How to Train a Dachshund to Walk on Leash

How to Train a Dachshund to Walk on Leash
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-6 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

You are tempted to walk the dog under cover of darkness. You see, your Dachshund has got into such a bad habit on the leash. He pulls. In fact, he doesn't just pull, he tows you along. It's embarrassing, especially when it's such a small dog who's bossing you around. 

It would be great to stop this bad habit but you're worried about jerking on the leash and hurting his back. Mind you,  pulling so hard on the leash such that his front paws leave the ground isn't good for his back either. 

Part of the problem is that he's so keen to get to the park, he becomes deaf to calls of "heel" and now it's you that's nearly at the end of your tether. 

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Defining Tasks

Training a Dachshund to walk on a leash is about having him walk on a slack lead while listening to you. Also known as 'walking to heel', this doesn't have to be a regimented affair, where the dog stares up at you while moving forward. It is perfectly acceptable for a pet Dachshund (rather than one participating in obedience competitions.) to walk steadily forward as long as there is slack in the leash. 

Unfortunately, what sounds like a simple task is deceptively difficult given that Dachshunds love to get ahead, which then involves them pulling badly. Not only is this bad manners, but it's bad for the Dachshund's long low back, as it puts it under strain. 

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Getting Started

To leash train a Dachshund, you need patience and consistency. They are an intelligent dog, but this can also make them strong-minded and prone to distraction. You also have a special consideration in the Dachshund in that he has a delicate spine, so harsh or physical methods of getting to walk nicely on the leash are definitely not appropriate. 

Start training in a quiet place with few distractions, and as he gets the hang of the task, move outdoors. Practice plenty and in different locations, so that he understands he's expected to walk nicely on the leash no matter where he is. 

Because of the Dachshund's delicate back, it's better to train him using a harness rather than a collar. The harness spreads the force over his chest, rather than concentrating it on his neck, should he pull. 

  • Bite-sized treats
  • A treat pouch so the rewards are handy all the time
  • A comfortable harness
  • A leash

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The Indoor Start Method

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1

Understand the idea

This is ideal for a doxie puppy that hasn't completed his vaccinations. Just because he can't go outside yet, doesn't mean that you shouldn't start leash training him. This method looks at ways you can get ahead with leash training, so that when he does discover the great outdoors you have a head start.

2

Introduce the harness and lead

It will take the puppy some time to get used to wearing a harness and the feel of the lead dragging behind. This is something you can do while the pup is still confined to the house. Put the harness on ahead of a mealtime, so that he gets food as a reward for wearing the harness. Let him wear it around the house, and reward him when he calms down. However, don't leave doxie unattended in his harness and leash, as he may well get tangled up and need rescuing.

3

Hold the leash and call him

Teaching a puppy to walk neatly to your heel starts with him coming to you while on the leash. With a young puppy, start practicing this in the house. Do this my holding the end of a loose leash and making a noise that attracts the puppy's attention. When he looks towards you, attract his attention some more my slapping your thigh and taking a couple of steps away from him. Bizarrely, stepping away will trigger most pups to come towards you, at which point praise him and hold out a treat. When he comes to you to get the reward, you're starting to sow the idea of sticking by you.

4

Add a cue word

Make having the pup come to you into a game. Once he's regularly approaching you while you hold the lead, start adding a cue word that tells him this is good behavior. You may click a clicker, click your tongue, or say "Yes" in an excited voice. The point being that when he hears this sound or word, he knows he's doing good and has earned a reward.

5

Now walk forward

Your puppy is now a pro at coming to you on the leash when you back away. Simply turn as he comes towards you, so that you are both moving in the same direction. Now pull out all the stops to encourage him as you walk forward slowly with puppy following your heels. Say lots of "Yes" and give him treats, to encourage him to walk with you.

The Stop, Start Method

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Understand the idea

This method involves the dog having to think through how to earn a treat. You will teach him that to get a treat he has to sit down whenever you stop walking. Ultimately this allows you to stop the dog when he surges ahead on the lead, and have him walk to heel waiting for instruction.

2

Start in a distraction-free room

In a quiet room, have the dog on a loose leash. Show him a treat but don't give it to him unless he sits down. The pup will dance around, getting excited, wanting to have the treat. Eventually, he will pause to puzzle out why it is he's not getting the treat. If he happens to sit to do his thinking, say "Yes" in an excited voice and give him the treat.

3

Practice makes the penny drop

Repeat this. Perhaps take a step forward to a new spot, show him another treat and wait. Let him dance around again, but hopefully being an intelligent Dachshund he'll sit down more quickly than before. Say "Yes" and give him the treat. Keep repeating.

