A major part of most dog’s lives is going out for walks. It’s a necessary activity to keep them in shape, keep them enriched, and to allow them to relieve themselves outside. As such, it’s important that your pup behaves well on a leash. Sometimes that may seem like a difficult task to accomplish. However, it’s a lot easier than you think.
If you’re having trouble getting your dog to walk on a leash well, check out our helpful guide on getting your four-legged friend leash trained!
What Is Leash Training?
Leash training is the act of getting your dog ready to go on walks while being behaved on a leash. Being on a leash can be a stressful situation for a dog that’s not used to it. As such, it can require some training to get them to the point where they’ve got good leash manners.
What Are Leash Manners and Why Are They Important?
Leash manners is a general term for behaviors that a dog should display when they’re on the end of a leash. There are no written leash manners anywhere, but there are a few general rules of thumb.
Dogs should be able to follow these basic leash manners when they’re out and about:
All of these manners are important to the health, happiness, and safety of your dog and others that they’ll encounter. When a dog wears a leash, it should communicate to it that it’s time to be well-behaved.
If a dog were to get loose from their owner, they may get into trouble, or worse, they may get injured. They could also injure others. Having good leash manners is key.
How To Leash Train a Dog
If you’re ready to start leash training your dog, follow the steps below to get started:
Step 1: Introduce Your Dog to the Harness and the Leash
Notice that we specifically state that your dog should be introduced to a harness, not a collar. Collars are more detrimental for dogs than harnesses are, especially when they haven’t learned the laws of the leash yet. They can graduate to a forever collar once they’ve learned their manners, but starting with a harness is best.
Introducing your dog to the leash and harness is a simple step in this process. You’ll want to get them used to wearing the harness and the leash, so the idea is to put it on them while they’re just around the house with no leading involved at all.
Be sure to include playtime and treats as something that happens when they’re wearing their harness. Make sure the playtime isn’t too rowdy, though. No tug of war or similar playing when getting used to a harness and leash; it’s counterproductive.
Step 2: Introduce a Cue
This cue should tell the dog that you’re going to be giving them a reward, either a treat or some form of affection. When they’ve learned that, you can use the cue to get your puppy's attention while they’re wearing their harness and leash.
Once they turn their attention towards you, give them their treat. You can start lengthening the time between treats as rewards once they’ve learned that the cue means to pay attention to you specifically.
This technique comes in handy when there are a lot of distractions around your dog out in the real world. Keeping your canine companion’s attention during stressful situations is the best way to keep them out of trouble.
Step 3: Walk Your Pup Without Walking Them
This is to introduce the concept of being followed. When wearing a leash, some dogs will feel like they’re being followed by something else, in this case, the leash. To get them over this fear, you’ll need to walk to the other side of the room and call your dog over to you. When they reach you, you’ll reward them. Understanding that pulling the leash behind them won’t hurt them is a great way to get a nervous dog used to walking.
If your pup doesn’t suffer from this nervousness, keep moving onto step four.
Step 4: Practicing at Home
Your dog now knows that they’re wearing a harness and a leash, and they feel good about it. That’s great! Now the walking practice can begin. To practice walking at home, head to a space that’s large enough to accommodate short walks. Be sure to bring some treats along.
Then, grab the leash in hand, and walk with them slowly. If they pull, be sure to use their cue and get their attention. You’ll need to reward them when they stop pulling. Eventually, they’ll get used to the routine. They’ll also start to become more comfortable while wearing all their walking gear.
Step 5: Start With Short Walks
Now that your dog knows that being on the harness is a good thing, try and take them on some short walks outside to start. This can be challenging, as there will be plenty of variables present that you can’t control as you can at home. This is where those cues and attention-grabbing pats and treats come in.
If you see that your dog starts to get overstimulated, simply grab their attention until the issue passes. If it happens frequently, don’t feel bad cutting your walk a little short and trying again later. All of the external stimulation that happens on a walk can be mentally tiring for any pooch.
What if My Dog Is a Puller?
If that’s the case, don’t worry, many people have problems with dogs that love to pull. If you find yourself in that boat, that’s where the harness comes in handy. A collar is designed to encourage pulling behavior, not on purpose, of course.
When a dog feels the pressure from their collar, they’ll instinctively want to pull against it. For example, when a dog is leashed on their back or around their neck, they’ll try to escape by pulling against it. In a collar, this increases the pressure, making them want to pull harder.
Most quality harnesses have an attachment point for leashes on the front of them. These are especially useful when a dog needs to learn that pulling isn’t part of good leash manners. When they pull while attached to the leash at the front, it changes their direction. This redirects them in a way that they don’t want to go. Once they learn that their pulling is fruitless, the behavior will begin to eliminate itself. Harnesses are ideal for training and for protecting your dog.
Advanced Walking Techniques
Believe it or not, there are advanced walking techniques that can be implemented with your dog once they’ve learned the ropes of the basic walk. Things like walking on a loose leash can be very time-consuming to train, but overall it’s a safe technique as it allows you to keep your pooch closer by your side in stressful areas. If your dog responds well to the training we’ve mentioned here, you may want to give it a shot!
One Major DON’T of Leash Training
When you’re training your dog to walk on a leash, one common mistake that you’ll want to avoid is using a retractable leash. People seem to believe that these leashes are better for dogs, but in the long run, they encourage bad behavior, like pulling, while on the leash. Using a well-made, standard leash should always be part of your leash training regimen.
Retractable leashes are undesirable for the following reasons:
- They can encourage pulling.
- They have a tendency to break, resulting in a loose dog.
- They provide no control over your pooch in stressful situations.
- They aren’t secure.
If you’re starting to leash train your dog, be sure to pick up a strong, traditional leash.
A New Leash on Life
Leash training your pooch isn’t nearly as hard as some people make it out to be. It requires quite a bit of patience, practice, and repetition. Overall though, it’s about being able to maintain your pup’s attention and training them. Once you’ve gotten them comfortable with their harness and their leash from Wild One, you’ll be ready to take them anywhere!
Leash manners are key, though, so be sure to keep up with their good behavior by using rewards, of course.
Leash Training: How to Leash Train a Dog or Puppy to Walk on a Leash | American Kennel Club
Harnesses vs. collars: Which is best for your dog, according to veterinarians | Insider
Teach your dog to walk on a loose leash | Animal Humane Society