How to Train a Chihuahua to Walk on Leash

Medium
3-6 Weeks
General

Introduction

One mistake many Chihuahua owners make is not teaching their little buddy how to walk nicely on a leash. A general thought might be that Chihuahuas are small, therefore, can be carried everywhere or put in a cute little bag or stroller for transportation. Another common idea is that Chihuahuas are so small they don't need to understand how to walk on a leash because there is no danger to the owner of being pulled along. However, when you have a Chihuahua who understands how to walk on a leash, your walks will be faster, more productive, and more pleasurable for you and your dog. Once your Chihuahua understands how the leashes used and what his role is when using a leash for walks, you will able to take him for walks to go potty, walks for leisure or exercise, or keep him on a leash when he needs to be confined or kept safe such as when you are at a veterinarian's office or walking through a pet store.

Defining Tasks

Training your Chihuahua to walk on a leash is less about keeping him from pulling you and more about keeping him moving as you walk along. Unless a Chihuahua is taught to walk on a leash, he may fear the leash and not move. A frozen Chihuahua cannot be pulled along on a walk, and because of their stubborn personalities, he is more likely to dig in and not move at all. When you train your pooch to walk on a leash with positive reinforcement, you are encouraging him to move forward to earn the next treat. This not only teaches him that the leash is necessary but also not harmful. Positive reward-based leash training will teach your Chihuahua leash manners that will include not pulling when he's distracted, not stopping, and not wrapping himself around your legs when he's frightened but rather walking beside you, eager to be next to you and go at your pace until you both reach your destination.

Getting Started

You will need to decide if your Chihuahua is going to wear a harness or a collar. Small dogs are often injured with collars and leashes because they will pull or their owner will tug on the leash, causing neck or trachea injuries. If your Chihuahua is stubborn, consider putting him in a harness. This way if he pulls on the leash his neck will be protected. You will also need lots of high-value treats while you are leash training. High-value treats should be a treat that he only gets while he's doing basic obedience training or treats he only gets during this particular leash training. These high-value treats can be small bits of hot dogs or cheese, beef jerky, or dried meat. Be patient and let your Chihuahua get to know the leash before you even attach it to him.

The Commanding Leash Method

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Step
1
Let’s walk
Train your Chihuahua to understand a command he will recognize each time he sees you pull the leash out in preparation for a walk. This can be anything from 'let's go' to 'let's walk' or 'let's go for a walk.' You can also get your Chihuahua excited by asking him if he wants to go for a walk and even train him to go get his leash himself.
Step
2
Leash
Chihuahuas can be walked without a harness by using a collar instead. However, if your Chihuahua pulls or if you tug on the leash while he is wearing a collar, his neck could be injured. Harnesses help keep the neck of little dogs safe and sound. Introduce your Chihuahua's leash and harness to him while giving him treats.
Step
3
In the house
Once your Chihuahua has gotten used to the leash and harness, take him for a walk around the house. You may need to start by attaching the leash to your Chihuahua's collar or harness and let him walk himself without holding on to the leash so he can feel the weight and get used to having the leash attached.
Step
4
Walk together
Your first few walks together with your Chihuahua on a leash can happen inside your house or outdoors. Pick an area that is free of distraction. Show your Chihuahua a treat, take a step, and then give him the treat. Keep repeating this every few steps until your pup is walking with you for several steps. It may take him time to get used to how a leash works and walking together.
Step
5
Continue
Continue walking several steps and give your Chihuahua a treat as long as he stays with you. As your pup does well on the leash, increase the distance between treats.
Step
6
Redirection
If your Chihuahua pulls in a direction away from you, stop walking and wait for him to stop. Once he stops, turn around and walk in the opposite direction. When your pup catches up with, you give him a treat and start over, treating every few steps.
Step
7
Not walking
If your Chihuahua stops walking altogether, give him a treat, take a step, have him walk to you, and give him a treat. Continue to repeat this until you can increase the distance you walk before giving your Chihuahua pup a treat. Be patient and give him time to get used to the leash and walking next to you.
Step
8
Practice
The best way for your Chihuahua to get used to leash walking and using leash manners is to do it as often as you can. If you are walking on a regular basis with your dog, he will get used to your expectations how the leash feels as well as being rewarded for having nice leash manners.
Recommend training method?

