Teaching a new puppy the concept of a leash takes time and they should be properly introduced. Walking nicely on a leash doesn’t come naturally to dogs. The idea of only walking beside you and not jumping all over the place, back and forth is weird for many dogs. Some can easily be leash trained and they quickly get adapted to the leash and others need more training.
Especially, if you have a powerful dog like my Rottweiler, you don’t want to be dragged around by 110 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 onto a leash as soon as you leave your property which only applies for large and “dangerous” breeds.
Introducing the Leash
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 in two fingers between the collar and the dog’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 without big excitement. Let him walk around the house and dragging the leash with him. To get him comfortable, feed some treats and play with your puppy to distract him.
Inside Leash Training
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 key to success. Always be patient and supportive of your pup. You just keep going, as you did inside.
With my dog, it was the case that she was a heavy puller early on during leash training.
Smells, Humans, Dogs, doesn’t matter. The first thing you might consider is the following: Is your dog a heavy puller too or does he get 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.
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 makes him pay attention.
Key for 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 direction.
You will quickly see that not every dog owner is the best so you have to always pay attention and care for 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 leas if he is running around free.
Problems with Leash Training
You cannot prevent some behavior issues on the leash. 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 to give you some 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 happens.
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 10 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 tiny spaces in between the barking and reward him for being “quiet”. This will also help you a lot on walks.
If you have the possibility to train with a friend, walk past them a few times until you it’s a success.
Walking at Night
I 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 because you will walk around trails that probably don’t have any 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 before you. So keep him close to avoid him running after a rabbit.
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 head down, others (like in my case) just seem to love humans.
Every dog is different and you will have to continue on training your puppy on the leash into adulthood.
Do not get frustrated and don’t stop your leash training and don’t reward your dog for unwanted behavior. They tend to fall back into their old pattern if you do not correct them and let them keep doing it.
Never smack at the leash and don’t get a prong or choke collar just to solve a symptom. You will see the best results with consistency and patience.