How to Leash Train a German Shepherd Puppy

Medium
2-4 Months
General

Introduction

Have you ever watched a well trained dog walk attentively beside his owner through a crowded outdoor shopping plaza? Have you ever seen a Service Dog walk nicely beside her owner through an airport off leash?  When you see a dog stay beside his owner through high levels of distraction it is always very impressive. Training a dog to walk beside you in the presence of such distraction can be a challenge, but if you begin when your dog is young then your dog can truly master this skill.

As you may have already discovered, your German Shepherd is probably very intelligent and likely loves to work and to learn. Teaching your puppy to walk nicely on a leash is not only important for meeting his exercise needs, but it is also a great way to stimulate him mentally and to give him something purposeful to do. Additionally, teaching your puppy to walk nicely on the leash also makes it easier for you to go places with him and to socialize him. Socializing your puppy when he is young can prevent him from becoming fearful, aggressive, or overly protective. It can also prepare him for other specialized work, such as Service Dog work, Therapy Dog work, Canine Good Citizen certification, Schutzhund work, Advanced Obedience, and Agility or Flyball.

Defining Tasks

It is so enjoyable to be able to go for a walk with your well-trained dog. Teaching your puppy to walk beside you on the leash now will be much easier than trying to teach him when he weighs over seventy pounds and has developed bad leash pulling habits. By starting early, you are also exposing him to many important sights and sounds while you are walking him, and you are meeting his exercise needs as he grows. Teaching your puppy to walk beside you can also help your puppy to trust and respect you, as well as teach him to listen and focus on you better.

Although teaching your puppy to walk beside you on the leash without pulling is fairly simple, it may take your puppy a lot of practice before he will do it when he is around distractions. Being consistent and continuing to practice often will help him to learn, though. Expect this to take between two to four months to truly train. He should begin to understand what he is supposed to do within a couple of weeks, but it might take him a lot of practice before he can do it when he is distracted. For this reason, be patient. By teaching him this while he is young you are gaining a lifetime of enjoyable walks with him and preventing years of frustration from him pulling.

While teaching this it is important to pay close attention to your puppy. Watch for opportunities to reward him for walking right beside you and looking at you. Pay careful attention to where his body is. If his head begins to move in front of your leg by more than a couple of inches, then be ready to move in front of him, stop, or get his focus back on the treat, depending on which method you are using to teach him. It is much easier to teach him if you act as soon as he starts to get ahead of you, rather than when he is a foot or two ahead of you.

Keep things fun and upbeat as much as possible, especially when he is successful. It is important to let him know when he is doing well so that he will understand what he is supposed to be doing. If you are getting frustrated, then it is best to end your walk on a successful note and then return home and try again later when you are feeling better. Remember that he is still learning, and at first will not understand what he is supposed to be doing. He will need time and your help to learn.

Getting Started

To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. Choose treats that will be easy for him to eat while moving, such as real meat, freeze dried treats, or something else that is very soft or dissolves. You will also need a six-foot leash and regular collar that your puppy will cannot slip out of. If you are using the 'Treat Luring' method and you are practicing in a safe, enclosed area, then you can practice this method without a leash at first. It is important to use a six-foot leash rather than a shorter three or four-foot leash or a retractable leash while you are teaching this. Additionally, you will need patience, good timing, focus on your dog, and a great attitude!

The Treat Luring Method

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Step
1
Get set up
To begin, either attach a six-foot leash to your puppy's collar or go to a safe enclosed space with enough room to walk around. If you are in a safe place then you may practice this method off leash.
Step
2
Show the treat
Have your puppy stand on your left side. Hold a treat in your left hand and place your hand against your left hip, where your dog can see the treat.
Step
3
Walk forward
With the treat at your hip, walk forward while telling your dog "Heel", and if your puppy follows with his head by your leg, then praise him and offer him the treat.
Step
4
Turn right
Practice walking forward and rewarding your puppy several times. When he is doing well, then turn to your right, so that he has to hurry up to stay beside your leg. When he catches up and his head is by your leg again, praise him and offer him another treat.
Step
5
Turn left
When your dog is doing well turning right and walking straight, then add in left turns. While you are walking straight, speed up a little bit to get in front of your dog, and then turn left in front of him, being careful not to step on him when you do this. When he slows down to stay by your side, praise him and offer him a treat.
Step
6
Put it together
When your dog is doing well with walking straight, turning right, and turning left, then practice walking around obstacles that require you to turn both directions. Continue to reward him for staying right beside you when you turn and for staying right beside you when you walk straight.
Step
7
Phase out the lure
When your puppy is staying right with you and focusing on the treat while he walks, then begin to remove the treat from his sight. To remove the treat, first raise the treat to your left eye, with your head turned toward him, so that your puppy is looking at your face. When your puppy is walking nicely while looking at your face, then remove the treat from your hand but continue to point to your eye with an empty hand while you walk. When your puppy is doing well with that also, then remove your hand entirely, and when you reward your puppy keep the treats out of his sight until right before you hand him one. Do this so that he will look at your face rather than at the treats while you walk.
Step
8
Increase distance
Gradually decrease the number of treats that you are giving your puppy by only rewarding him for walking with you for longer periods of time than he did before, or for paying better attention to you than he previously was.
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The Turning Method

