If you plan on walking your dog at the park, the beach — or anywhere really — good leash training is essential. The sooner you start puppy lead training, the better, as pups are easier to train than adult dogs.
Having a dog that walks in a well-behaved manner on a leash is not innate, meaning it's something you have to teach your canine. But if all this sounds too much to handle, don't worry. There are simple, stress-free ways of doing so.
We'll walk you through how to leash train a dog below, including common issues, the best methods to teach dogs to heel, how to walk properly, and the best leashes and collars for this training. Let's get started!
What is Leash Training?
The first thing you need to do is get your young dog used to its collar and leash. New dog owners often assume a dog is okay with these items, but this is not always the case.
At first, put the collar on for short spurts of time while playing with your pup at home. You will need to introduce new objects one at a time.
You can also give him treats to make him feel more comfortable with the process so that he always associates the collar and the lead with food and good times. It's best to start indoors.
At What Age Can You Start Leash Training A Puppy?
Puppies can begin their leash training almost immediately. Most dog owners are often concerned with harming their young puppy when starting leash training. Luckily, there are plenty of gentle options that give you and your pup a safe way to get started.
If you are starting young, then the goal is to simply introduce your puppy to the idea of wearing a leash and collar during walks. Just be sure to use a leash and collar that gives your puppy enough control over the situation. It shouldn't feel like you're fighting for control.
We will talk more about leashes and collars soon, so keep reading.
Common Leash Training Pitfalls
There are a few common leash training problems you may experience. Do not worry; many of these have reasonably straightforward solutions. Many of these issues occur because a dog is young and does not know what you expect.
Like a lot in life, there usually is not a quick fix for these dog walking problems. It takes a bit of time to work through them. Some consistent training can go a long way to help sort out any issues calmly and enjoyably. Indeed, some behavioral problems are due to inconsistent training, so enforce the same commands every time. It helps to make your expectations clear to your dog.
If you have a problem you are struggling to fix yourself, you can also consult a professional dog trainer. They can help you learn how to leash train a dog. However, it's best to leash train your dog yourself so that they get accustomed to listening to you for commands.
Dog Won't Stop Pulling on the Leash
A dog pulling on a leash is a prevalent issue with dog walkers. Dogs tend to do this if they are young and excitable. If they are older, it may be a sign the animal has not had a lot of training or does not respect their walker.
If your dog does this, avoid tugging and pulling. If you pull dogs, this often becomes a tug of war. There are better methods to stop a dog from pulling on a leash.
Instead of pulling, stand still and firm until your dog stops pulling and brings his attention back to you. He will soon learn that the fun and explorations come to a halt if he pulls on the lead.
A dog pulling makes your walk not so much fun, and it can be dangerous if he pulls you off your feet or into something. So, be sure to put in the time to sort out this issue.
Dog Will Walk in Circles and Not Straight
Why do dogs walk in circles? It may look strange, but it is typically because he doesn't understand what you want him to do on the leash. He could also be afraid of going walking or too excited to take too much notice of you.
Get him to pay attention to you with treats and sounds to which he responds. Once his focus is back on you, it will be easier to teach him to heel and walk straight. You also can try having the dog on a short leash close to your side until he gets used to walking on the path with you. While it is natural for the animal to stop and sniff, it should eventually learn to walk in the same direction as you.
An important note: a dog walking in circles, even off the lead, could indicate health issues. These medical concerns include ear infections, OCD, a stroke, or injury. It's best to consult your veterinarian to be sure.
Dog Doesn't Want to Go on a Walk
If your dog on a leash stops walking and won't move, the best thing to do is be gentle and encouraging. For how to leash train a dog that won't walk, you can use treats to get your dog to relax and come walking with you. If he usually likes to walk, he may not be well if he suddenly does not want to go with you. In this case, take him for a checkup with your vet.
If your puppy doesn't walk on a leash, you also need to be patient and encourage him. If you make it a big, stressful event, you may have problems for the rest of the dog's life getting him to walk on a lead. Sometimes, it helps to take a pup along with an older, trained dog so that the pup-in-training can see and mimic the trained animal. That is the best way how to train a puppy to walk on a leash.
To leash train a dog that won't walk, you can also build his confidence with other training, such as sit, stay, come. Once that training is complete and your dog knows what to do, he is more likely to be more confident on a lead.
If your dog barks or shows aggression while on the lead, it is often a sign he needs a bit more exercise! If he seems to have over the top energy levels, make sure he gets enough run around time. He'll also need some stimulation for his mind.
Be sure to do some research about your dog's breed. Each breed has different physical and mental exercise requirements that affect how you teach a dog to walk properly on a leash.
If your pet gets enough exercise, but leash aggression is still a problem, you can fix it by standing still and offering your dog a treat each time a triggering factor comes along. That way, he will get used to turning his focus to you in these circumstances rather than going after the cat, another dog, cyclist, etc.
How to Walk Properly
Training your dog how to walk correctly on a lead takes a bit of time and focus. To start with, you have to know what you want your dog to do. Ideally, you would like him to walk in a straight line, right next to your heel, on a loose lead, with a confident but calm demeanor. Knowing what you are looking for makes it easier to train your dog to walk on a leash.
As mentioned earlier, consistency is also crucial. With each of these techniques below, make sure that you are consistent in the methods and commands you use.
A walk for a dog can be the highlight of his day, so expect him to be energetic and excited. However, he must still walk properly. Here's how he can learn:
Don't Let Your Dog Walk You
When walking your dogs, make sure you are the boss and don't let your dog walk you! A dog ‘walking’ you means it is continually pulling on the leash or otherwise trying to control which way you go. If a canine believes it can walk you, it is a sign the animal has less respect for you or thinks it is in control.
You can teach your dog that you are in control by teaching it to heel. Instructing it on other commands like sit, stay, and come also work well. Put in some time, making sure he is obedient to all the necessary commands before heading out on a walk.
If he understands these commands, it will be a lot easier to control your dog out in the world. Practice makes progress.
How Often Do You Walk Your Dog?
The frequency with which you walk your dog depends on his individual needs for physical and mental activity. Most dogs benefit from half an hour to two hours of exercise per day.
You can break these sessions up into two or more walks per day.
If you have a small living space, the more you can take your dog out for explorations and time outside, the better. If you have a big yard, you may not need to take him out as often. Be careful not to give him too much exercise, as the activity's wear and tear can cause damage to his body over time.
Where Should Your Dog Be While Walking?
As mentioned above, your dog should walk beside your heel on the right or left when on a walk. In this way, you will be walking side to side. You may need to reinforce this continually, to begin with, as it is a more advanced command for a dog to grasp. As soon as he goes in front or behind you, ask him to come back beside you.
Be patient with your pet. Learning to heel can take time for him to master. Be firm but make the process fun as well so that he enjoys doing what you are asking. He will be a happier, more reliable heel dog if you do.
Loose Leash Walking
When leash training a dog, there are a couple of methods you can use. These techniques depend on how obedient your dog is. Ideally, you want to aim to loose walk your dog. Remember, it is you and how you train that gives the leash meaning for a dog. You want the leash to mean good things, but also a need for obedience to your dog.
Loose leash walking means he will walk beside you on a leash with some slack. The looseness means you won't have to pull him in all the time. This level does take time to train in, so be patient with your canine friend. Ensure you have a command or signal to let your dog know when you want him to walk on a loose leash.
If someone who is elderly or has any injuries or disabilities will be walking a dog, the dog must have the training to loose leash walk.
Teach Your Dog to Heel
The 'heel' command means teaching your dog to walk next to you, at the same pace, rather than in front of or behind you. Here is how to teach dogs to heel:
- The first thing you need to do is decide on a training method. One of the most effective ways to teach dogs to heel is the lure and reward.
- Have some treats in hand.
- Before you start, your dog should already be able to sit, stay, and come to you when called. You need to give him the command and reward him when he does what you ask.
- When you teach a dog how to heel, he should be on your left-hand side. Have him sit beside you obediently first. Reward him for this.
- Then, keeping your dog focused on you, lure your dog forward with a treat, and say the heel command to make him stop.
- If you want your dog to walk with you, give him verbal, clicker, or treat rewards every couple of steps that he takes correctly.
- If your dog loses focus on you during the training, say his name, get him to sit, and draw his focus back to you before continuing.
- When training the dog heel command, you can also give them a 'walk on.' The order lets your dog know it's okay to walk forward beside you.
Collar and Leash versus Lead Leash (No Collar)
For how to train your dog to walk on a leash, you need to have the right dog training leash. You can either get a separate collar and leash or a lead leash that combines the two.
The benefits of a lead leash are that they help with dogs that pull. Lead leashes are one piece, and they are convenient to use.
A collar and leash are other options. Usually, these come as separate pieces of gear.
We'll talk about what collars you can get in more depth in a minute, but for now, let's discuss the 2 types of leashes:
Leash & Collar Combination
Using a leash and collar combination is the more popular choice for dog owners. The ability to mix and match different training methods makes it a preferred choice for most people. Combine at least four types of collars and four types of leashes. This combination allows you find a what works best when learning how to leash train your dog.
Choosing Your Style of Lead
Dog leashes come in various types suitable for different kinds of dogs and how they walk on the lead. There is something for most purposes. When going out walking, no matter what type of leash you have, make sure you have a firm grip and hold onto the end of the leash.
In this next part, go over the various options to look at before you buy:
- Lead Leashes (No Collar)
What Is a Good Leash Length?
