How to Train a Dog to Walk on a Leash (The Basics)

Whether you're introducing a puppy to his leash or training an older dog to walk more politely, leash training is important. And, let's face it: the outdoors are filled with temptation for dogs. In order to control your dog on walks, establish boundaries early for the sake of your dog's happiness, your own sanity, and the safety of the animals and people around you. So what's the best way to leash train a dog? Check it out!

Choosing the Right Equipment

Training a dog to walk on a leash demands the right equipment. No-pull collars, harnesses, choke chains, and pinch collars are actually counter-productive to teaching good manners. They are used by and for people who cannot exercise control over their dogs without using physical force, and are methods of avoiding the work of training.

For proper training, use a regular snap or buckle collar and a static leash. Extendable leashes can be great for exercise, but are not helpful when establishing good leash habits.

You want to teach your dog to respect a set boundary and stay close to you, so choose a leash that is six feet or shorter in length.

If you're in a hurry, here's a quick video demonstration:

Setting Yourself up for Success

While your dog is learning to walk on a leash, make every walk a learning opportunity. Do not switch from a training session to a run where the dog sets the pace; this kind of confusion can be a major setback in your training.

If your dog has a lot of energy, consider hitting a leash-free dog park or playing fetch in the backyard to tire her out right before going on a training walk, as this will improve her manners.

Set the tone for the walk by having your dog sit when you take out the leash. If he jumps up and down, calmly wait for him to stop and sit politely before putting on the leash and heading out the door. Additionally, don't let the dog rush out the door before you, but have her remain calm and follow you out the door.

How to Train a Dog to Walk on Leash Without Pulling

One of the most common problems when teaching a dog to walk on a leash pulling. Maybe the dog just wants to go faster, or sees another dog across the street. It doesn't matter what the reason, the point is that the dog needs to learn that you are the one in charge of setting the walk's pace.

Pulling can hurt the dog, as the collar puts pressure on the dog's windpipe, and it can put both of you in danger, particularly if the dog is large.

You may feel frustrated that your dog isn't listening to you, but acting on that frustration will only lead to more negative behavior. Be assertive without being angry, and your dog will trust you and follow your lead.

The easiest and gentlest way to correct the puller is to simply stop when you feel pressure on the leash. Once you stop walking and stand still, the dog may realize that pulling isn't getting him anywhere. If she doesn't, and continues to pull, turn around slowly and take a few steps in the opposite direction.

When the dog follows your lead, praise her. Eventually he will associate following your lead with praise, and pulling on the leash with not getting what he wants.

Coaxing the Stubborn 

Some dogs have the opposite problem--they will freeze up, sit down, lay down, or otherwise refuse to cooperate. Often this behavior is a result of fear, and is often seen in rescue dogs with a history of trauma. For a dog like this, its important to walk in a quiet place with as little going on as possible.

Often dogs like this can be easily coaxed with treats. Simply hold a treat out in front of the dog, and praise her when she walks to reach the treat.

The most important thing here is to stay positive, calm, and patient. Getting frustrated with your dog's progress will only exacerbate the problem, so be happy with the results you're seeing: one block today could mean two blocks tomorrow!

If your dog is stubborn AND small, resist the urge to carry her. The dog has to learn that he's safe with you in the outdoors, and a few positive experience on his own feet will teach him that.

Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize

The goal of leash training is slack in the leash, so that you can walk naturally with your hand by your side and your dog can walk happily without any tugging on his windpipe. Once you've got this down, you will both be able to enjoy walks more!

Leash train your dog


Resources for Leash Training


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