How to train a puppy to walk on a leash
Learning how to walk on a leash is one of the most important skills you can teach your puppy. Not only does walking your dog provide much needed exercise for your growing puppy, but it will improve overall obedience and responsiveness. The keys to successful leash training are consistency and patience. Remember this in all parts of training your puppy, and you are likely to share many happy walks together.
Training Your Dog to Walk on a Leash
1. Be patient
This is the most important part of introducing a puppy to a leash and collar for the first time. No puppy has ever learn to be perfect on a leash in one day. Proper training involves confident, calm, and consistent practice with the dog.
2. Introduce the puppy to the collar or harness and leash
Start out by letting him get used to wearing a collar or harness and a leash. Let him wear them for short periods of time in the house while you are playing with him and giving him treats. The puppy should love collar-and-leash time because it represents food and fun.
3. Teach Your Dog to Give Attention
It may seem as though you should just start walking with your dog but before you can move, you need to make sure he is actually paying attention, otherwise he may pull and dart about. Be patient and wait for your pup to offer you (this is capturing) even a tiny moment of eye contact or look at you — then immediately mark and reinforce. Repeat this frequently so that your pup understands looking at you equals treats. You can add a “cue” for attention, too. Say “look” or “eyes” right before your dog is about to look at you and then mark, reinforce, and praise.
4. Have short training sessions in familiar places
Your puppy has a short attention span, so don’t expect to keep his interest in training for long. Start with just a walk around the house or the backyard — a place where he is already familiar with the smells. That way he won’t be as inclined to break off in a dozen directions to smell exciting new odors.
5. Stop bad behavior
you can stop bad habits from developing by addressing them every time they occur. Remember, you do not need to get angry and yell or hit the dog. There are more constructive and positive ways to reinforce good behavior without losing your cool. Some common examples of bad behavior and how to address them are below.
- The puppy pulls the leash. As soon as this happens, stop walking and stand still. Don’t yank on the leash, just let the dog know that, when it pulls, it gets nowhere. Call the dog back to you, and give him a treat when he comes. If you consistently and calmly do this every time he pulls, he will quickly learn not to.
- The puppy sits or lays down. When a puppy resists going for a walk, take a few steps away, call him, and offer a treat. Start walking until your puppy resists again, and repeat the process. Again, with calmness and consistency, the puppy will learn to enjoy walking and being on the leash.
6. Take it outside
Finally, you’re ready to test your puppy’s skills in the Great Outdoors. There will be new challenges with this step because all the sounds, smells, and sights your puppy encounters will be intriguing and new to him. Be patient and keep the first walks short. While you’re on a walk, if your puppy looks as if he’s about to lunge toward something or is about to get distracted (you’ll notice this because you will keep your eyes on him at all times), make your cue sound and move a few steps away. Then reward him with a treat for following you.
7. Be consistent
This is the most important part of any kind of dog training. The dog is eager and happy to learn, all he needs is for you to properly communicate your expectations. When you consistently reward positive behavior and stop bad behavior, the dog will develop good behavior. However, if you are inconsistent and let the puppy pull on leash frequently, he will have a hard time knowing what you want.
Even though your puppy may be learning to walk on a leash very nicely, you’re likely to run into some issues as he gets older, goes new places, and experiences new distractions. Here are a few tips on what to do if you’re having trouble with leash training.
If your pup pulls: If your dog starts pulling in the other direction, turn yourself into “a tree.” Stand very still and refuse to move until your dog comes back to you. Do not yank or jerk the leash, and do not drag your dog along with you. Front-hook harnesses and head halters are alternative training tools designed for dogs that tend to pull.
If your pup lunges: If your dog is going after something while on a walk — another dog, a car, a skateboarder, for example, be proactive. Try to redirect his attention with a treat before he has a chance to lunge, and increase the space between your dog and the target. Stay alert and be prepared before the target of his frustration gets too close. This type of behavior may be more common in herding breeds, but any dog can be startled by something he’s not used to or finds exciting.
If your pup barks: Some dogs have the habit of barking at other dogs while on a walk. Oftentimes, this behavior comes as a result of lack of exercise. Make sure your dog gets the proper amount of mental and physical stimulation for his age and breed. If this is still a problem, use the same process as you would if your dog is lunging, as described above — create distance and offer treats before he starts to bark, so every time he sees a dog he gets used to turning his attention to you.
Gradually you’ll reduce the number of treats and the amount of troubleshooting that your puppy needs during a walk, but it’s a good idea to keep some on hand at all times so you can randomly reinforce good leash-walking behavior.
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