Leash Training: How to Train a Dog to Walk on a Leash?

Last Updated on July, 2024

Imagine taking an evening stroll with your dog. Suddenly, your dog pulls the leash and creates chaos in the middle of the road. It would be frustrating.

So what’s the solution? Training your dog to walk on a leash.

Leash training not only helps to take a pleasant walk with your dog, but it’s also an essential part of building a solid bond between you and your furry companion. 

Leash training doesn’t come naturally to most dogs. You must train them. 

This article explores leash training, including the training methods, supplies, and troubleshooting tips. 

Let’s dive in.

Quick Summary

Leash training is important for the dog-owner relationship, preventing aggression and injuries, and complying with local laws.

Proper leash training involves holding the leash in one hand, rewarding the dog with treats, and gradually introducing distractions and environments.

The progress of leash training can vary depending on the age of the dog, with younger dogs typically responding quicker. Consistency and patience are key in successfully leash training a dog.

Dog Leash Training: Step By Step Guide

Dog on a leash

Here is a step-by-step guide to leash training your pooch. Follow these steps and you’ll be able to train your puppy in no time. 

Introducing the Collar/ Harness

The first step of leash training your dog is introducing your pup to the harness/collar. 

Let your pup wear the collar/harness while playing at home for short periods. Give him treats while playing with the collar on. You must divert your dog’s attention somewhere else other than the collar. 

Some dogs will wear the harness quickly, and some won’t. If your dog is not wearing the harness, lure it to put its head through the neck hole by giving it a treat. Do the same while the harness goes on and then when you clip the harness. 

Once your dog gets comfortable with the collar/harness, attach the leash and let him get acquainted with it. 

Ensure your dog loves the collar and leash time, as it represents food and fun.

Usually, dogs have short attention spans. So keep the training sessions short at the beginning. 

Suppose wearing a collar/harness has become second nature to your dog. Then, your dog is ready to practice leash walking. 

There are two most common dog leash training techniques; loose leash walking and heel training. 

We’ll discuss each one in detail. Keep reading. 

Loose Leash Walk Training

Dog barking on a puppy

In loose leash walk training, you teach your dog to walk within the length of the leash; your dog should not pull forward or backward, but he has the freedom to sniff and explore while walking. 

Tip: Start the lessons inside your house, in a quiet place. It’s easy to train your dog in a confined space without distractions, so your pup won’t get excited. 

Let’s start.

Start training off-leash:

  • Take a few steps in any direction, stop, and call your dog. When it comes to your side, praise it and give a treat right at their head level next to your leg. When you feed the tasty treat while your dog is next to your leg, it will learn where it wants to be precisely. 
  • Next, pick a side to feed the treat on; it can be right or left. Feed on this side consistently. This method will prevent your pup from dodging in front of you.
  • When your dog masters following you in one direction, start walking in different directions. Feed a treat every time your dog follows your lead.
  • After some time, vary how often you offer treats. For example, you can start with one step, one treat, then change to two steps, one treat, four steps, and one dog treat. 
  • Change this pattern randomly. This way, you can teach your dog to stay focused. 
  • Practice this around the house until your dog learns to move with you.
  • Repeat the above steps with the collar and leash on.
  • Once your dog learns to walk on a loose leash inside, practice walking with your dog outside. 

At first, practice in a distraction-free area, and eventually move to outdoor walks.

Heel Training

Pitbull dog pulling a leash

In the heel training technique, you train your dog to walk at your side, left or right always. The dog keeps up with your pace and stops walking when you stop. 

  • First, call your dog to your side by rewarding it with a treat. It can be your left side or right side as per your convenience.
  • Let it stay by your side for some time. Feed treats frequently to keep your dog by your side without moving.
  • Take a step forward, and call your dog. Give a treat once it comes to your side. If it side-tracks, don’t feed it treats; instead, guide it back to the correct side. 
  • Next, mix things up. Change your pace; stop randomly. Train your dog to come to your side with these different paces. 
  • When your dog learns to be by your side, you can teach your dog the heel cue. You can select any word you prefer as the heel cue. Call it with your chosen command, and reward your dog when it comes to your side.
  • Then, say the release cue when you are ready to stop and throw the treat in another direction. 
  • Practice this indoors and then move outdoors eventually. 
  • Straight or screw-like short tail. 

Related article: How to Make Invisible Dog Leash?

Supplies Required for Leash Training 

Before starting leash training, you must have the below supplies,

Leash: The leash must be 4-6 feet/1-2m long. Don’t use a retractable leash as they have a pulling effect that can confuse some dogs. The leash should feel comfortable in your hands, too.  

Collar/ Harness: There are varieties of collars and harnesses available in the market.

A harness is a better option for dogs than collars because harnesses pose fewer health risks to your dog when compared to collars, here’s why:

  • Reduces the stress on your dog’s neck and joints.
  • Distributes the leash pressure evenly across the dog’s chest and shoulders, thus alleviating the dog’s body pain.
  • Reduces pulling and increases the control you have over your dog. 

While choosing a harness, pick one with a buckle collar, back fastener, and a head halter or a front clip harness. 

Make sure it is snug-fitting so that your dog can step into it comfortably. Also, consider the dog’s breed, health conditions, and personality when choosing a harness. 

Dog Treats: The positive reinforcement method is the best way to train your dog. In this method, you praise your dog with treats for good behavior. So, you must keep your pup’s favorite dog treats with you during the training. 

GPS dog tracker: Untrained puppies can bolt at any moment. Having a GPS tracker can help you to track your dog in no time. A GPS dog tracker is not essential; it’s just an optional tool for the extra safety of your puppy.

