Teaching your dog how to politely walk on a leash makes walks and spending time with your dog much easier.
To teach your dog to walk on a leash, you must allow them to get used to wearing a leash, encourage them to pay attention to you, and practice walking with them a lot, in scenarios both without and with distractions.
In this article, we will go over everything you should know when training your dog to walk on a leash. We will give recommendations for types of leashes to get for your dog, as well as other obedience tricks your dog should master.
As a long-time dog owner and lover, I am going to walk you through the process of teaching and training your dog to walk on a leash. Learning how to do this with your dog will help them learn to listen and pay attention to you. It will also help to reduce stress and distractions while walking your dog. Let’s get started!
How Do You Teach a Dog to Walk on a Leash?
Whether you have a puppy that has never walked on a leash before or an older dog that pulls hard and is disobedient on a leash, all dogs can benefit from some leash training. The ultimate goal of this training is for the dog to walk on a leash without pulling or getting too distracted. As the dog’s owner, you should feel in control of every situation while walking your dog on a leash.
Dogs that pull on their leash while being walked are more likely to distract other dogs, get themselves into unsafe situations like walking into traffic, and generally be difficult to handle. Follow these steps to teach your dog to walk on a leash.
Let Them Get Used to the Leash
Start by letting your dog get used to a leash. This is especially important if you are training a puppy. If they are not used to wearing a leash then they might be more interested in checking it out than walking politely. If you give your dog time to get used to wearing the leash, then they will be more focused on you while walking.
This is also important for older dogs. If you are switching to a new leash or harness, then they will need to get used to the new equipment. Some older dogs get over-excited when they see or get to wear a leash because they know they will get to go for a walk. If your dog does this, practice putting the leash on them and then not going anywhere immediately. This will help your dog calm down when the leash is put on them.
Make Them Pay Attention to You
The next step in training is to make your dog pay attention to you. While you are walking them on a leash, you want them to:
- Stay by your side
- Not pull on the leash
- Not get distracted by smells or other dogs
The best way to achieve these things is to make your dog pay attention to you. You want to be able to pull your dog’s attention away from distractions quickly. Do this by carrying treats with you.
Even before you walk with your dog outside, have them stand next to you indoors while wearing their leash. If they start moving away from you or getting distracted, give them a treat and praise them when they give you attention.
Keep doing this while you walk your dog outside. Each time your dog starts to get distracted, instead of telling them “no,” give them a treat and turn their attention to you. This will teach them that they should pay attention to you and that you are more important than other distractions.
When you give them a treat, pair it with a command like “yes” or even their name. This association with a command will eventually get you to a point where you no longer need to carry treats. You will be able to simply give your command to gain their attention.
Practice in the Same Place
Once your dog is used to the leash and you have determined how you will regain your dog’s attention when they get distracted, you are ready to take them on a walk outside. It is recommended that you practice leash walking in the same location for a bit while your dog is learning leash manners.
Pick a walking route near your home that is fairly distraction-free. Take your dog on this route every time you go for a walk. Continue to give your dog treats throughout the walk to keep their attention on you.
By practicing all of these techniques in the same place, your dog will become less interested in any potential distractions. This will allow you to practice getting and holding your dog’s attention while walking. They will be able to master the basics in a neutral environment before going to more exciting locations.
As they get better with leash manners in this environment, start trying to get their attention with your chosen command word and no treat.
Practice With Distractions
Now that your dog has mastered walking on a leash in their neighborhood, it is time to give them a test. Try walking your dog on a new route. Preferably, choose a route that is frequented by lots of other dogs and people. This will mean that there will be more smells and potentially other dogs that can distract your dog.
When you walk along this new route, continue to give your dog treats to keep their attention on you. You will likely notice times that your dog will start to get distracted by something. They might stop walking or try to pull you in another direction. When this happens, you must pull your dog’s attention to you.
When you notice your dog getting distracted, give them a treat and your chosen command. If they properly remember their training, they should return their focus to you. It might take time to master polite leash walking in distracting locations.
The best way to help your dog truly master this is to keep practicing. Continue to walk with them on your less distracting route close to home. Choose different distracting locations to practice as well. Your dog will become better and better at walking on a leash with practice in a variety of locations.
