Skip to Content

How to Easily Leash Train Your Puppy

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.

Important notice: There is something I want to show you that will change the way you interact with your dog. Check it out here.

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.

Pin This:

About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

Terri

Wednesday 29th of September 2021

My 3 month old lab rescue will absolutely not walk at all on a leash. Looks like I am pulling him everywhere. I've tried around the house, outside to do his business, no luck. Not fun. I've watched a ton of videos, no help. I don't know what to do.

Danielle

Saturday 2nd of October 2021

Hi Terri, your case is not unusual and I'd suggest just trying to keep it positive and keep going outside. Your dog is just a pup and a rescue too so give him time to adjust. Small steps, lots of rewards, etc.

Lisa

Friday 2nd of July 2021

Hi Danielle

I have a very high energy pup that we are having a terrible time trying to leash train. She doesn’t pull when she’s on a leash, she thinks it’s a tug toy! She’s very food motivated but regardless of what I’ve tried, she just attacks the leash. I am at a complete loss. I’ve never had a dog do this and I’m not really sure how to fix it. We wanted to enroll her in puppy classes but I don’t know how I can do that if I can’t get her to walk on a leash. I’ve been trying for over a month with no improvement. What should I do?

Danielle

Saturday 3rd of July 2021

Hey Lisa,

so your pup is a leash biter, no worries it happens. While my Rottweiler tried pulling a lot as a pup, she didn't bite the leash once in her life.. What you can do is just showing your pup that's it not a tug toy. It's the same as teaching the out command but while you reward the dog with the toy when teaching out, you have to fall back on treats and praise since tugging is exactly what you want to avoid being done with the leash.

Every time your pup bites the leash, make it as boring as possible (just hold onto it tight). No running, no tugging back and forth, no excited energy. Just hold onto it on the furthest possible place to her muzzle so the tug doesn't wiggle in an exciting way.

Takes some repetition but should be relatively easy to fix. Reward when she lets go.

Cheers, Danielle

Alenka Johnson

Friday 9th of April 2021

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!

Danielle

Friday 9th of April 2021

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.

Cheers, Danielle

Helen Harris

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

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

Danielle

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

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 :)

Cheers, Danielle

Corrine

Saturday 10th of October 2020

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

Danielle

Tuesday 13th of October 2020

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, Danielle