Most dogs and puppies love to go for long walks. To make the walks also enjoyable for pet parents, the dog will need to be leash trained — preferably when they’re a puppy. For first-time pet parents – especially those with larger, active dogs – it can be challenging. Here are some helpful steps to get started.
Steps to Leash Train a Puppy
It’s never too late to begin leash training a dog. However, for the best results, pet parents should begin training the first day they bring their dog or puppy home. Puppy leash training varies from pet to pet, and pet parents will need to be patient throughout the process.
Step 1: The Collar and Leash
There are many collars and leashes on the market. They come in many designs and colors so pet parents won’t have a problem finding one that matches their puppy’s personality. Pet parents should made sure to get a leash that is durable but also provides comfort for the pet like nylon or leather. Leashes around 4 - 6 feet work best for control while training.
Some collars and leashes can be harmful to a puppy. The following collars and leashes are not recommended:
Choke and prong collars: They damage the puppy’s neck and throat.
Shock collars: They hurt the puppy and cause anxiety.
Retractable leashes: They break easily and encourage pulling. Pet parents also have less control during training.
Step 2: Introduce the Collar and Leash
Dogs and puppies should always wear a collar with identification tags. However, it’s important for pet parents to make sure the collar isn’t too tight and to check it regularly when they are growing.
Introducing the collar should be a slow process. The puppy won’t understand why something is being put around their neck and can be scared of the collar. Pet parents should first show the puppy the collar and leash.
Next, pet parents can put the collar on the puppy and give them a reward. If the puppy seems scared, then the pet parent should remove the collar. Every time the pet parent puts the collar on the puppy, the puppy should be given a reward.
Eventually, the puppy learns the collar and leash means they’ll get a treat.
Step 3: Walks in the House
If the puppy is slow to warm to the leash, try walking them around the house first and rewarding them. When a dog or puppy constantly pulls on the leash, it can be harmful to them and stressful for their pet parent. By starting in the home, the puppy can learn how to walk on the leash before adding all the outdoor stimuli and distractions.
While practicing inside, pet parents should begin teaching their puppy commands such as heel, sit, stay, and come. When teaching the commands, pet parents should always have a reward ready.
Step 4: Walks Outside
When going for walks outside, the puppy will be faced with sensory overload. There are plenty of sounds, smells, and things to see. To help keep the puppy focused, pet parents should bring a few small rewards with them on the walk.
While walking, pet parents should only give the puppy enough slack in the leash for them to comfortably walk next to their pet parent. If the puppy begins pulling on the leash, the pet parent should stop walking and make the puppy sit. This action will help redirect the puppy’s attention. Once the puppy is sitting, they can be given a reward and begin walking again.
Puppies and dogs are easily distracted so it can take a lot of practice before the puppy is walking correctly on a leash.
Pet Parent Training
Leash training a puppy isn’t just about training the puppy. In many instances, the pet parent requires some training. When a puppy pulls, lunges or barks while leash training, pet parents may react negatively. These reactions typically don’t help with puppy training.
Behaviors pet parents should avoid include:
- Yanking or jerking the leash
- Pulling or dragging the puppy
- Yelling at the puppy
As the puppy learns to properly walk on a leash, pet parents will need to do a lot of troubleshooting. Here are a few ways pet parents can redirect their puppy’s negative behavior:
- Stop walking when the puppy begins to pull on the leash
- Redirect the puppy’s attention when they become fixated on something
- Put distance between them and the fixation
Having rewards on hand will help pet parents when they need to redirect a puppy’s behavior while on a walk. For example, if the puppy is pulling on the leash, the pet parent should stop and wait for the puppy to stop pulling. Once the puppy stops, the pet parent should immediately reward the puppy.
For more stubborn puppies that won’t stop pulling even after the pet parent stops, the pet parent can show the puppy the reward to help motivate them to stop pulling on the leash. Consistency and positive reinforcement are key. Every dog learns at their own pace, keep with it and they'll be walking like a pro in no time.