for leash training your dog (the experience should be the reward itself), but it will take you much longer without material rewards.


4. If Your Dog Pulls, Stop Walking

Your dog must learn that pulling is not acceptable. If they start pulling, stop walking and they will have to stop walking as well. When the leash becomes a bit loose, call your pup back to you and ask them to sit. If they listen to your commands, give them a small treat so that they connect the dots with positive reinforcement. Continue walking and if your pooch wants more treats, give them one – as long as they are walking next to you. However, if they pull again, stop dead in your tracks once more. 

As you’re walking, reward your dog with treats frequently for remaining next to you or just slightly ahead and for looking up at you in search of positive reinforcement. By repeating these steps, your dog will learn that they will get treats for wanted behavior, but also that they aren’t supposed to pull on the leash.


5. Walk Quickly

One of the biggest problems that dogs have when they’re walking is that they want to sniff everything. If you’re walking at a fast pace, they won’t have the opportunity to stop and sniff.  Also, your dog will find your walk much more interesting and pleasing when you move quickly.

If your pup frequently pulls toward an object, stop walking and stand still.  Call them back to you and ask them to sit, but do not reward them this time.  Instead of giving them a treat, make the object they wanted to sniff the reward.

Let them reach the object and go with them so they don’t need to pull again.  Once you repeat this a few times, your dog will stop less frequently to examine objects.  However, remember to reward them with a proper treat for walking quickly with slack in the leash.


6. Relax Them Before Attaching The Leash

If your dog is jumping off the walls before you even take them outside, make them relax before you place the leash on them.  This way, you pooch will know that they must remain calm.

So, before going outside, walk to the door and pick up the leash. If your dog becomes super excited, just stand still and pay absolutely no attention to them. In a nutshell, you need to stay completely calm until your dog cools down a bit. When all their paws are on the floor, attach the leash.  If they start jumping around, you should stand still again and wait until their paws are on the floor again.

You need to repeat this action until your pooch calmly stands in front of you.  Although this is a tedious step, it will pay off in the long run – one day, you pup will learn to stand still while you attach their leash.


7. If They Refuse To Walk, Bribe Them

If this is your first time putting a leash on your dog, chances are they won’t want to move. If they don’t want to walk, you have no other option than to bribe them.  Begin with your dog standing at your left side and hold some treats in your left hand.  Place your left hand in front of your pup’s nose and start walking.

Give your dog a reward every few seconds so they would want to continue walking in the intended direction. Also, praise your dog for walking next to you and listening to your orders. If your dog starts pulling, stop and ask them to sit down. When they sit, give them a treat.  Afterwards, continue with your training session and go a bit farther every day that you practice walking on a leash.


8. If They Freeze, Bribe Them

Some dogs are very timid and need lots of reassurance and comfort when they are learning to walk on a leash.  Apart from freezing, pooches may also pull back towards home.

One way of dealing with fearful dogs is holding treats in front of their noses and leading them in the desired direction. On the other hand, if your dog freezes, walk a little further and stop a few feet in front of them.  Stand still and offer your dog a treat.  When they take the treat, walk a feet more feet away and wait for them to come to you.  Reward your pooch only when they move in your direction.

Also, don’t walk them in a busy road. Instead, opt for a quiet neighborhood and gradually progress to bustling areas. Eventually, hesitant dogs will overcome their fears and become more and more comfortable walking next to you.


9. End The Session On A High Note

Some sessions will be successful and others will not, but the important thing is to end each training on a good note. You don’t want your dog to feel disappointingly unsuccessful after they have given their best to perform every task as well as possible.

When you see that your dog is bored, tired or frustrated, you need to know how to get their attention back on in order to end the training session after a moment of success and positive reinforcement. Essentially, ask your dog to do something they are good at and call it a day.

In this way, your dog will feel good about themselves and the progress they have made. As long as your pooch ends a session knowing what they did great and getting a nice reward for it, they will remember their lesson and repeat the wanted behavior when you begin the next session.


10. Choose The Right Collar

Until your pooch is experienced with walking on a leash, use a normal cotton collar or harness to walk your dog. When your pup is still in the learning phase, use a four-foot or six-foot leash. Extendable leashes are excellent for exercising dogs, but they are not a good choice if you are still teaching your dog not to pull on the leash.

According to the ASPCA, you can use regular buckle or snap collars, Martingale collars (limited slip collar or greyhound collar), and head halters/head collars and no-pull harnesses. Unsuitable walking equipment includes regular body harnesses, fabric or metal choke collars and pinch/prong collars. A regular body harness actually encourages pulling on the leash, while fabric or metal choke collars and pinch/prong collars shouldn’t be used without the supervision and guidance of a professional dog trainer.


11. Do Not Jerk On The Leash

If your dog exhibits unwanted behavior while they are on leash, jerking is the last thing you should do. Apart from hurting your pooch, you are not helping them correct their behavior. Namely, jerking certainly won’t solve any problems – this approach may suppress a behavior, but it definitely won’t correct it.  They will stop doing whatever it is they were doing simply because they are feeling pain around the neck.

In 1991, Anders Hallgren conducted a study on the physical injuries related to jerking and pulling on leash and came to the conclusion that ‘’91% of the dogs who had neck injuries had also been exposed to jerking and pulling on the lead by the owner or had been allowed to pull hard on the leash for long periods of time.’’ Don’t jerk the dog around.  To put it simply, this is not training, it’s abuse.


12. Be Consistent And Persistent

Teaching your dog to walk on a leash is a process that takes time. Although some dogs take to a collar and leash easily, others simply don’t.  When you start introducing a leash, you need to be calm, patient and confident. In other words, don’t pressure your pooch. Give them time and they will pick up the ropes.

You will see progress on a daily basis, but don’t be discouraged if the results don’t come as quickly as you want them to. Remember that even the smallest steps become big steps, if you have enough patience and understanding.

Take things slowly and let them gain confidence in you, the leash and themselves. Also, remember that pooches need time to process all the new information regarding the leash. It may seem hard in the beginning, but they will eventually accept the leash and enjoy walking on it.

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