One of the best things about having a dog is their company on refreshing neighborhood walks. However, that dream isn’t possible until after you’ve leash trained your pup!
Luckily, leash training your dog is a lot easier than it seems. All you need is a non-retractable leash, a collar or harness, and of course, treats. The magic key to all dog training! The smaller the treat, the better for this, so you can give them pretty freely. You can break larger treats into smaller pieces to make them last longer. If you do not have any treats, you can use their kibble instead.
Get Them Used to Their New Accessories
Start by putting the collar or harness on your dog and attaching the leash to it. Let your dog wander around and get used to the feeling of the extra gear. Play with your pup, and make sure to give treats and praise good behavior. You can have your dog do tricks, too. This way, your pet associates the leash with fun and food!
Teach Them to Follow
If your dog already comes when you call, you have a head start! If they do not, you will need to start with that. Call your dog with a specific trigger word, and when they come to you, give them a treat. See if you can get them to follow you around the house this way.
You can pick up the leash and walk with them around the house. Training to walk in an environment with fewer distractions that they are familiar with is a great way to start. Do not let them chew on the leash when you are practicing walking. For best results, reward them when they are at your side, so they learn that is the sweet spot where you give them treats! Ideally, you want them to be comfortable walking close to you. Your pup’s shoulder should be right next to your hip.
Take It on the Road
Once your pup has gotten used to practicing in the house, you can take your training outside! Get into your walking position; have them close to your side, and then take a couple of steps forward. When they come up to your side, you can give them a treat. You want them to remain calm, no leash biting. If they start to misbehave, do not reward the behavior.
Consistency is the key when leash training your dog. Use the same verbal cues you use at home and every day. Like if they do something they are not supposed to, you firmly say, “ah!” or snap your fingers. When they behave the right way, you can pet them and praise them for their hard work, “good boy!” Your training sessions should be short and sweet, especially if you are working with a puppy.
Prevent Pulling From the Start
If your dog is pulling on the leash, stop walking immediately. When you cease walking, it will show that that behavior is not what you want. You want your dog to walk with you, not walk you; remember, you are the one holding the leash. Your curious pup will want to stop and sniff many things on your walk, so they might start pulling to go check something out, but you need to let them know when that is okay. Saying “stop” and “smell” will tell them that you are letting them stop and smell.
Even though you use treats quite a bit during the training process, try not to overdo it. As soon as they start to get the hang of it, decrease the number of treats. After they practice good behavior enough times, it becomes second nature, so they will not need treats as often. If you continually reward them with food, they may become treat obsessed, resulting in the opposite behavior that you want. Instead, you can reward them with praise as a way of weaning them off the treats.
Every dog will be different when it comes to leash training, so be patient. If your dog struggles with one step, it is perfectly okay to go back and spend more time practicing where your dog needs it. Keep a positive attitude while you train, and give your pup lots of love and attention when he gets it right. Dogs react well to positive feedback. We wish you the best of luck on your training adventure!