Leo got adopted a couple of weeks ago. He loves his new home and family, but hates the leash. He dodges his hoomans every time he sees them approaching with the leash, and even if somehow they leash him, he’s uncontrollable on the leash, and there’s a lot of pulling during walks. I know, the struggle is real. So, if your dog is less than ideal on a leash like Leo, and you wish to have more pleasant walks with your dog, knowing how to leash train a dog will certainly help.
To begin with, most people think that dogs just automatically know how to walk politely on a leash. The truth is that, walking on a leash is a skill we need to teach a dog.
It’s an important skill to teach and it is easier than you may think. All you need is a little patience and lots of treats.
Leash training is one of those skills that you’ll value every time you take your dog out for a walk.
It is always better to teach your what to do, instead of telling him what not to do. With simple tips and cues, walking can be a great experience for you and your dog.
Additionally, there are simple solutions if your dog misbehaves on a leash. There can be walks without pulling or dragging your dog, and for this, you need to learn how to leash train a dog.
So, if you have to force your dog on a leash or if he’s the one taking you for walks, you may probably wish to learn how to leash train your dog.
How to leash train a dog
Dog expert trainers and behaviourists around the world recommend some of these easy-to-do and quick tips to leash train a dog. So, if you want to know how to train a dog to walk on leash, you will have to begin by introducing the leash first.
Hello Mr. Leash – Introduce your dog to his collar/harness and leash a few days before you can begin his outdoor walks. You can start by making him wear his collar/harness for short periods inside the house while you are playing with him. Offer your dog tiny treats to distract him from the sudden awkward change. Every time you put on the collar/harness and leash, give him treats and play with him, you will make him love his collar-and-leash time.
This way your dog will associate the leash with a happy experience because it represents food and fun, and at same time you’re letting him get used to wearing a collar/harness and a leash.
Tension free leash – From day one of the training hold the leash loose and try to keep it tension free. This is one very important tip as you do not want your dog to have a negative experience with a leash. Dogs love their freedom just like we do and gripping the leash tight from the beginning makes the dog feel as if he is held captive. This is something that bothers them and makes them go out of control.
So hold the leash nice and loose and keep it free from any tension during leash training. This will also set the foundation for loose-leash walking for the future.
Use a cue – Use a cue when you leash train a dog. Introduce your dog to a particular sound or hand gesture and use it as a cue that means “treats”. You can try to snap two fingers and treat, or use a simple word like “look” and treat him only when he looks at you.
Teaching a dog to follow a cue means teaching him to turn his attention towards you. This is very beneficial, especially for puppies who view the leash as a new chew toy, and easily get distracted even by a small creature like a bee. So, instead of teaching a puppy not to chew a leash, you can distract him with a tiny piece of treat. After a few repetitions, add the cue with the treats.
Once you fix a cue, choose a quiet area with no distractions, and with your dog on a leash and collar/harness, make the cue sound or do the hand gesture.
The very second your dog looks at you, praise him and reward him with a treat. After a few repetitions, you’ll find your dog not just looking at you, but also following you for the treat.
Make the dog come to you – After you give the cue, make sure that your dog comes to you and not the opposite. Initially, your dog may only turn towards you and not walk. But that’s ok as it also counts as progress in leash training. Reward him when he responds to the cue and turns towards you, and after a few rounds you’ll notice him walking a few steps towards you.
While he turns towards you at the sound of the cue or hand gesture, still wearing the leash and collar, begin to move back a few steps and then reward him when he comes to you.
Repeat this for 5-10 minutes for a few days and continue the process until your dog comes to you and walks with you a few paces following the cue sound or hand gesture.
Keep in mind that puppies have a short attention span and easily lose focus. So keep your training sessions short but fun, and end them when your puppy is still willing to do more, not when he’s mentally exhausted.
Practice indoors –Once you notice that your dog understands the cue, knows how to come to you, you can begin practicing with little distractions. Begin the training in the quiet room and once he follows, practice walking a few steps in a room with little distraction.
Seeing the leash and some family members around him will be enough of a challenge for a day. Remember to offer treats and praise as your dog gets used to coming to you with distractions, with a leash on.
Gradually take it outside – Now that your dog is schooled, you can get ready to test him in the outdoors. You and your dog will encounter new challenges with this step because of all the sounds, smells, sights, and hullabaloo.
These encounters will be intriguing and new to him so be patient and keep the first walks short and quick. It is best to keep your eyes on him at all times while you are on a walk, as he is going to get distracted for sure.
If your dog looks as if he’s about to jerk the leash and lunge toward something, make your cue sound and move a few steps away from the source of distraction. As he turns to look at you or gets to you, reward him with a treat. Gradually, you will find him following the protocol after a few walks in the great outdoors.
Leash-Training Problems Troubleshooting
Even though you have learnt how to walk a dog on a leash and your dog may be learning to walk on a leash very nicely, there is a possibility for you to face some issues as he grows older.
With new places, experiences and distractions, your dog may begin pulling the leash and show some visible tension on the leash. That’s why, it is best to follow some rules and learn how to train a dog to walk on a leash without pulling.
You can begin with teaching him loose-leash walking from day one of the leash training, as mentioned earlier.
Loose-leash walking is much more pleasant for you both, and also then he can be called a canine good citizen.
Here are a few tips on how to leash train your dog not to pull. Follow these pointers if you’re having trouble with leash training.
- If your dog starts pulling in the other direction, become a tree. Stand very still and give the cue and wait until he responds. Do not move until your dog comes back or turns towards you. Jerking, pulling or dragging your dog is big NO. For better grip and control, front-hook harnesses and head halters can be used alternatively. These training tools are specially designed for dogs that tend to pull.
- If your dog is jumping or lunging towards something while on a walk, like another dog, cat, squirrel, a bicycle or car, for instance, take charge. Try to distract him and redirect his focus with the help of a treat. When he turns his attention to you, keep offering the treats, walk backwards and create a distance from the source. Stay alert and be prepared as your dog may be startled by something strange, loud, or exciting.
- Allow your dog plenty of time on walks. Let him sniff around while he walks and do not rush him. At times when you see your dog a little ahead of you, walk up few steps closer to him to cover the gap and avoid tension on the leash.
By following these tips, gradually the number of treats will reduce and your dog will learn to master the leash naturally. However, it’s always a good idea to keep some treats on hand at all times so you can randomly reinforce good leash-walking behaviour.
I have three dogs and I have leash trained them all at different ages – one as a puppy, one as an adult, and one as a senior dog. So, if you are wondering what is the age to begin leash training a dog, or is it too late to begin leash training, you have your answer now. One final tip – exercise your dog well or play with him before going for walks. This will moderate your dog’s energy and reduce the amount of leash-training problems.
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