How to Train Your Dog to Accept a Leash

How to Train Your Dog to Accept a Leash
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon3-8 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

When you first started thinking about getting a puppy, you likely envisioned the magical walks that the two of you would go on. Dog and owner, perfectly in sync. You whistling happily while Fido trots obediently at your side. The wind blows gently as you go along, not a care in the world.

Then you got the puppy. It doesn't take too long to realize that canines aren't born with a love of the leash. For some, it's a bit of a chore to get your pooch on lead. For others, it's a downright battle. So how do you get from leash pulling misery to jolly jaunt?

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Defining Tasks

It's no doubt frustrating to see the oodles of happy pups and owners out for a walk on your street each and every day. But take heart, all of these dogs attest to the fact that it is possible and even probable that you and your mutt will get there.

If you are teaching a young pup how to walk on a leash, the difficulty of your task will depend on the breed of dog you have, and on that fur buddy's specific personality. If the dog in question is older, things may be a little tougher. But even senior rescue pooches can be taught to love their leash.

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Getting Started

Being prepared can make the difference between failure and success. To help your pupper learn how to walk on lead, you should have the following:

  • A Good Leash: It may sound obvious, but to teach your dog to use a leash, you need a leash. But the type of leash matters as well. Your dog's size and the level of control you require impact on the type of lead you should get.

  • A Proper Collar: For some dogs, a good fitting collar will do the trick. For others, a harness is key. Some trainers swear by the use of prong collars, especially for the stronger, pulley-er breeds.

  • Treats: Go to your favorite pet shop and buy a big bag of little treats. This way, you can dish out tons of little rewards throughout your training session.

  • A Clicker: Make learning easier by using a clicker. You can buy the little noisemakers at most pet supply stores.

  • Patience! You may not see progress in the first few walks. To be honest, you might not even see much after the first few months. But with persistence, you can teach your doggo proper leash manners.

To make your lead training go smoother, pick one side for your dog to walk on. This helps him from tangling himself up around you, and lets him know he has a designated spot.

Below are some excellent ways to help your furry friend learn that walks are the best things ever. See what one works for you, or combine all three!

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The Happy Interaction Method

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1

Make meeting the leash fun

Help your pup associate her lead with good things. Give her lots of treats the first time she sees and smells the lead.

2

Get her used to it

Let your furbaby tear around the house wearing her leash or harness. This way, it won't be a weird event when you put it on.

3

Teach your dog to come

While the lead is on her, train your puppy to approach you when asked. Use a verbal command, bribe her with treats, and give lots of praise when she obliges.

4

Take the leash and walk

As you're doing this, tell the dog to come, and reward her when she does.

5

Increase the length

At first, your pooch will probably not last too long on walks. But if you gradually increase your distance, soon you two will be unstoppable.

The One Forward, Two Back Method

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Leash up and head outside

With all your pup's gear on, head outside to your yard or a nearby field.

2

Place a treat

Set a yummy goodie a little way ahead as a target for your pooch.

3

Position yourself

Before you go anywhere, have your dog sit politely at your side. Invite her to stand as you're ready to start.

4

If she pulls, turn around

At the first sign of resistance, stop in your tracks and go right back to the starting line.

5

Repeat

It shouldn't take too many failed attempts before your pupper realizes it's her pulling that is keeping her from the treat, but if it does, don't worry! Hang in there and she will get it eventually.

The Click-Reward Method

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1

Get your handy little clicker

Have this cool tool in hand as you head out for the walk.

2

Put the leash on

Make sure your pooch is in all of his walking gear.

3

Watch for the good

Observe your canine closely for the right behavior. As soon as you see your dog walking calmly beside you, even if only for a second, click that clicker (and toss a treat).

4

If you need to, stop and regroup

If your doggo won't stop bouncing around, stop walking and bring him to a sit at your side. Take a second, then resume.

5

Click for slack

As soon as your dog stops pulling and the leash goes loose, click and reward!

6

Bring him in

As he starts to walk a bit better, bring the leash closer to control how he walks. You can give him treats during the process to help him along.

7

Repeat!

Keep practicing all of these steps. Your dog may have relapses, but if you stay determined he will get the idea.

By Amy Caldwell

Published: 10/05/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Spot

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pit bull terrier

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20 Months

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Question

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This is a rescue pup that was apparently beaten by her owner with a leash. Now she won’t allow me to put a leash on her. She barely lets me pet her. - it’s hit and miss. She loves to be outside in the backyard but doesn’t come in when she is called. I guess I actually have a few issues, not just one!

March 28, 2022

Spot's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Darlene, If pup will take food from you, work on associating your presence with food - whenever you enter the room, pup comes over, or they stay calm around you, gently toss pup a piece of kibble throughout the day when you are home. Ration pup's kibble into a couple of ziploc bags for each of you and you can feed pup their entire daily food this way. Also give it time. Once pup is completely comfortable with your presence, you can work up to getting pup used to touch using those same bags of pup's kibble - except now, give pup a piece each time you gently touch them somewhere - like a shoulder, ear, collar, ect...Only touch for as long as it takes pup to eat the food, then remove your hand until the next treat is given. When pup can do that, work on introducing a collar and leash gradually. Simply sprinkling treats around both on the ground for a while, then holding them and letting pup eat food out of the hand holding them, then loosening the collar all the way and holding a treat through it - until pup will willingly put their head all the way through, then feeding pup treats while their head is in the loose collar while you tighten and loosen it to get pup used to that feeling. You may need a second person for the last part of the training - you will gradually introduce it over the course of several days - going at a pace pup can handle. Example of how you will do the collar (but more gradually in your case) with harness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn5b8u1YS_g&feature=emb_title Leash introduction: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash More trust building once pup is okay being closer to you - the section on shy dogs and humans: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ You may also need to work with a trainer who specializes in behavior issues like fear, for specific issues or if you find pup isn't making progress, to tailor a training program to you that's based on how pup is responding in real time. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

March 28, 2022

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Riley

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Chihuahua cross Jack Russell

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4 Months

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It is very difficult to get him to obey. My husband works and is 74 and I am unable to teach him. Iam in Australia

Nov. 7, 2021

Riley's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Theresa, Sometimes visual examples can help things make since more than reading something can. Check out these videos of a puppy class. Follow along with your puppy at home and practice the exercises to help with general basic obedience: Puppy Class videos: Week 1, pt 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnhJGU2NO5k Week 1, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-1-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 2, pt 1 https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-2-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 2, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-2-part-2-home-jasper-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 3, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-3-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 3, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-3-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 4, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-4-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 4, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-4-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 5, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-5-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 5, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-5-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 6, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-6-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 6, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-6-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1-0 Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Zak George from Training Revolution on Youtube also has a lot of training videos, where you can see him teaching lots of different things, to understand visually. It might be worth finding a puppy class in your area too, so that training can show you physically how to manage pup and work through things. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZzFRKsgVMhGTxffpzgTJlQ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 8, 2021


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