How to Easily Leash Train Your Puppy

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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.

  1. Begin by placing the collar and leash on the ground. Let your dog sniff on it and treat him for that.
  2. Wiggle them around and show your puppy that they can move and make sounds.
  3. You can also initiate playtime around the leash and collar.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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

An animated dog walking nicely on the leash outside.
Source: Couponchief

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.

Leash Pulling

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.

There are also other tools that can help you, for example, a front-clip harness and a gentle leader or Halti.

Dog with a blue back clip harness pulling on the leash.
Photo by Jeffrey F Lin

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.

At the beginning of your leash training you might not be able to go down your block, but don’t worry because the right training will pay off.

Share your experiences with leash training in the comments below.

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In love with dogs, their behavior and psychology. I am writing on this blog since February 2019 to provide you with valuable information on everything dogs. When I am not working on my blog, I study research articles and enjoy the time with my beloved Rottweiler Amalia.

16 thoughts on “How to Easily Leash Train Your Puppy”

  1. Reading your training techniques for my 4 month old Lab/boarder collie is very useful and I will definitely be trying them!

    • Great article. With the stop and go game. We have been doing that, but I think I am missing an important piece. When my dog pulls, I stop but she sits out on front still, I dont wait for her to return to my side before we go again. So I will try that. But I was curious.. I understand when the dog is sitting beside you, you say go, but when would you say the word “stop”. is that just before they pull or get to their end of their lead and you say the word “stop”? thanks so much

      • Hi Kath, so ideally when you’re about your dog pull, you can say stop and see if he does it. If that’s the case, you might be able to establish the habit that after a lot of training, it’ll be a habit never to go the end of the leash. However, in reality it’s more likely that he pulls to the end of the leash and you say stop and then go as soon as you’re ready. It’s basically to let your dog know that pulling to the end of the leash isn’t desirable, so to speak.

        Hope that helps,

  2. Help! I got my puppy when he was 6 wks old (7 lbs). I used a Gentle Leader collar-leash on him. He’s a Lab Ret Mix and on day one, lunged/pulled like crazy, always heading to sniff the next thing. I have back problems that are going to require spine surgery. I was afraid if I did not get this under control fast, he would undo whatever my surgeon had fixed. He’s 12 wks now and 20 lbs. I’m afraid I did some yanking in the first few weeks. I wanted him to remain on my right, but often-times, he would lunge to the left, and cross in front of me to get to the opposite side of the street. It became a daily battle & he’s quite stubborn, but I love him and want him to enjoy our walks together, but he quickly began to hate the Gentle Leader around his snout and would roll in the grass as he tried to remove it. He got to where he refused to walk, so we recently got a body harness, like the one you showed in your article, but he seems to hate this, too. He just plops down on the sidewalk, and refuses to walk. I wish I had read your article before getting the body harness because there was no “introduction” of the new harness. We put it on him, which was a battle, and let him wear it for a few days. How can I reverse these negative vibes I’ve created surrounding him going for a walk? I feel awful and have never heard of a dog not wanting to go got a walk. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Hey Kathy,

      hope your overall situation with your back will get better but whereas I can’t exactly help with that, we can definitely have a look at your dog’s pulling to make life easier for you again.

      As you describe it, the situation doesn’t sound like something that can’t be fixed. While yanking certainly isn’t the best solution – especially for such a young dog – it won’t create any associations that could potentially destroy your dog’s bond with you (like physical force, extreme shouting, etc.). If your dog feels that you’re not under control, he’ll be much less likely to listen to you.

      Gentle leaders are usually not required for puppies, you should always start with a collar or a harness if he’s a light puller. Always preserve options like a gentle leader because if you start at the max, how do you want to upgrade once problems still occur? The gentle leader also requires a proper introduction because a lot of dogs just hate having this thing sitting on their nose.

      Similarly, putting a harness on him won’t do it at this point since he already learned to pull through it and made the negative connection. Have you tried a back-clip harness or front-clip (this one would be the right choice, if any)? If you want, you can do the same as what I’ll explain shortly, just for another front-clip (re-introduction of another product. Trust me, it’ll be new to your puppy).

      A good bet would be a regular collar (or new front-clip, as I said). No negative associations yet with that and it’s not as intrusive as the gentle leader but easier to lead than with a back-clip harness. The first thing you should do is what we always do to prevent problems from happening in the first place – introducing the collar properly to him. Treats, treats, treats. Or else, toys. Whatever your puppy loves.

