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Leash Training a Dog or Puppy

Advice for leash training a dog at homeLeash training a dog is a definite priority. Anyone who has walked a dog that wanted to pull you as if you were riding a sled, understands why it’s important to train a dog to walk nicely on a leash. Letting a dog pull on the leash can cause tracheal collapse, especially in toy breeds, and aside from the health problem there are also behavior problemsthat can arise.

But here’s the good news: Leash training a dog is really not hard. All it takes is patience, repetition, and a solid plan.

If you envy those dog owners whose dogs walk happily beside their masters, then here’s your ticket to successfully leash training a dog.

Why is Leash Training a Dog Necessary?

You might think that once a dog is on a leash, once they learn that they can’t force you to walk at their pace and stop whenever they want to stop… that the dog would just “figure it out.” Why do dogs pull on the leash?

  • Pulling on the leash is a natural instinct. When trapped by a restraint, they want to pull free.
  • They don’t know otherwise. They haven’t been taught the rules yet.
  • If pulling the leash makes you move faster, then they’ve been trained that pulling on the leash works to their advantage.

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Leash Training a Dog: Rules for the Trainer

  • Start leash training ASAP. It’s never too late, but dogs are habit-forming creatures. The longer the wrong behavior is allowed to continue, the longer it will take to correct.
  • Never let your dog win at leash tug-of-war. Giving in, speeding up, changing direction at his whim – all these things are cases of the dog leash training you!
  • Be consistent, and send the simple message: Pulling gets him nowhere, walking nicely beside you gets him exercise and a good time. Make sure everyone who walks your dog knows this.
  • Reward your dog with praise, treats, or a click of the clicker every time he’s walking beside you with a loose leash.

Leash Training a Dog: The Training Method

Here it is: the leash training method that’s worked with every single dog I’ve ever owned. Just follow every step of these methods, and you’ll be leash training your dog like a pro.

The principle behind this training, is that your dog makes his decisions based on repeatedly learning the outcomes of his behaviors. Repetition and consistency is key, because dogs are smart enough to test and test again. When they test their limits, they’re actively wondering, “so, is that how it is?” Consistency while leash training a dog, will answer that question, and then they’ll learn.

  1. Fit the dog in a collar and then a leash. Make sure the leash is long enough for some slack – a six-foot leash is great. A leash on a reel is no good during training. With your puppy or dog on the leash, start a-walkin’.
  2. Here’s what to do about mistakes. If your dog goes too far ahead, lags too far behind, or heads the wrong direction or anytime your dog makes the leash run out of slack:
    1. Stop walking – make this an instant reaction.
    2. Say “No” in a firm (but friendly) voice.
    3. Until your dog returns to your side, keep standing stock still.
  3. Train for the right behavior. Don’t forget the rewards that make a new thing, be a training thing.
    Anytime he’s walking next to you, obediently, give him praise and a treat.
    Do it spontaneously,
    whether or not there’s been a mistake.
    So long as there is slack on the leash, you should say “Good boy/girl,” and keep a-walkin’.
    Praise should be given after each third or fourth step, if there’s been slack on the leash.

As I said at the beginning of this section, leash training a dog is all about sending a message. You’re putting the idea in your dog’s brain:

“If I try to wander off, then I get nothing.
If I keep close with a loose leash,
then we go for a walk, and I’m a good dog.”

Your dog wants to go for a walk, and your dog wants to be a good dog – so it’s an easy choice once he learns it.

How Long Does Leash Training a Dog Take?

The results of leash training a dog: See how her dog stays by her side during a walk.There’s no right or wrong answer to this. The younger the puppy is, and the more consistent you are, and the sooner you start leash training after you bring the dog home – the quicker the results. It could take days or weeks under the best circumstances, so just be patient and consistent, and humane.

Comprehensive Help for
Leash Training a Dog

For leash training, or any other kind of dog training at home, I recommend you pick up a certain comprehensive resource.

(I’ve just about memorized this book after following it to the letter on 5 dogs.)

If you want to know everything about being a great dog owner, I recommend DogProblems.com and “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer,” two of my favorite resources. Click the book link for my detailed review!

Return to the main dog training advice page.

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