The Redirection Method

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Step
1
Leash
Attach a leash to your Chihuahua's collar or harness. Let your pup walk around for a little bit, dragging the leash so he can feel the weight and get used to the noises his collar makes when attached to a leash.
Step
2
Reward
Start your leash training off on a positive note and give him a reward once he is wearing his leash and walking around getting used to it.
Step
3
No distractions
Take your Chihuahua puppy for a small walk either around your house or around your yard. You will want this area to be free of any distractions so you can have your Chihuahua puppy's full attention.
Step
4
Hold the leash
Hold on to your Chihuahua's leash but make it a loose leash so he doesn't feel any tugging or pulling. Over time, shorten the distance between you and your dog so the leash is a little bit tighter.
Step
5
Stop
Once the leash is tight enough so there is very little slack between you and your Chihuahua, stop walking and wait for him to notice.
Step
6
Turn around
Once your pup has stopped walking, turn yourself around and walk in the opposite direction. Don't pull on the leash, rather loosen it a little bit if your Chihuahua is not turning to catch up with you. When he does turn, slow down and wait for him and give him a treat once he gets to you.
Step
7
Practice
Continue practicing this to get your Chihuahua used to leash walking with you. By stopping every now and then and changing your direction, your Chihuahua is understanding he is to stay with you because he's attached to you by the leash. Just be careful not to pull on him but to loosen the leash as he realizes he needs to catch up with you.
Step
8
Rewards
Be sure you are rewarding your Chihuahua as he walks with you. If he pulls, stop and wait for him to come back to you and reward him. If he stays with you, reward him every few steps. If you change directions, loosen the leash between you and reward him when he comes back to you.
Step
9
Distance
Over time, you should be able to add distance to your training sessions and then go for longer walks together. Be sure to redirect your Chihuahua when you are on walks together. If he starts to pull, stop walking or turn and change directions.
Recommend training method?

The Puppy Heel Method

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Step
1
Preparation
Prepare your Chihuahua for a walk by attaching his leash to his collar or harness. Be sure to have a bag of high-value tasty treats in your pocket or ready to go while walking.
Step
2
Position
Play your Chihuahua on your left side. This is a typical trainer's position for heel. Once your pup is settled on the leash on your left side and ready to go, give him a treat.
Step
3
Step, step
Hold the treat out on your left side and take a step forward. Your Chihuahua should follow you. If he does, give him the treat. Continue this a couple of steps at a time while treating your pup as long as he walks at your pace next to you.
Step
4
Treat lure
Continue giving your pooch treats as he walks next to you on your left side. You can lure him along by holding the treat in your left hand and taking several steps before you give it to him.
Step
5
Stop and command
Once your Chihuahua puppy is used to the act of walking next to you on his leash, challenge him by stopping and giving the command to 'heel'.
Step
6
Practice
By adding the command "heel" to your walks, your Chihuahua puppy will begin to associate the command with walking at your pace on your left side while on his leash.
Step
7
Rewards
Be sure to continue practicing the 'heel' command by stopping every now and then and starting over with the command, stepping forward and rewarding your Chihuahua for staying with you. This takes lots of practice and your pup will need time to get used to your expectations as well as how the leash feels.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Papi
chihuahua and part terrier
9 Years
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Question
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Papi
chihuahua and part terrier
9 Years

When I walk him and he loves walks, but he is very agressive when he sees other dogs, people on bikes, running and I have to restrain him cuz he wants to go after them and barks at other dogs. He will not curb his when I pull on his leash and I have to shorten it also. I have had him for 2 yrs + and don't know what to do. Please help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
667 Dog owners recommended

Hello Karen, I suggest working on the structure of your walk first. You want pup to be working during the walk - having to stay behind you, focus on you, perform commands periodically, and not have his mind on scanning the area in search of other dogs. The walk should start with him having to exit your home very calmly, performing obedience commands at the door if he isn't calm. He should wait for permission ("Okay" or "Free" or "Let's Go") before going through the door instead of bolting through if that's an issue. When you walk he should be in the heel position - with his head behind your leg. That position decreases his arousal, reduces stress because he isn't the one in charge and the one encountering things first. It prevents him from scanning for other dogs, staring dogs down or being stared down, and ignoring you behind him. It also requires him to be in a more submissive, structured, focused, calmer mindset - which has a direct effect on how aroused, stressed, and aggressive he is - it makes him feel like the responsibility is on your shoulders not his around other dogs. Additionally, when you do pass other dogs, as soon as he starts staring them down, interrupt him. Don't tolerate challenging stares at other dogs. Remind him with a fair correction that you are leading the walk and he is not allowed to break his heel or stare another dog down. It is far easier to deal with reactivity when you interrupt a dog early in the process - before they are highly aroused and full of adrenaline and cortisol, and to keep the dog in a less aroused/calmer state to begin with. This also makes the walk more pleasant for him in the long-run. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Reactive dog - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY8s_MlqDNE Leading the walk this way can actually boost a dog's confidence in the long run around other dogs because the dog feels like you will handle the situation so they can relax. Be picky about which dogs he greets if he ever greets other dogs. Avoid nose-to-nose greetings with dogs who lack manners. A simple "He's in training" tends to work well. Be picky about who and how he meets other dogs. Avoid dogs that don't respect his space, pull their owners over to him, and generally are not listening well - those dogs are often friendly but they are rude and difficult for some less tolerant dogs to meet on leash. Also, avoid greeting dogs who look very tense around your dog, who stare him down, who give warning signs like a low growl or lip lift, who look very puffed up and proud - that type greeting with a dog is likely to end in a fight since your dog doesn't know how to diffuse that situation. A stiff wag is also a bad sign. A friendly wag looks relaxed and loose with relaxed body language overall. A tense dog with a very stiff wag, especially with a tail held high is a sign of arousal and not always a good thing. Outside of the walk you can work on building pup's trust and respect for you in other ways too. The following commands and exercises are also good for that: If nervousness is ever an issue - Agility/obstacles for building confidence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elvtxiDW6g0 Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M A long down stay around distractions is a good thing to practice during walks periodically. A good way to socialize with other dogs is to recruit friends with calm dogs and use the Passing Approach and the Walking together methods from the article linked below. After a few practice session of this, when the dogs can calmly walk side by side finally, take pups on walks together with both in a structured, focused heel. This gives both dogs something other than each other to focus on, keeps their energy calm, and helps them associate each other with the pleasant experience of a walk. Repeat this with lots of different dogs, one or two dogs at a time - you want other dogs to be associated with calmness, pleasant experiences, and boring things - not roughhousing, wrestling, nose-to-nose interactions always, or being rushed by them. (Due to covid-19, you can keep walks with another person more spaced apart, instead of side by side) https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Once pup is doing better, then begin to reward pup for staying calm and focusing on you as you pass other dogs. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Harpo
Chihuahua
4 Months
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Question
0 found helpful
Harpo
Chihuahua
4 Months