Leash Training Troubleshooting

A man walking a dog with a leash on

Leash training your pooch will be a challenging task. You may face some common behavioral issues, but you can overcome them if you know the right tricks.

Leash Pulling

Why is your dog pulling the leash?

Usually, pulling means go go go.

This means your dog is eager to walk, excited to go towards something that got his attention, such as a shrub or butterfly, or your pooch wants to return home quickly. 

What will you do if your dog starts pulling on the leash?

If your dog pulls on the leash, you must stop walking immediately. Stand still with the leash close to your body. 

Wait for your dog to calm down. It might take time, but eventually, its antics will subside. 

Once your puppy settles and lies or sits down, give it a treat. Then tell your dog, “Let’s go,” and walk forward. You can also reward it with longer walks.

Don’t try to yank your dog back to you while he is pulling the leash. It might injure your dog. Instead, you can try going in the opposite direction until he catches up. 

If your dog continues pulling and it becomes hard to manage, you can use no-pull dog harnesses such as the front clip harnesses or head halters. 

Harnesses reduce your dog’s tendency to pull on the leash as you walk. A Head Halter will turn to the sides when the dog pulls.

WARNING

Products such as choke and pinch collars discourage pulling, but they can hurt your furry friend, especially if you misuse them. It’s better to avoid them at any cost. Still, if you want to use them, consult a professional trainer.

We have a list of recommended best dog collars for pulling on our website.

Excessive Barking

A dog with a leash on barking on a road

Dogs usually bark at outside stimuli, such as other dogs or passersby. 

If your dog does this, redirect your dog’s attention by feeding him treats or using a cue word. 

Make sure to give your dog enough physical exercise and mental stimulation. If not, your dog might be prone to barking. 

So play with your new puppy, give him brain-stimulating toys, treat puzzles, and train new commands.

Lunging

Most dogs lunge at outside stimuli such as other animals or passersby. If your dog lunges or chases something, stop walking and hold the leash steady. 

Call your dog’s name, offer him a treat, and redirect his attention away from the particular stimuli. 

Suppose you aren’t able to get his attention, and he continues lunging, then the only solution is to pull your dog away gently. 

How can you do that?

Anchor your leash hand around your belly button. Begin walking in the opposite direction while holding the leash firmly at your abdomen to create a steady, gentle pressure on your dog.

Always stay alert when you take your dog on a walk. This way, you can spot your dog’s prey drive before your dog and take him away from such distractions. 

Biting/ Playing With the Leash

If your dog is turning around to bite or play with the leash, never pull the leash away from your dog because when you pull back the leash, it becomes an awesome tug toy for your dog, and he’ll enjoy it more. 

Instead, let the leash loose. Your dog won’t get the satisfying tug feeling with a loose leash. Hence, he’ll stop biting/playing with the leash. 

Once your dog drops the leash, praise him. Give him a treat and start walking again.

You can also use two leashes if your dog has a habit of playing with the leash. This way, when your dog grabs a leash, you can let it drop to the ground while keeping a grip on the second one.

Benefits of Leash Training Your Dog

  • Leash pulling affects your dog’s health, and it causes neck injuries and joint pain. By leash-training your dog, you can protect him from those.
  • When you walk alongside a dog who pulls the leash often, it may cause stress to your muscles. So it’s unhealthy for you. On top of that, it’s frustrating as well. Strolling with a dog with good leash manners is fun, and walking is good for your physical and mental well-being. So, it’s a win-win for both you and your dog. 
  • When your dog can walk politely on a leash, you can take him everywhere without fearing him pulling the leash and creating chaos in the middle of the walk. Regular outings provide fresh air and a change of pace, which is good for you and your dog.   
  • Some states in the US have a rule to keep dogs on a leash while walking them off the property. Dog leash training can be helpful if you travel to such a state with your dog. 
  • It’s a good idea to make your dog walk on a leash if it is untrained, shows aggression or other behavioral issues, or while walking in a crowded or high-traffic area. 

At What Age Should You Start Leash Training? 

A dog with a leash on standing on a ground

You can start leash training when your puppy is 4-6 weeks old. Puppies are fast learners, so it’s better to start teaching them at the earliest. 

Don’t worry, though. Even if you have an older dog, you can still leash-train it, but it may take a little longer. 

Final Dog Training Tips

Below are the characteristic features:

  • Start leash training when your puppy is four weeks old.
  • Start the training indoors and gradually move to outdoor walks. 
  • Do not use a retractable leash. 
  • Use verbal praise and dog treats for good behavior. Never punish your dog if it fails to learn.
  • Train your dog consistently. Keep 15-20 minute long training sessions each day.
  • Be patient. 

Are You Ready to Leash-Train Your Pup?

Leash walking is an important skill for dogs to learn. You will need a dog collar, leash, and dog treats.

Start the training indoors and then gradually move outdoors. Train your dog to walk on a loose leash and also to walk to heel. Use positive reinforcements and be patient. 

Remember, each individual dog will have varying time frames to master their training. 

FAQs

Typically, puppies can be trained to walk on a leash within a month. However, this timeline may vary for each individual puppy. Some may grasp the concept quickly, while others may require more time. It’s important to train your puppy at its own pace and practice patience duri

The best method for leash-training a dog is the reward-based or positive reinforcement approach. This involves teaching the dog to associate the leash with positive experiences and rewards.

The leash should be between 4-6 feet in length.

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Thomas Villalpando
Thomas Villalpando is the main author of Dogs Academy. He spends his time reading, training, and working with several Dogs' behaviors. He has been featured in MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Sun, Entrepreneur & More. You can find more about him here.

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