      Train inside with him first because how can you expect him to be an angel outside if he doesn’t even know the basics?

      If your dog refuses to walk instead of pulling everyhwere, then this article would be quite relevant to you. Also make sure that you still socialize (linked you the article) him because that phase isn’t over at all and it will prevent further problems from happening.

      The thing is: He’s a puppy at 12 weeks old. Puppies do pull. My Rottweiler pulled like crazy and by the time she was 3 months, she weighed nearly 30 lbs and then it went from there (a bit under 100 lbs now). Was it fun? Not at all. But we walked her on a back-clip harness (to preserve her joints and all and she choked herself with a regular collar anyway) and that wasn’t really a good idea at all. We should have started with the collar but since she already learned to pull, we went ahead and just walked her on a front-clip. Confidently walk the dog. No sniffing if you don’t allow (always starting the walks with structure), no meeting dogs if there’s pulling involved as this will reinforce the negative behavior. No going forward if the dog pulls, even if that meant standing there for 15 minutes.

      It will probably take a while but really can’t give in to the pulling of your dog or else it’ll get much worse when he grows up. Although generally speaking it’s normal for dogs to pull less as adults, I wouldn’t count on it. However, pulling is normal for a puppy and please don’t stop walking him, he needs the exercise!

      Be patient and persistent. If you have any other questions, I’d be happy to help!

  3. Hi
    I have an 18 month old cockapoo and she pulls like crazy. I have tried a Halti harness and a collar (she chokes herself on that so stopped using it) and currently a Julius K9 back clip harness.
    She also makes so much noise with sheer excitement when we set off for a walk she wakes the whole neighbourhood and all their dogs😩
    She pulls for the entire walk. Her recall is very good so she does get to run round like a loon but I always put her on a lead when people or other dogs are around because she barks at other dogs 🙄
    I know I should have this under control by now and believe me I have tried!!! Have you any suggestions

    • Hey Lynn,

      have you introduced the (halti) collar properly? Once used to the feeling, your dog should definitely be able to walk with a halti since you always have control over the head.

      Never use a back-clip with a heavy puller as it reinforces the pulling. Use a front-clip if you must, that’s far better.

      For the barking, you could set that on command. This way, your Cockapoo at least knows what is expected of her if you introduce the “quiet” command.

      My article on how I calmed my overexcited dog might help you. My Rottie was a heavy puller herself beginning from 3 months of age at nearly 30 pounds all the way through growing up because we also used the back-clip. Now she’s golden at around the same age as yours. Keep training, be patient and it’ll pay off for sure!


  4. Hi. I have read your article and it has been useful but I am still having some problems. I have recently gotten a yellow lab around 2yrs old and he hasn’t been leash trained. He’s pretty strong dog, really stubborn, and gets overly excited easily.
    I live in a farming neighborhood where my neighbors all have guard dogs and horses. The first time I tried to walk him outside of the house he pulled so hard that i toppled over and busted my knee. I have had tried to train him in the backyard, but every time he is out in the neighborhood he starts to lunge and pull, which is really hard, I am kind of a small person.
    Is there any advice you have To help me with this?

    • Hi Alicia,

      it happens quite often that dogs can’t generalize the way we’d like them to. Just because he’s obedient and walks nicely inside one room in the house or even the yard doesn’t mean he’ll do it when distractions are around. You should slowly increase the difficulty and keep working on it. Training adult dogs can be harder than training puppies.

      Also, check out my article on how I calmed my overexcited dog on walks (she’s a 100 pound Rottweiler so I definitely get that excess excitement can be an issue).

      I don’t know what you’re currently using but switching from harness to front-clip harness or collar can help a lot. If you’re already using the collar, think about getting a Halti (linked above).


  5. I adopted a 10 month old Shih-Tzu about 6 weeks ago. My struggle is when out walking on a leash he barks incessantly at people and tries to lunge. He won’t move on and has no interest on treats when he gets started. I don’t know if he is being aggressive or excited so I am worried about engaging with people

    • Hi Corrine,

      to me, this sounds a lot like reactivity. You can read more on that in this blog post: Training a Reactive Dog. Now reactivity rarely results from aggression and rather from fear or frustration. He is either trying to get away from people or is frustrated because he knows that he can’t reach them.