Hi. My chihuahua will not walk on his leash. I have tried luring him with treats and nothing works. He refuses to walk I don’t know what else to do, he has never been on a walk yet , only running around in the garden

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
667 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ashleigh, Pay attention to pup's body language and the environment. Some pups don't want to walk because they are afraid of a neighborhood dog in a fence barking, construction workers, funny objects (like Christmas decorations), and things we would never think twice about. If pup isn't familiar with something (no matter how normal it may seem to us) it can feel scary to pup and be a reason why they don't want to leave the safety of the yard. If pup seems nervous or something might be bothering them in the environment, work on helping pup overcome that fear first by using play and treats to distract pup and then reward pup for any confidence, calmness, or tolerance they shows around the fearful thing. Practice this further away from the scary thing first and very gradually work up to pup being able to pass that thing as his confidence grows with your help. Simply spending time sitting outside with pup daily in the environment pup is uncertain of - without expecting walking yet - can help the area become less scary or distracting. Next, spend time getting pup used to leash pressure in general if pup's not familiar with coming forward toward you when there is a leash tug. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash Next, if pup still won't walk, take some small treats or pup's dog food pieces in a small ziplock bag in your pocket or a favorite toy. Every time pup takes a couple of steps, give a treat or toss the toy a step forward or let pup give the toy a tug. Keep your energy excited and confident. When pup stops, tell pup "Let's Go" in a calm and business-like tone of voice (it's not a question, it's a confident, calm command), then tug and release the leash several times in a row until pup takes a couple more steps - at which point give another treat or play. The leash tugs should stop as soon as pup starts moving. Keep your walking goals short at first. If pup won't leave your yard - your first goal is just to leave the yard. When pup reaches that goal - go home as an additional reward for pup following you - even if a lot of leash tugs were involved. When pup will go to the end of the yard easily then walk to the next house. Gradually increase your walk distance overtime. If you make your goal something huge like the whole neighborhood at first you are less likely to succeed - work up to distance overtime. Also, do not continuously pull pup on the leash. Doing so can harm pup's neck, but also dog's have a natural tendency to pull away from something - so if you pull pup in one direction, he will just pull back in the other direction, budging even less. This is why you do the quick tug and releases so that not following is uncomfortable with the tugs but not a continuous pull. You want pup to choose to walk to get away from the annoying tugs and to receive treats. I suspect pup is nervous or distracted about the environment or not sure how to respond to leash pressure - so don't skip over desensitizing pup to the environment and leash if pup seems at all nervous about those things - freezing and looking like a deer in headlights is one sign of nervousness. Finally, make sure pup isn't in pain or sick, causing him not to want to exercise in any form due to feeling bad. If you have reason to suspect pup is ill or injured, definitely see your vet. (I am not a vet) Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Taco
Chihuahua
9 Months
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Question
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Taco
Chihuahua
9 Months

Every time I take him outside on his leash and harness he just Sit on the grass with his ears back scared

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, is this a new behavior for Taco? Or is he new to you and not yet comfortable with things? Continue taking him outside - don't pressure him to walk yet. Take a look here for suggestions:https://wagwalking.com/training/not-be-scared. If he is okay inside the home, adapt the steps to the outside. The Picnic Method here may help: https://wagwalking.com/training/be-independent. Get Taco used to being outside and then work on the walks. There is a chance that Taco is afraid of the leash. In that case, this guide has great tips on getting a puppy used to a leash, including practicing a lot inside so Taco can feel at ease.https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-beagle-puppy-to-walk-on-a-leash. Good luck!

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