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Step
1
Position your dog
To begin, attach a six foot leash to your puppy's collar and have him sit or stand right beside you, with his head beside your leg.
Step
2
Walk forward
With your puppy right beside you, with his head next to your leg but not in front of it, take a couple of steps forward. If your puppy stays right beside you when you step, then praise him and offer him a treat. If he pulls ahead, then speed up and step in front of him, at a ninety degree angle, then walk a couple of more steps in that direction. If your puppy is too far ahead of you for you to be able to step in front of him, then turn away from him, at a ninety degree angle, and walk forward in that direction a couple of steps, so that he has to catch up to you.
Step
3
Speed up
When you walk forward, if your puppy falls behind or wanders off to the side, then turn away from him, at a ninety degree angle, and walk faster to encourage him to hurry up.
Step
4
Reward
When your puppy adjusts his speed to stay beside you as you walk and turn, and when he looks up at you, praise him and offer him a treat.
Step
5
Repeat
When your puppy will stay right beside you every time you turn and walk straight, then begin to add more steps. Practice walking straight and turning with the additional step added in until you puppy is consistently staying beside you. When your puppy is consistently staying beside you with the additional step, then add one more again. Repeat this process until you can go on a full walk without your puppy pulling.
Step
6
Add distractions
When you can go on a walk with your puppy right beside you the entire time, then begin to practice this around different types of distractions. Practice around one new type of distraction at a time, only moving onto the next type of distraction when your puppy can walk right beside you even in the presence of the current distraction. Different types of distractions might include: walking through crowds of people, walking in public places such as stores and parks, walking with multiple people, and walking around or with other dogs.
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The Stopping Method

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Step
1
Get set up
To begin, attach a six-foot leash to your puppy's collar. Have your puppy stand or sit with his head right beside your leg. Hide several treats in your pocket or on the other side of your body, where you puppy cannot see them.
Step
2
Take one step
With your puppy right beside your leg, take one step forward and stop. If your puppy stays beside you and does not pull ahead, then praise him and offer him a treat. If you puppy pulls ahead, then when he hits the end of the leash, stand very still and wait. If he comes back to your side on his own, praise him and take one more step forward, then stop. If he does not come back to your side on his own, gently pull him back to you and when he is by your side and no longer pulling on the leash, take one more step and stop again. Be patient, it may take him a couple of minutes to stop pulling before you can take another step.
Step
3
Repeat
Repeat the process of taking one step and stopping until your puppy stays with you each time and does not pull ahead.
Step
4
Increase steps
When your puppy is staying with you when you take single steps, then gradually add more steps. First add only one step, so that you are taking two steps in a row. If your puppy pulls ahead on the first step then stop before the second step, until he is nicely beside you again. When your puppy consistently stays beside you for two steps, without pulling, then add a third step. Repeat this process until you have added enough steps that you can walk straight without him pulling.
Step
5
Add turns
When you can walk straight and your puppy will stay right beside you, then add turns. To add turns, practice turning to the right and to the left, away from your puppy and toward your puppy. If your puppy speeds up to stay right beside you when you turn away from him, then praise him and offer him a treat. If he slows down to stay beside you when you turn toward him, then praise him and offer him a treat. Practice this until he will adjust his speed to stay beside you whenever you turn.
Step
6
Add distractions
When your puppy can walk beside you without pulling when you walk straight and make turns, then practice walking around different types of distractions. If your puppy begins to pull again, go back to taking one step and stopping, until your puppy will stay beside you for multiple steps around that particular distraction. Add one new type of distraction at a time, practicing around it until your dog will walk nicely around it, before adding another.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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