      Most dogs shut down completely when they react towards a trigger so it’s essential to prevent the reaction from happening in the first place. You can achieve this by getting more distance between you and the trigger and turning whenever your dog starts barking. A quick turn and heel is a great combination to get him out of this excited state into a more relaxed one.

      This only works if your dog is already familiar with the heel command. Strengthen your overall obedience and try what works best for you and your dog in those situations. A simple sit or “watch me” can also work.

      I would recommend not use any treats just because it’s not necessary and there is the risk that you are accidentally rewarding negative behavior. Dangling a treat in front of an excited dog rarely does anything.

      Hope this helped,

  6. Hi Danielle I have a 5 year old rescue cavoodle. At home I can’t fault him and he will wait for food or treats until the release command. My problem is with excitement on the walk to other dogs and sometimes people. I have started to change direction, and just work outside my house up and back. I will be trying the stop and wait, thanks for the advice. He pulls to see other dogs at their fence, and sniffs and marks alot. Do I not let him do that until I indicate it is ok? Am using a front clip harness, I have a gentle leader but he doesn’t like it, should I persevere with it? Thanks in advance. I am in Australia

    • Hey Helen,

      transferring the stuff your dog learns in a calm environment to the outdoors can be pretty challenging at times. In regards to the excitement: I actually have an article where I explain how I calmed my overexcited Rottie on walks. Temperament plays a big role and to this day, she’s pretty easy to excite when play is initiated.

      Sniffing is awesome for dogs and it actually tires my dog out more than a 5km+ walk. So allowing your dog to sniff is the best way to go. However, if you want you can introduce a command to let your dog know that it’s okay to roam a bit when on the leash (kind of a semi-release). This is best used when you want to start your walks structured (not heeling but also not sniffing everywhere either) and then allow him to go with his head to the ground when it’s suitable. Especially hard for excited dogs since the beginning of the walk is the time where they have the most energy. Personally, I just let my Rottie sniff where she wants to as long as she’s not pulling anywhere.

      Marking: Saying “no!” when your dog pees against objects like cars, fences, houses, etc. should be the way to go. Your dog doesn’t inherently know where to pee and even though introducing a pee command can help, there will still be times when he just needs to go – the pee command is best used when you want him to go right now and not to prevent him from every peeing without the command. If you say no when he marks certain objects, stay consistent and let him know every time he does it to make sure that there’s no confusion about which objects to pee on. Dogs get that pretty quickly if you catch every time they’re doing it and rewarding/punishing (with your voice) that behavior.

      Re: Harness or gentle leader. If your dog’s not pulling heavily, a back-clip harness will do the trick. But as you said, your dog will probably walk better with either a regular collar or if that’s not enough to stop him from pulling (i.e. when he’s choking himself), a front clip harness is your next step. The gentle leader is only a temporary training tool and not for all eternity, unlike a back/fron-clip harness which you can always use.

      I started out with back-clip, dog pulled too much. Then used collar, dog pulled too much. Then taught her with the front-clip and now she’s alternating between back-clip when it’s not too crowded and regular collar (or rarely front-clip) when she’s in crowded spaces. At least that’s how I do it 🙂


  7. I have an 11 weeks old Pomeranian and she will not walk on her leash. She is fine off leash in her harness, but its a no go once I put the leash on. She also wont pee or poop once leashed. the harness clip is at the back and it is the only harness I could fibd that will fit her, as she is only 2 lbs. She needs to be on a leash as we do not have afenced in yard and live in a relatively high traffic area. Please help!

    • Hi Alenka, it’s completely normal for your pup to not want to walk on the leash. Actually, leash training was the thing that took the longest with my Rottweiler and the real progress came after months of training.

      Puppies often refuse to go pee or even poop, can be due to the weather, something they saw and want to investigate or because they are leashed. To not fall back with the potty training, you should just stay outside with her until she goes. Sometimes this can take a couple of minutes and sometimes it’s half an hour or longer just standing (or walking) around. Use a pee/poo command and it’ll get easier with time (just say every time she does her business and praise her and you’ll soon be abe to do it on command, very handy).

      Definitely leash her if you’re in a high-traffic area. I only let my pupy off-leash in fenced areas. Now that she has a stellar recall, I still only let her off-leash when I’m certain nothing can happen.



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