Essential Leash Training Guide
The Importance of Leash Training for Your Puppy
Dogs are naturally inclined to wander, sniff, and show no regard for those 30,000lbs machines coming at them at 60 KM/hour. 🚘
No matter how much your pup loves you and seems like they’ll just follow you wherever you go, for their safety and your peace of mind, they need to learn the skill of walking on a leash.
When Do You Start?
You can start leash training your puppy at four to six weeks old.
How long Will It Take?
Leash training takes time, but with repetition and lots of positive reinforcement, it won’t take as long as you might think. While there’s no definitive answer since every dog is unique, the more consistent you are, the faster they will learn. Yes, it’s work on your part initially, but it’s 100% worth it to have happy and safe walks with your dog for years to come.
Train your Dog to Walk on a Leash with These Five Easy Steps
Find the right leash and collar: Find out if a collar or harness is best for your pet. Then get the right fit (and style) to suit their needs. Get the information you need to make the decision easy here.
Pro Tip: Typically, harnesses work for training because they do not put pressure on your dog's neck.
Introduce them to the leash: show it to them, let them smell it, and put it on for short periods while you’re inside and doing something they enjoy (playing, cuddling, etc.). Create a positive association with having it on. AKC shares some stellar advice that we highly recommend:
Practice Inside: it seems simple, and it is. It’s also effective. Put their collar and leash on, then back away and let them come to you (once they do lots of praise!). Then try walking around your home with the leash on. Walk until the leash tightens. Then stop and wait until your dog moves and creates some slack on the leash. LOTS of praise, then walk again. Practice this for ~5 mins, multiple times a day, until you feel confident with taking it outside.
Take it Outside: Keep your first few leash walks short, sweet, distraction-free, and filled with praise. This isn’t about going on a huge walk, taking your dog with you to run errands, or a big trip to the dog park. The only goal here is to take them outside on a leash. Lower your expectations, approach it with patience, and you’ll find it’s a lot easier and less stressful than you thought.
Keep it Loose: Leave a little room for slack on the line. This is more comfortable for your dog, gives them some freedom to sniff, and is less rigid for you. If you’re tense on the leash, your dog will feel that.
Praise Honestly and Often: According to the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, gently petting or touching your dog can minimize the animal's stress response. So it makes sense that a quick pat can offer them the reassurance they need while training too. Treats also work (well). Have lots of treats on hand while you’re training.
What Not to Do
Pulling Back: Yanking on the leash will not teach your dog how to walk on one. AKC suggests to “turn yourself into “a tree.” Stand very still and refuse to move until your dog comes back to you.”
Allowing Your Dog to Direct the Walk: Yes, dogs are meant to stop and sniff everything. That is natural and healthy. However, you must direct the energy. Your dog can decide what to smell, but you decide where you’re walking. Keep a loose leash, and keep the walk going in the direction you want to go.
Then There’s Dog Walking Etiquette
A dog walks into a bar…
Just kidding. Unless they’re explicitly welcome, do not bring your dog into a bar, pub, or restaurant with you.
When we think about dog walking etiquette, three rules come to mind:
- Pick up after your dog
- Put yourself in between your dog and other people or dogs
- If you’re not saying “go pee, go pee” “goooooooood dog” at least once, you’re doing it wrong
If you love rules, Joan Morris of The Mercury News has more etiquette for you here.
If you leave with anything today, we hope it’s that you can leash train your puppy! We believe in you (and them!). And with the five simple steps for leash training you learned today, it won’t be as hard or take as long as you think.
Are you leash training your puppy? Share your progress photos with us #KOSTONPets