There are many important steps to take to ensure that you and your pup have fun, safe and healthy adventures together. You are probably already familiar with health checkups and vaccines. How about training? Leash training and other important training tips are some of the most imperative and long-lasting skills you need to learn.
This article provides you with the basics you need to leash train your puppy. Once leash training is complete, you can take your pup anywhere hassle-free!
Why you should train your puppy on a leash
Leash training involves teaching your dog to walk on a leash with you, by your side, without pulling, tugging, chewing or dragging.
With your puppy/dog on a leash, he will be able to accompany you to many places in complete safety. You can help control where he goes and also get him out of harm’s way if necessary.
In most places, the law says your dog is on a leash when not confined to your property. Therefore, it is much more convenient for your pup to be trained on a leash.
Finally, leash training strengthens your bond with your puppy. Additionally, getting outside, sniffing, and exploring are important ways to keep your dog happy and less likely to develop other behavioral issues. Leash training also opens the door to more advanced training in the future.
Equipment you need to train your puppy on a leash
You’ll need a few simple tools to help you leash train your puppy. I recommend a 4 to 6 foot leather or nylon leash. This leather leash is water resistant and comfortable on the hands. Another recommended leash system for puppies is the “Buddy System Adjustable Hands-Free Leash.” The “Buddy System” is a useful tool that has a hands-free option.
Avoid retractable leashes that can change length. This is confusing for your pup and also does not allow for proper control of your pup during training.
You will also need a collar or harness. When you’re just starting out, you can use your everyday collar. There are many options for “Soft rulersclassic harnesses and collars, so feel free to experiment with a few and see what works best for you and your pup.
As your training progresses and depending on your goals, you may need an advanced training collar. Finally, find a treat pouch you like so you can carry treats and reach them easily.
Using the leash for the first time
The very first step in leash training your puppy is to get him used to the leash. Believe it or not, puppies usually don’t like the collar and leash at first. Most will scratch their collar, shake their head and look uncomfortable. These are normal initial responses. Here are some tips to help your puppy get used to the collar and leash.
First, place the collar on your pup. Then, immediately distract him using treats, toys, and petting until he no longer cares about the collar. Once your pup is used to the collar, you can add the leash. The first few times you put the leash on, simply clip it on and let it hang out for a few minutes. Make sure he doesn’t get stuck on anything and tug your pup.
A key to leash training is getting your pup to associate the leash with play and positive reinforcement. Whenever the leash is on, start playing with your pup and offering him tasty treats.
Decide what you are going to call your puppy (like name, cluck, hiss, etc.). With your pup wearing his leash and collar, hold the leash and use your command or sound to call him. As soon as she starts coming to you, use your happy voice to encourage her to keep coming to you. Immediately give him a treat or toy when he joins you while you are holding the leash. You should hold the leash, but don’t pull or drag the puppy.
As he gets used to watching you for the next treat, it’s time to start walking with your pup beside you. When you start walking, if she follows you and is next to you, give your positive reward. Keep walking and give him several treats to encourage him to walk beside you.
When you train your puppy on a leash, he may start to look away or lose interest. Start again by calling her name, making a soft happy sound, and immediately rewarding her with a treat for following you.
While training your puppy on the leash, you can also teach him other commands. For example, teach him to “come” to you and “sit”. Veterinary behaviorists like Dr. Sophia Yin offer helpful techniques for teaching these commands.
Continue these sessions for 10 minutes at a time, at least 2 or 3 times a day.
Make sure to build that solid foundation indoors before trying to go outside where there are more distractions.
Take your first walk on a leash outdoors
Once your pup is comfortable walking with the leash and collar indoors, it’s time to train him outdoors. It’s ideal for starting out in a backyard or enclosed space with minimal distraction.
You can start with a walk or even a short run to encourage your pup to keep up. As she follows, reinforce the behavior with a treat. After receiving her treat, she will probably want to sniff around and look at other things. To keep her interested, I suggest rewarding her for turning in your direction fairly quickly after she gets distracted and having her follow you again. Carry on as a fun game.
If your pup just sits and doesn’t want to follow, you can walk to the end of your leash and then call him. If necessary, kneel down and encourage him while holding the leash. You should not squeeze or pull on the leash when you walk away.
Continue 10-minute sessions by practicing walking on a leash in a quiet space.
Practice walking on a leash outdoors with distractions
Now that your pup is comfortable with the leash, choose a safe place to go for a walk with distractions. If your pup isn’t fully vaccinated, it’s ideal to avoid dog parks/beaches and other areas with lots of other dogs.
Start the walk by rewarding your pup with a treat while he pays attention to you. Then continue your walk and get your pup’s attention, rewarding him for watching you instead of being distracted. Puppies are easily distracted and sometimes need to start with near-constant rewards to walk properly on a leash.
As your puppy walks better on a leash, start mixing up the treats and avoid giving treats continuously throughout the walk. If you reward your puppy intermittently, he’ll be more likely to remember to walk on a leash without being reminded. So sometimes give a treat, but other times use verbal praise (a high-pitched “good dog”) and sometimes ask your pup to walk without a direct reward after your cue.
Commit to taking short walks every day and keep practicing. Increase your walks to busier, more fun places as your pup improves.
How to stop the struggle of refusing to walk, pull and rush on a leash
There can be challenges that arise with leash training. Some common challenges encountered during leash training include refusing to walk, pull, or rush.
If your puppy refuses to walk, the most important part of training will be patience. As stated above, kneel down, grab a treat or toy, and practice calling your pup off the leash. Don’t tug, tug or drag your pup. Repeat your pup’s call and he’ll start following you even on a leash.
If your puppy is pulling on the leash, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends to “stay still and refuse to move until your dog comes back to you.” Once your pup returns, an immediate reward should be given.
Puppies can also lunge at objects on a leash. In this case, according to AKC trainers, “Try to redirect his attention with a treat before he has a chance to rush, and increase the space between your dog and the target. Stay alert and be prepared. before the target of his frustration gets too close. The more you walk and bond with your pup, the better you’ll be able to predict what’s distracting him.
Now you know how to train your puppy on a leash. Be confident and go for it. Make it a fun and rewarding part of your day. And be patient with yourself. You don’t have to be perfect, just be willing to keep practicing.
However, sometimes you may have an extremely difficult puppy or very limited time, and you may need more help. There’s no shame in feeling like you need extra help. Get closer to your veterinarian. They will likely have a local trainer recommendation for you.