One of the greatest ways to bond with a new puppy is through training. The excitement an owner feels when the new pup masters a skill, combined with the seemingly never ending supply of training treats leads to feelings of happiness for both dog and owner. Of all the lessons an owner can teach, leash training a puppy is among the most important. Listed below are a number of steps that explain how to leash train a puppy that, when combined with a little bit of love and patience, will have your dog walking nicely on leash in no time!
Before you Begin
Before you begin working with your puppy to learn this new skill, you should have a number of supplies gathered. These include a leash (a 4 – 6’ non-retractable leash is recommended), a harness or collar that comfortably fits your pet, training treats, and a quiet, distraction-free area.
Be sure the treats are a food that your puppy will be motivated to work for, such as bits of cheese or meat.
When training your pet, practicing in a small room with a closed door, such as a home office, can better promote quick learning. Plan to keep your training sessions short, as your puppy’s attention span is not very long.
Step 1: Good Associations
When teaching a puppy to walk on a leash, it is important for the dog to have good associations with what is being asked of him or her. Never leash your pet as punishment, and never use a leash to inflict pain on your puppy (such as with a choke chain).
Attach the leash to your dog’s harness or collar and immediately mark the good behavior with an emphatic “yes!” or the click of a clicker, and also give a reward. Not only will these actions make your dog feel good about the leash, but he or she will pay close attention to you in the future steps, knowing you are armed with treats.
Step 2: Walking Together
Once your pup becomes used to having the leash attached, begin to walk together. In the beginning, this should be done indoors, where distractions such as squirrels, new smells, and interesting people are not present.
The goal is to reward good behavior, not punish bad behavior. Every time the leash is slack and your puppy is not pulling, give the marking signal (i.e. “yes!” or a click) and administer your pet a treat.
The younger your puppy is during leash training, the easier this process will be. Your pup will quickly associate the proper behavior with yummy rewards, and will be eager to demonstrate the new skill.
Once he or she has mastered walking nicely indoors, practice loose leash walking outside where more distractions are present.
Alternative Method For Leash Training a Puppy
Alternatively, you can teach your puppy to walk with you by asking your pet to follow your movements.
After attaching the leash, walk as far as you can from your puppy while still maintaining slack in the leash. Get your dog’s attention with a treat, and begin to walk backwards.
Your dog will naturally follow you, and you should provide plenty of praise for this behavior. With lots of practice and patience, you can use this method to teach your pet to always follow you when a leash is attached.
This method of training will help avoid bad behaviors, such as pulling or lunging.
Step 3: Teaching Not to Pull
Some individual dogs have difficulty reining in their excitement and have a tendency to pull against the leash. If this is your pet, there are a number of methods available that can help you curb the bad behavior.
The first is to teach your dog that forward movement will not occur unless there is slack in the leash. The next time your dog pulls, stop walking and stand completely still.
Do not continue walking until your dog eases up on the leash. In this way, the “punishment” for pulling is forcing your dog to stop moving towards his or her goal object, and the “reward” is unimpeded walking.
When your pup realizes that he or she must drastically slow down due to the bad behavior, better walking can be expected.
Some dogs, especially those who do not learn good leash skills until later in life, may display a number of bad habits when learning to walk on leash. If you are experiencing difficulty, one troubleshooting method is to purchase a specially designed collar and leash.
A number of puppy training collars and leashes are available, and each works in a different way to promote good walking.
For instance, a head collar can be used to train an especially large dog to stop pulling, with minimal discomfort. The collar is placed on the dog’s head, similar to a horse’s halter, and whenever the dog pulls pressure is applied across its nose.
The dog will quickly learn that easing up on the leash releases the pressure.
A second option is a harness with an attachment for the leash on the dog’s chest. With this style harness, excessive pulling will result in the dog being spun around to face the owner, which will ultimately minimize pulling.
What NOT To Do When Learning How To Leash Train A Puppy
While learning about how to leash train your puppy, it is important to note that there are a number of behaviors that can hinder your puppy from learning how to walk nicely on a leash.
Never yank or jerk on a leash or punish your puppy if he or she begins to pull.
You must remember that pulling is a natural behavior for dogs, especially for certain large breeds. Inflicting any type of punishment or pain will only confuse your pet and cause him to fear you, the leash, or being outside.
Therefore, the use of any type of pain as a puppy leash training method is not recommended. Avoid using choke, prong, or electronic collars for these same reasons.
Additionally, it can be difficult to control how much pressure or pain is applied through an aversive collar, and many dogs (especially puppies) are injured each year by well-meaning pet owners.