Have you adopted a puppy or an older dog? If so, a word of advice: don’t take him outside before teaching him how to walk on a leash.
Many people — mostly cat owners — believe that this is something dogs are born with. In truth, leash training can take a lot of time. It’s also one of the most important skills you can teach a dog, so it’s always going to be worth it.
Want to know all there’s to know about how to leash train a dog? Here are 6 easy-to-follow tips that will get you on the right track.
1. Get the Right Collar
Before doing any training, you’ll need the right equipment. This includes finding a collar and/or harness suitable for your dog.
For most dogs, all you need is the standard collar. These are the ones you see everywhere around you, and you just have to pick the right size. That said, many dog breeds have sleeker necks, allowing them to slip out at a moment’s notice.
If your dog loves pulling on a leash, consider a martingale collar. Every time your pooch starts pulling, this double looped collar will tighten. It only tightens enough to be uncomfortable, so don’t worry about choking issues.
For breeds that have trouble with traditional collars, your best bet is a no-pull harness. It prevents airway damage and stops puppies from getting out of their restraints. The back harness also gives you more control.
2. Use a Good Leash
The leash is even more important than the collar. You want one that fits your hand well and that won’t break if the dog starts tugging on it.
If the dog has had no prior leash training, we recommend going with an old-fashioned leash. These come in many styles, including flat band and circular rope. For length control, fold the leash several times or hold it in both hands.
You can also get a retractable leash, which allows you to let it out as necessary and then lock it. However, this leash is only a good fit for dogs with good recall skills. If your dog loves chasing things around, it won’t take him long to break the lock.
3. Take It Slow
If your dog has no experience with the collar and leash, let him get used to it. Don’t take him outside until he gets some training in.
Start by putting the collar on and letting him run around with it for a while. After that, start putting him on a leash as well. If the dog seems uncomfortable or tries to take the collar off, remove the equipment and try again later.
The key trick here is to give the dog treats while he’s leashed. This will help him associate the collar-and-leash time with something fun. If he’s playing nice, reward him with more treats — and some praise as well!
4. Teach a Cue
When it comes to how to leash train a puppy, sound cues play a key role. The main purpose of a cue is to let the puppy know that food is on the way.
As for which sound cue to use, you have plenty of options. Some people use certain words (such as “yes”), whereas others prefer clicker training. Regardless of the method, your puppy should hear you make that sound while he’s leashed.
At first, reward the canine with a treat every time he reacts by turning toward you. After some repetition, he should start coming for treats on his own. For best results, tire him out before any training — unlike us, tiredness helps puppies focus.
The final phase of this part of the training is to make the puppy work for those treats. Every time he comes to you upon hearing the cue, back up a few paces. Keep doing this until he seems comfortable walking next to you with a leash on.
5. Practice Walking
Once your dog is familiar with the leash, you’ll want to practice walking a bit more.
For most dogs, feeling the leash is a challenge enough by itself. To make your pooch’s job easier, keep the practices house-contained. The house is a safe environment with few distractions, and your dog is sure to appreciate that.
If your dog starts pulling in a random direction, your best bet is to stand still. Don’t go anywhere until the leash forces the dog to come to you. Don’t respond by yanking the leash and don’t try to drag your dog around with you.
6. Move On When Ready
After enough leash training, your dog will be ready for the great outdoors. This is the final and most difficult part of the process.
For starters, the outside world comes with many challenges. If you have a puppy, many sights, smells, and sounds will be completely new to him. This makes him more likely to get distracted and try to run off, making your job harder.
To help him get used to it all, keep the walks short at first. By watching him at all times, you should notice when he’s about to lunge toward something. To prevent it, make your cue sound and reward him with treats when he comes over.
If your dog keeps barking at other dogs while he’s on a leash, follow the above procedure. The point is to get him used to turn his attention to you. Of course, keep in mind that many dogs bark because they don’t get enough exercise.
More on How to Leash Train a Dog
With the above tips, you should know how to leash train a dog the proper way. Remember: stay patient and take it step by step.
The best way to make your pooch retain knowledge is to stick to a routine. While you’re walking, maintain a quick pace to help your dog focus. If you have to stop walking for a while, refresh him on leash manners in other ways.
Want to reward your dog with something other than the usual treats? Interested in other ways to make your dog walks more fun? Take a look at our list of 5 must-have products for dog owners!