Eventually, you should get to a point with your dog that they will walk by your side without being tempted by distractions around them. If they start to get distracted, you should be able to regain their attention with a command word. Be sure to give your dog lots of praise when they complete a walk or turn their attention back to you. This is how they will know that they are behaving correctly.
Try a Command For Free Time
Sometimes when you are walking with your dog, you want to give them time to sniff an area or pick a spot to go to the bathroom. According to everything we just talked about, these actions might count as distractions. One thing that you can try is teaching your dog a command that lets them know that they are free to explore and indulge in distractions.
Some people choose the command “free time” for this. To teach this to your dog, choose a spot along your route that you want to designate as a bathroom or free time spot. When you get to this location, loosen the leash and give your dog your chosen command. You can stand in the area until your dog understands that they are free to sniff and explore.
Give them some time in this area to sniff around or go to the bathroom. When you are ready to resume your walk, give them a treat and your chosen command for grabbing their attention. Shorten the leash again, and continue on your walk.
With time, your dog will learn that certain locations are okay for distractions as long as you give your command. Like with any other dog training, this will take some time to master.
Troubleshooting Bad Leash Behavior
Even with all of the proper training and practice, dogs will become distracted at some point during their walks. They may get excited about walking and pull on their leash or lunge at distractions. These are all behaviors that are likely unwanted that you will want to correct.
The best way to combat these behaviors is to, again, bring their attention back to you. If your dog is pulling hard on the leash, you should stop walking. Stand very still and don’t move until your dog returns to your side and gives you attention. When their attention returns to you, give them a treat and praise.
If your dog tends to lunge at distractions like other dogs, you will likely need to intervene. You will probably pick up on this tendency that your dog has early on. When you see that you are approaching another dog or anything else that would excite your dog, gain their attention before your dog has a chance to lunge. Give them a treat and your command for getting their attention. This will bring the attention back to you and they will be much less likely to lunge.
If these troubleshooting tips aren’t helping with your dog’s behavior, you may want to consider a different type of leash for your dog.
What Leash Should I Get For My Dog?
When training isn’t enough to control a distracted dog, a different type of collar and leash setup can sometimes help. Many people walk their dogs by attaching a normal leash to their collar. However, different types of leashes and harnesses can help give you more control over your dog while on walks.
Front Clip Harness
Traditionally, dog harnesses only had a clip on the dog’s back to attach a leash. This was a great placement as it relieved any pressure on the dog’s neck. However, it usually encourages dogs to pull more and gives them even more pulling strength than before.
Harnesses with a front clip, however, achieve both relieving pressure on the dog’s neck and preventing them from pulling. When the leash is attached at the front of the harness, the handler can easily stop their dog and get them to turn around, since the leash is putting pressure on the dog’s chest.
Dual Leash Connection
Some harnesses have both front and back clips. By getting an extra-long leash with clips on both ends, dog owners can have much more control over their dogs. With this style of harness and leash, you can walk your dog by primarily holding the section of the leash attached to the back of the dog.
When you see an approaching distraction, you can pull your dog around to face you by pulling on the section attached to the front of the harness. This type of setup can be easy to get tangled up, so be careful of your dog’s legs and be prepared to un-tangle your dog from the leash a few times while you are getting used to it.
Another common leash setup that dog owners choose is a head halter. This is a harness and leash combination that attaches to the dog’s head. This is one of the most effective tools for getting your dog to stop pulling. Most dogs get their strength from their chests. When the leash is attached to the dog’s head, they lose their pulling power.
Some dog owners have said that these types of harnesses took some getting used to. Since this goes on their head, some dogs get startled by it. Getting your dog accustomed to this type of harness might be similar to training them with a muzzle. Eventually, they will get used to it.
Benefits to Teaching Your Dog to Walk on a Leash
Teaching your dog to walk on a leash is a great start to obedience training. To master this skill, they have to learn to pay attention and listen to you. They will learn that if they listen to you, they will get treats. If you master walking on a leash with obedience, then other training will come much easier.
This training also takes a lot of time. You will spend hours and hours training and walking with your dog. Through this process, you will develop a deep bond with your dog and form a best friend for life.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright