Teaching a new puppy the concept of a leash takes time and they should be properly introduced to it. Walking nicely on a leash doesn’t come naturally to dogs and requires a lot of patience.
The idea of only walking beside you and not jumping all over the place is quite weird to some dogs.
Some can easily be leash trained and quickly adapt to the leash and others simply require more guidance (just like with potty training).
Especially, if you have a powerful dog like my Rottweiler, you don’t want to be dragged down the street by 100 lbs. It can become very dangerous if your dog lunges forward and maybe runs onto the road and you cannot stop him.
There are also certain leash laws that you need to obey. Here in Germany, you have to put your dog on the leash as soon as you leave your property which creates a necessity for leash training.
How do you leash train a dog?
Leash training requires a proper introduction and positive association with the leash and collar. Start leash training in a low-distractive environment and if your dog pulls, you just stop and clearly redirect your dog to what you’d like him to do.
You might want to think about training gear like a no-pull harness or gentle leader for adult dogs.
How Do You Train a Puppy To Walk On a Leash Without Pulling?
Before you fetch the leash for your training session outside, you have to introduce the leash properly first.
The right introduction will set you off to a good start.
- Begin by placing the collar and leash on the ground. Let your dog sniff on it and treat him for that.
- Wiggle them around and show your puppy that they can move and make sounds.
- You can also initiate playtime around the leash and collar.
- Put the collar around the dog’s neck without closing it, let it fall immediately and treat your dog for it. Repeat it a couple of times before we go to the next step.
- Attach the collar to your dog for the first time. It has the best fit if you can comfortably fit two fingers between the collar and the puppy’s neck.
- Now let your dog walk around the house for a couple of minutes and see how he reacts. Every dog is different and some need more time to get used to the feeling of having something constantly laying around their neck.
- Add a light leash to the collar and let it rest in your hand. Stand still beside your puppy to create a calm environment. Let him walk around the house while dragging the leash behind him.
To get him comfortable, feed some treats, and play with your puppy to distract him. Eventually, he will forget that he is even wearing the collar and that’s the feeling you want to achieve.
Puppy Leash Training Starts Inside
Before we step outside, be sure that your dog walks politely without any distractions.
Pick up the end of the leash and start engaging with your dog. The best way to leash train your dog is to make him comfortable walking with you.
The most important thing to teach your dog inside is that you want him to understand leash pressure. Immediately reward your dog when he walks in your direction.
Once you’ve cleared that issue, you can move on and do some slight variations. This means suddenly switching the direction and just observing how your dog reacts. If he pays attention, he will walk with you.
If he walks to the end of the leash before coming back, that’s no problem. Reward him anyway. You want to set your dog up for success and step up your game bit by bit.
Outside Leash Training
All right, you got your dog to walk nicely inside. Now you’ll face the real challenges (at least for some dogs) – the big outside world.
No worries, consistency is the key to success. Always be patient and supportive of your pup. You just keep going, as you did inside.
My dog was a heavy puller early on during leash training. Smells, humans, dogs, doesn’t matter, she would just strangle herself to get to them.
The first thing you might consider is the following: Is your dog a heavy puller too or is he easily frightened?
If yes, then you might want to think about a harness instead of a collar to prevent your dog from choking or slipping out of the collar. I immediately needed a harness for my puppy and bought this no-pull harness and this strong leash in blue.
Check my harness guide if you’re not sure about which type of harness you should pick.
The method I applied and which worked best was the “Stop & Go” method.
Once your dog pulls, you just stop and wait until your dog comes back to you. Do not let him get what he wants before he does what you want, which is a simple stop.
Once your dog comes back to you, you have to reward him (either with the smell he wanted to get to or with a treat). This is what makes him pay attention.
The key to this method is that you introduce a release and a stop command for your leash training. “Go” and “Stop” will do just fine, whatever you prefer.
Leash Training an Adult Dog
Leash training doesn’t simply stop once your dog gets older. You will have to continue on training every day. Each walk can be different and you will have to adjust the training to new situations.
Make sure that your dog gets proper walks every day that are long enough to get his energy out.
Never reward bad behavior by letting your dog drag you down the street. You should walk in the front to maintain control and to show your dog that you are giving the directions.
You will quickly see that not every dog owner is the most considerate so you have to always pay attention to your own dog.
If you know that he reacts to big dogs, you will have to keep your distance and ask the other owner if he can put his dog on the leash.
Problems with Leash Training
There are several behavior issues every dog on the leash could develop. The problem with my puppy, for example, was that she was just too excited to greet other dogs and people.
This is probably the most common leash problem. The best way to eliminate that problem is through impulse control and consistent training.
If your dog starts to pull in one direction, simply walk into the other. If you continue on quickly turning, your dog will start paying attention to be able to follow you.
Every time he pulls you have to show him that this will get him nowhere. Just stand still and wait for him to either come back to you or to sit.
Barking/Lunging on the Leash
Distance is your friend here.
If your dog lunges and/or barks at other dogs or people when on the leash, you have to redirect him before the trigger appears.
Get some distance between you and the trigger and distract him with some commands and treats. No dog will lunge at a person that is 20 meters away.
The best way to eliminate the barking is by teaching the “speak” and “quiet” command. Teach your puppy “speak” when he starts to bark and after that wait for the moments in between the barking to reward him for being “quiet”.
This will also help you a lot in your daily life. If you have the possibility to train with a friend, walk past them a few times until your puppy doesn’t react anymore.
Check out my article on how to train a leash reactive dog.
What Age to Start Leash Training a Puppy?
The best age to start leash training a puppy is as soon as possible.
While exploring, play, and socialization are extremely important, you have the possibility to prevent any negative leash behavior before it becomes a habit.
As soon as you’ve survived your first night with your pup, make sure to apply these leash walking rules for a hassle-free future together.
Teaching a Puppy To Walk Nicely On a Leash Takes Time
Here are a couple of tips for walking your puppy late in the evening or the moments when you get frustrated (cause they will happen).
Walking at Night
I am walking my dog at night quite often and there are a few things you will want to consider when doing that.
At night, every sound and every light is more intense to your dog. Some react with fear and some with curiosity. Always be there for your puppy to provide him with comfort.
Always carry a flashlight with you if you’ll walk on paths without street lights.
If you are walking close to a field or forest, remember the wild-life that is living in there. Your dog will probably spot it miles before you do. So keep him close to avoid him running after a rabbit.
Recommended Reading: Best Products for Walking Your Dog at Night
Don’t Get Frustrated
Remember: There are a lot of distractions outside and your dog will surely be distracted by the simplest things. Some are explorers and always have their heads down, others (like in my case) just seem to love humans.
Every dog is different and you will have to continue training your puppy on the leash.
Don’t get frustrated. Don’t stop your leash training. Don’t reward your dog for unwanted behavior.
They feel your energy and tend to fall back into their old patterns if you do not correct them and let them keep doing it.
Never smack the leash and don’t get a prong or choke collar just to solve a symptom. These tools are just that – tools. You will see the best results with consistency and patience.
Share your experiences with leash training in the comments below.