Adding a new puppy to your family is highly exciting for a plethora of reasons. While there are plenty of fun parts of pet ownership, one of the more serious things that you have to do is train your pet.
Training your pet to walk on a leash specifically is an essential skill that they must have. For one, going on walks is an excellent opportunity for your animal to get their steps in. Any sort of training will also help your pet establish a sense of order, including potty training.
Of course, not all training is easy. It’s completely understandable if you are unsure where to start when it comes to leash training your dog or puppy. This article will provide you with an outline of how to tackle this essential training activity.
Whether you have trained several dogs how to walk on a leash in the past or this is your first one, you are inevitably going to wonder: where do I start?
Keep reading to get a robust understanding of how to tackle this. In addition, you will also learn how to take dogs outdoors and more about the timeline for leash training.
There is plenty to learn, and getting a head start on this will help set your puppy up for success. Once your dog becomes acclimated to walking on a leash, you will find that they are happy to do so and happily await their walks.
How should I start leash training a dog?
So you have decided to start leash training your pup. Congratulations, this is an exciting step. Figuring out where to start is the most intimidating part of the process, and that’s why this guide will help tremendously. Your first step is going to be to acquire the necessary materials and introduce them to your puppy.
You will also teach them cues by utilizing rewards and make your pet learn how to come to you. It’s also wise to practice this at home until you are confident that your pet would know what to do in a real-world scenario.
Introduce your puppy to a harness/collar and leash
First, it is important to make a distinction between collars and harnesses, as you will need to make the correct selection for your pet. While these two seem similar, the reality is that there are some differences that can establish one as better for your pet over the other.
Harnesses are a great training tool to use when your pup has not yet learned how to walk on a leash. Therefore, for a young puppy that is just learning, this might be the way to go. Harnesses also gain points for the fact that they make controlling a dog that isn’t leash trained easier.
In addition, whether you have a large or small dog, a harness could be an excellent choice. If you have a large dog, using a harness can help ensure that you have more control. It is also easier on both the arms and back.
On the contrary, if you have a small dog, a harness is a great idea because it disperses pressure over a larger part of their body. This reduces strain on both their back and neck. Small dogs can sometimes be prone to injury that results from pulling on a leash, so this could be an effective way to help ensure that does not happen. Overall, harnesses are known for discouraging pets from pulling.
Until your dog is mature and able to walk properly on a leash, you should stay away from a collar and focus your energy on training your dog using a harness. If you have a question about the right match for your pet, ask a vet.
Pawp’s online vets are available to answer whatever questions you might have about leash training, and there’s never an appointment necessary or any wait.
Teach them cues using rewards
Dogs respond to rewards, which is why that’s the best way to tackle teaching them cues. To begin, introduce the pup to a sound that means “food is on the way.” You could use a clicker, or you could use a word. Whatever you do, be mindful that you are consistent with it.
Once you’ve selected what the sound will be, find a quiet place to practice. When the pup is in their harness and leash, make that noise.
Once they look at you, reward them by giving them a treat. After repeating this a few times, you will begin to notice that your pet is not just looking over at you but expecting a treat.
Make them come to you
Your next task is to teach your pet to come to you. Your puppy should be wearing their harness and leash, and when they are on their way walking to you, take several steps backward.
Once the pup reaches you, you can provide them with a reward to signal that it was a positive behavior. Continue this until the new pup, once they hear the cue noise, comes over to you and even walks a few paces with you.
Remember: this will take patience and time. Puppies aren’t known for their long attention span, and you don’t want to frustrate or mentally exhaust them.
It is better to keep your sessions on the shorter side and end them when your puppy wants to continue going than it is to mentally deplete the young dog with training.
Practice at home
Once your pup understands how they can come to you, it’s your time to practice walking around in a room. There should be few distractions. Continue to offer the puppy treats when they are doing something correctly, and offer verbal praise, too.
How should I take them outdoors?
Once your puppy has mastered walking on a leash at home, it’s time to bring them to the great outdoors.
Here’s how to do it:
Keep the walks short
When you are beginning the learning process with your new pet, it is essential that you keep the walks you take short. This is because you want the sessions to be positive. You don’t want your pet to get overwhelmed, so start off small, and you can eventually add time.
Look out for distractions
If your dog sees a critter like a squirrel outside, they might try to lunge at it. This is because your dog pays attention to distractions. Your job as their walker is to anticipate a distraction and guide them away from it.
If your dog appears to be looking off at something or seems distracted—which you will notice if you are paying diligent attention to the pet—make your cue sound and take a few steps away from the situation. Once they follow you, give them a treat that they enjoy to signal that it is a positive behavior.
Don’t move when they pull
You don’t want your dog to erroneously think that they will be able to get away with bad behavior such as pulling when you are walking them. If you notice that your dog begins pulling at any part of the walk, you should stop moving.
Remember: you are walking the dog, and your dog shouldn’t be walking you. It’s important that throughout the course of your walk, you gently remind your pet that you are the boss. Growing older, for dogs and people, is about testing boundaries. You can be a wonderful pack leader by leading with confidence and kindness.
Redirect their attention
They’ll likely turn and look at you to see why you have stopped walking. The moment the leash goes slack, you can begin to walk again. You can also reward the dog and say “Yes!”
Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise
Exercise is key to good behavior in dogs. A dog that has pent-up energy can easily turn destructive, so use walks as an opportunity for your dog to find a healthy outlet to let out their bottled-up energy.
How long does it take to leash train a dog?
It’s hard to put an exact timeline on how long it will take you to leash train your dog. This is because there are several factors that must be taken into consideration. Age is one of those. For instance, training a six-month-old puppy how to walk on a leash is going to be considerably easier than an eight-year-old dog that has never done so before.
In addition, the amount of time that you put into training is likely what you will get out of it. As mentioned earlier, you should keep the sessions short so that your dog does not get exhausted or overwhelmed.
You should keep your leash training lessons to just three to five minutes, and you can repeat these two to three times per day. You should also try to set aside time dedicated to this task. It may be hard to find the time in the midst of a busy day, but this skill is vital.
Pawp veterinarian Dr. Sylvalyn Hammond recommends an early start to leash training. She says, “Leash training should begin as soon as a puppy reaches their first home or at six weeks of age, whichever comes first.”
Leash training your dog doesn’t have to be difficult
Leash training a puppy or dog does not have to be as difficult as you fear it might be. Of course, if you are finding that none of these tips are working for your pet, you might want to reach out to a behavioral specialist that can help you get to the bottom of your pet’s behavior.
Have patience and remember: sometimes it takes a while, sometimes it is a relatively quick and painless process. Whatever happens, it will be worth the effort you took. If you find yourself struggling or simply would like a second opinion, reach out to Pawp for expert veterinary care.
LEASH TRAINING SOURCES:
Loose Leash Walking, Animal Health Topics | UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
The behavioral effects of walking on a collar and harness in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) | Journal of Veterinary Behavior
Teaching the Recall or “Come” Cue | PSU
Is Clicker Training More Effective Than Verbal Cues With Shelter Dogs? | Appalachian State University