There are many benefits to teaching your dog to walk on a leash. However, it’s one of the more difficult skills to master. How do we make leash training not like pulling teeth? Here are our top 5 tips for teaching your dog to walk on a leash:
Introduce Your Dog to Their Collar and Leash Early
If you are just getting started with leash training or if you have a new dog you are training, be sure to start getting them warmed up as soon as you can. The younger a dog is when you start training, the easier it will be for them to get used to the leash.
Start off by just showing the leash to your dog. Keep their leash and collar around so they can see it and maybe even play with it. Eventually, you can try putting these items on your dog. Start slowly at first. Just clip on their collar for a few seconds and see how they respond. Be sure to have toys and treats when you are fitting their collar on. You want to make sure your dog associates collar time with fun and rewards.
Teach a Cue Word
You need to pick a cue word that makes sense to you. The purpose of the word is to get your dog to focus their attention on you. The idea is that you say the word and your dog will look to you for a treat. You reinforce this behavior by actually treating them.
A word like “yes” is very common, though you can choose to use a clicker if you’ll continue clicker training. You might instead make a tongue click since it’s a sharp sound that is sure to get your dog’s attention. Whatever you choose, make the sound or say the word and treat them. Your dog will eventually begin looking to you and expecting a treat each time they hear it. By reinforcing this, you ensure that you’ll be able to get your dog’s attention even when you’re outside.
The one mistake many people make when leash training is to not follow through. In order for your dog to become an expert on the leash, you need to practice a lot. Starting inside is going to be easiest since there will be fewer distractions competing for your dog’s attention.
You want to put the leash and collar on your dog, say the cue word you’ve chosen, and reward them with a treat when they come to you. After your dog is successful, take a few steps back and try again. This will help accustom your dog to walking on the leash. Just make sure you keep training sessions short. Once your dog seems to get the hang of it, give an outside walk a go.
To Stop Pulling
If you are heading out with your dog and find that they continue to pull while on leash, there are a few things you can do to curb this behavior.
- You need to “capture” your dog’s good behavior. This means that any time your dog does what you want, say your cue word and reward them. Even if your dog spends the majority of your walk like they’re trying to pull a semi-truck if the leash goes slack one time you should mark it and reward.
- Your dog may give up pulling if they figure out it doesn’t get them where they want to go any faster. When they pull, stop walking and wait for your dog to look to you. Once your dog lets the leash go slack, mark it with the cue word and reward them.
- Even after your dog learns that they will be rewarded for not pulling, they may forget the expectations eventually. If they begin pulling again, remember to catch them doing good by marking it and rewarding them.
Redirect Bad Behavior
If you are having trouble keeping your dog civilized while on a walk, try redirecting their behavior before they have the chance to act up. If your dog tends to bark at anything and everything that crosses their path, try to get their attention on you before they can bark. Give your dog a command to follow as well. If they’ve mastered the sit command, tell them to sit, treat them when they do, and let them know when it’s time to keep moving.
Giving your dog a command can help draw attention away from their troubled behavior and focus them on the task at hand.
Bonus Tip: Be Patient and Consistent
There are so many distractions outside, and leash walking is not a skill your dog will learn overnight. So, be persistent and, more importantly, patient during the training process.