You may want to use a short leash if you know you need to keep your dog close and under control. It is much harder to control the animal if the line is too long and has too much slack. A properly leashed male dog, for example, if he is quite strong, is one that is on a shorter lead.
You also may like to use a running leash if you enjoy jogging with your dog, in which case a medium-length line will do.
For puppies' leash training, make sure you have a bit more length. And don't forget, your pup will grow, so don't go too long for leash training puppy.
Lead Leashes (No Collar)
This lead leash has a loop that fits over the dog's muzzle. It is excellent for dogs that pull a lot on walks. The leash will pull the dog's nose down if he starts to tug, which controls him better and helps to refocus his attention on the walker or owner.
While this option is practical, many experts believe it is quite a cruel device and that formal training should be an option instead.
A harness lead is what its name suggests – a harness type design that goes over the dog's neck and rib cage area. The harness helps to stop dogs from jumping up.
It can put quite a lot of pressure on the chest area and encourage dogs to pull at their leads more. Thus, it is best to consult a trainer before trying this option.Enter your text here...
A slip lead is a design that forms a loop, which you place around the dog's neck like a collar. The loop tightens or loosens, depending on if a dog is pulling on the lead or not.
Slip leads teach the pet that the more it pulls, the more the collar will restrict it. However, you want to be sure to place this leash higher up on the dog's neck so he doesn't choke too much when it tightens. It is an easy and effective option to use.
Martingale or Human Control Collars are quite similar to slip leads with a loop built into the leash. The only difference is that the Martingale has more adjust-ability because it has two connection points instead of the slip lead's one.
The Martingale is best for dogs that have little heads and thicker necks, such as a greyhound. It is useful for dogs that try to back out of their collars. It also helps control dogs that tug on the lead a lot.
Leashes come in all shapes and forms. The leash you buy can have a big impact on your ability to leash train your dog. Although leashes all serve the same purpose, you'll want to buy one that can support your dog's weight and how to tell if a leash is the right length.
A nylon leash is the most basic of dog leashes. When you need a simple leash to get the job done, using a nylon leash is a good choice.
If you think your dog will have any interest in chewing on its leash, then a nylon leash may not be the right choice for you.
Retractable leashes give you the freedom of giving your dog an extra-long lead (up to 16ft). They are a fantastic tool for slowly introducing your dog to having more independence without actually allowing him to go off-leash.
Using a retractable leash is most popular for use with smaller breeds, but they can handle dogs up to 110 lbs. If your dog is a puller or shows aggression, use a more heavy duty leash.
Heavy Duty Rope Leash
Heavy duty rope leashes are made from the same kind of rope that climbers use. They are recommended to use with medium to large breed dogs. The maximum weight for a rope leash usually sits around 150 lbs.
Although these leashes have a high weight limit, dog owners still like to use them with smaller breeds as small as 10 lbs. Rope leashes can be tough to chew through, making them ideal for puppies in training.
Heavy Duty Leather Leash
Heavy duty leather leashes are preferred over rope leashes for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is that people favor the smoother touch of leather. If you have a dog that pulls, you can avoid getting rope burn.
Leashes made from leather tend to last longer, too. They hold up better against chewing and don't get worn out as quickly as other materials.
There are a few different kinds of collars you can get for your dog. They each have slightly different functions, and individual dogs will respond differently to each type. If you are unsure which one to get, consider trying all the collars listed below until you find the right one.
This gear is typically not too expensive, so giving each a try shouldn't break the bank. You can also ask your local dog trainer if they have them for you to borrow to figure it out.
Slip collars or choke chains are useful when learning how to leash train a dog. It can help to make corrections when training a dog to heel. These collars are quite strong in terms of their action, so it is best not to use them if you can avoid doing so. Prolonged use can damage your dog's neck.
If your dog needs a choke chain, it is best to learn how to safely and effectively use it.
Pinch or metal pronged collars look lethal, but trainers swear by them. They help to control dogs that are strong and out of control. They typically cause less damage than a choke chain if appropriately used.
This collar should not remain on your dog if you are not walking or training him.
These collars help stop dogs from getting out of their collars. They have a section that tightens when necessary so that you can grab onto the loop to stop your dog. However, the Martingale design is not so restrictive that it will choke a dog badly like the previous two.
You can also get a harness, which you can attach to a leash separately. People like to use this option for dogs that pull so that it does not hurt their necks. Experts say this may not be ideal for dogs that tug on the lead and that a more robust option would be better while you train in the desired behavior on a lead.
This collar should not remain on your dog if you are not walking or training him.
What You Can Do Next
As you can see, there is a bit more about how to leash train a dog than you might think. There are ways and steps to go about your training and various leashes and collars from which to choose.
It can be daunting to look at what are the best options for you. But don't worry; we give you loads of tips for walking a dog and more in our newsletter. Sign up today to get all the latest news and information about your canine friend.
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