New puppies and dogs that have never been on a leash will naturally have a negative reaction to being put on a leash. Even dogs who are used to being on a leash might not know how to walk beside you without dragging you behind them.
With the right training, though, your dog will learn to love being on a leash and associate it with fun things like going for walks or going outside to play. But training a dog to do anything is not easy. Use this guide to help learn how to leash train your dog easily.
The Basics About Leash Training Your Dog
A dog that is not leash trained will rush ahead and pull you along with him. Dogs are naturally a lot faster than us. They do have twice as many legs, after all. So it’s important that they learn not to pull on the leash.
Untrained dogs might also stop and investigate everything that catches their attention which can be equally frustrating. Although training your dog does take a lot of patience and commitment, it will make your walks a lot more pleasant for both of you.
Here are a few general guidelines for how to leash train your dog:
- Treat every walk as a training session until your dog learns how to be on leash.
- Go for a training walk at least once per day. Two walks per day would be even better.
- Keep training sessions short and fun. If your dog seems too stressed out or unhappy with the process, take him back home and try again later.
- Before or after a training session, give your dog a chance to run around and expend all of its pent up energy.
- Find treats that your dog really likes.
- Make sure the treats are small enough that he doesn’t have to stop and chew on them.
- Walk at a quick pace. Since your dog naturally walks a lot faster than you, it’s already hard enough on him to slow down to your pace. Compromise by walking faster than you normally would.
- Train him to do other tricks as well so that he generally gets used to obeying your commands.
- Buy quality accessories – like a leather dog leash or retractable dog leash and a no-pull dog harness.
With these basic guidelines in mind, you can try one of the two techniques described below. It doesn’t really matter which of the two you pick. Choose the one that you think will be the best option for your dog.
What is important is that you stick with it once you pick one. Don’t switch to a different technique in the middle of training or you will end up confusing your dog. It takes patience and consistency to train your dog properly.
Here are our two favorite techniques for leash training your dog:
- Place your dog’s favorite treat on the ground a few yards ahead of you.
- Have your dog on a leash sitting at your side.
- Take a step forward. If the rushes ahead and starts to pull on the leash, stop. Tug firmly but gently while saying no.
- Take him back to the starting point. Try again.
- If he still rushes ahead, take him back to the starting point and then 2 steps further back so that he is even further from the treat.
- Keep adding these “penalty yards” until your dog starts to walk without pulling on the leash.
- Don’t let him reach the treat until he is able to walk the entire distance without pulling.
Red Light, Green Light
Note: this technique requires that your dog already knows the commands “sit” and “come.”
- Start your walk.
- When the dog starts pulling on the leash, say “red light” as you stop.
- Call him back to you. When he returns, command him to sit.
- When he sits, say “yes” or “good” and give him a treat.
- Start walking again. Repeat whenever he pulls on the leash.
- If while walking, your dog is at your side and looking up at you, expecting a treat, give him one. Say “yes” or “good” as you give him a treat.
- Important: do not stop walking while he is at your side. Give him the treat while you walk.
- This will teach your dog that walking beside you with slack on the leash is a good thing. It also teaches him that rushing ahead and pulling on the leash is bad.
- Repeat this until he no longer pulls on the leash.
A Special Note for Puppies
Your puppy who has never even seen a leash before is going to be less than happy to be attached to one. Before you even take him out for training sessions, you first have to get him comfortable with wearing a leash.
Follow these steps:
- Attach the leash to his dog collar while you’re in the house and then let the leash go.
- Let your puppy run around a bit in the house while dragging the leash behind him.
- Play with him while it’s attached but don’t touch the leash.
- When he starts to seem a little more comfortable with it, pick the leash up and call him to you.
- If this makes him uncomfortable, let it go and try again later.
- Repeat this process until he is comfortable with you holding the leash while he is attached.