How to train a puppy to walk on a leash?

Learning a puppy to walk on a leash

One of the biggest questions dog owners face is how to train their puppy to the leash. It’s not really the most difficult skill, and it usually doesn’t take long for dogs to learn it – the basic steps will literally take a few days. Provided, of course, that the owner is willing to work with and consider their dog’s needs. Let’s take a look at when to train a leash and how to do it correctly.

Which leash should I choose?

Sometimes the difficulties begin even before the class begins. The wide range of pet stores can baffle: What leash to choose? Of course, many owners are guided primarily by their taste and budget, but it is also worth taking into account the following:

  • One of the most popular options is the leash. But it is not too good for teaching a dog to walk on a leash. When a puppy is just learning, the order should be clear: he can either move freely or walk on a leash. The leash, on the other hand, is designed to give the dog relative freedom of movement while harnessed. In addition, the leash does not allow you to react quickly to the dog’s behavior.
  • Lanyard leashes and chain leashes are also not recommended. First, they are more difficult to control the dog. Second, they are also less convenient for the animal: the chain is too heavy, and the lanyard is too light; the chain is distracting with unnecessary sounds, and the lanyard is easily entangled.
  • A canvas leash is best for exercising with your dog. It is lightweight, flexible and easy to use. It can be safely thrown on the ground, stepped on. After training such a leash is easy to clean and bring to its original form or just replace it with a new one, since the price of them is quite low.

Walking with a dog is a very important for its health – more you can read in our dog walking guide.

Canvas leash suitable for medium and large breeds

As a rule, for training use a leash length of 1.5 m and a width of 1.5-2 cm.

At what age should we teach it to the leash?

Another important question is: At what age should we start training? It’s common to start leash training at 2 months of age after your puppy is used to the collar.

At such a young age, puppies are not yet familiar with commands, they are curious, many things fascinate them and scare them just as much. This includes the leash, especially when you use it for the first time. Once on the leash, your puppy may fight back and try to get rid of it. This is a common reaction that can be easily corrected.

Step-by-step training scheme

Choose a quiet, enclosed area where you can safely walk, play and run with your puppy. Note that you should let your puppy off leash in an unfenced area only when he’s mastered obedience training and has his “Come here” command perfectly. Otherwise, there is a good chance that he will run away and get lost.

So, we advise to stick to the following scheme:

  • Step one is to teach the leash as such. Pet your puppy, gently take him on the leash, praise him and give him a treat. Now let him lead you – follow him at his own pace, not letting him pull on the leash. Walk around like this for a while, then unhook the leash and let the baby run free. Then repeat the exercise. It is very important not to overdo it during training, so that the pet does not start to treat the leash negatively.

Each time you tie the leash to the collar, praise the puppy and give him a treat. You should do this not only at first, but also later on. Thanks to this habit, you won’t have any trouble getting your dog on a leash.

  • Once he’s gotten used to it, take him to the next step: teach him to walk on a lead in the direction you want him to go. Just strap him on the lead, give him a treat and start walking. Chances are he’ll follow you, he’ll instinctively follow the older dogs and you’ve just given him a treat too. But at some point he’ll stop and/or try to go the other way. Then you need to very, very gently guide him with the leash and call him at the same time.
    The first walks should be short – literally 10 steps. Like any child, puppies quickly tire of monotonous activities. So pause – unleash the leash, allow the animal to frolic and run freely. After this you can go on a leash for another 10 steps. Increase the distance gradually.
    If your dog pulls you in the right direction while you’re walking on a leash, gently guide him to a “side-by-side” position, and when he does, loosen the leash immediately. Pay attention to his needs, too – for example, if he’s stopped to sniff something, don’t tug him violently against his will. Rather, call out and gently pull his leash as if telling him where to go.

  • The next step is to teach the change of pace and direction of movement. You should proceed to these exercises when the dog has mastered the previous ones and is confident enough to walk on a leash at a normal straight step. The most convenient way to do the exercise on the road to the place of walking: just periodically increase the pace of walking or change the direction of movement – first gently, then more sharply. However, do not overdo it and do not overcomplicate the trajectory too much – this will confuse the pet.

Unlike the transition to running, in this case no preliminary commands should be given to the dog – it should follow the owner by itself.

  • The last step is learning to run on a leash. You can introduce additional commands to switch to running (e.g., “Run”) and to switch back to stepping (e.g., “Quiet”). While moving, first give the voice command, then increase your own running speed (gently switch to running), and then, if necessary, pull the leash so that the dog starts to run, too. When he runs, loosen the leash and give praise. As you train, increase the “sharpness” of the speed dial and teach your puppy to run immediately after the command (so you don’t have to give cues with the leash).

The transition from running to stepping can be done without a command, but if you give it, be sure to keep the order: first the command, and then the tension of the leash.

Helpful hints

  • If puppy is fearful of the leash when you start, do this: Take him in your arms, put the leash on, put him down on the ground and distract him with play while letting the leash drag freely. After a couple of minutes, unleash the leash and let him run or play. Then pick him up again, put the leash back on, put him down on the ground and keep him busy playing. Usually 1 to 3 walks with these exercises are enough to stop the dog getting scared.
  • At first it is better if you always lead the dog only on one side of you: either on the left or on the right. The norm of the command “Near” implies that the dog should walk on the left side, and for walking on the right side there is another command, which is usually called that – “On the right”. In general, however, in everyday life, the choice of right or left side is left to the owner.
  • The leash should not serve as a punishment and should not be associated with anything negative. Never hit your puppy with it. Also, the leash should not be seen as a toy, and should not be tugged, chewed, or pulled. It’s important that his image is associated with something pleasant, especially walks. So put him on a leash for every walk, even if it’s just a short walk to the park or dog park. And don’t forget to give him praise and treats.
  • It is very important that your dog knows how to walk not only on a leash. Teach him other basic commands like “Come here” and “Next to me”. The dog (and its owner) must understand that the leash is a means for walking on the streets and in places where you should not walk otherwise. But directly during walks on the playground, the leash is not necessary, and it is important for your friend to be able to move freely. And in order to do that he must perform basic commands well.

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