4

Walk forward slowly

Now walk forward slowly, showing the dog a treat. The pup will stare up at you, watching the treat and wondering what he has to do to get it. Stop walking. If the pup remembers his previous lessons, he'll stop and then sit. At which point, say "Yes" in an excited voice and reward him.

5

Walk forward more fluidly

As dog gets the idea, walk forward more fluidly with him on the leash. If he starts to surge ahead, stop. As he realizes you've stopped, he'll sit in order to earn his treat. Praise and reward him. Then set off again. Take a few steps, and praise him if he walks to heel. Stop every few steps, let him sit and reward him.

The Do's and Don'ts Method

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Do: Make training fun

The idea is to have a happy doxie who is eager to please and walks nicely on the leash because he feels good doing so. Be generous with praise and it's fine to motivate the dog with treats, when he does well.

2

Don't: Use harsh training aids

There is no place for harsh training aids such as prong collars or electric collars. For any dog, it's natural to misbehave to a certain degree. If he's exceptionally naughty then think about how you can improve communication to make the message clearer about what you want him to do.

3

Do: Stop in your tracks

If the Dachshund surges ahead on the leash (a common Dachshund trait) the stop walking. Call the dog to you, then praise him for returning to your side. Don't move off again until he has returned to your heel.

4

Don't: Jerk on the leash

Dachshunds have delicate spines that are easily damaged. Never jerk on the leash or drag the dog along, as this could do painful and permanent damage to his delicate back.

5

Do: Anticipate distractions

If your Dachshund is a demon for getting distracted and pulling as a result, anticipate this. Have a treat handy and spot likely distractions ahead of the pup. Then get his attention with the treat and have him focus on you while you walk past the diversion.

By Pippa Elliott

Published: 02/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Mikasa

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Dachshund

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8 Months

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Mikasa is a dachshund x, she’s a sweet little girl, but is a nightmare on walks. She gets overly excited when outside and barks at every person we see. She’s very social with other dogs, but lets out this high pitched bark if she can’t get to a dog she can see to say hello. She pulls so much on her harness you can hear her choking herself, we have to stop multiple times and holding her back so she can catch her breath. She gets so distracted, treats do nothing, telling her no does nothing, she is impossible. We’ve only had her for 3 weeks, as she was rehomed because the previous family couldn’t keep her due to work commitments.

May 17, 2021

Mikasa's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Samantha, I would start by working on the Turns method in a calm, dog free area, like your yard or a calm cul-de-sac. Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel I recommend working on calmness, the barking specifically, and more socialization once pup has the basics of a Heel. For the calmness, 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 her mind on scanning the area in search of other dogs. The walk should start with her having to exit your home very calmly, performing obedience commands at the door if she isn't calm. She 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 she should be in the heel position - with her head behind your leg. That position decreases her arousal, reduces stress because she isn't the one in charge and the one encountering things first. It prevents her from scanning for other dogs, staring dogs down or being stared down, and ignoring you behind her. It also requires him to be in a more submissive, structured, focused, calmer mindset - which has a direct effect on how aroused, stressed, and reactive she is. Additionally, when you do pass other dogs, as soon as she starts staring them down, interrupt her. Remind her with a gentle correction that you are leading the walk and she is not allowed to break her 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. Staying in a calmer mindset also makes the walk more pleasant for her in the long-run. Once pup can walk past other dogs more calmly, you can carry small, soft treats hidden in a treat pouch or plastic bag in your pocket. When pup's body language stays calm, they remain focused on you, or are very obedient when other dogs are within sight, reward pup with a treat and very calm - almost monotone praise (too much excitement can make the situation harder for pup). Pup will probably need more structure and the gently corrections at a far distance from other dogs first, before they are calm enough to be interested in treats. That's normal for a highly aroused dog not to want treats at first. They may want them further into the training once calmer. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel You also need a way to communicate with her so I suggest teaching the Quiet command from the Quiet method in the article I have linked below - don't expect this alone to work but it will be part of the puzzle for what I will suggest next. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Next, once pup understands what Quiet means you will choose an interrupter - neither too harsh nor ineffective. A Pet Convincer is one example of an interrupter. A pet convincer is a small canister of pressurized, unscented air that you can spray a quick puff of at the dog's side to surprise them enough to help them calm back down. (Don't use citronella and avoid spraying in the face!). In situations where you know pup will bark or is already barking (catch them before they bark if you can), command "Quiet". If they obey, reward with a treat and very calm praise. If they bark anyway or continue to bark, say "Ah Ah" firmly but calmly and give a brief correction. Repeat the correction each time they bark until you get a brief pause in the barking. When they pause, praise and reward then. The combination of communication, correction, and rewarding - with the "Ah Ah" and praise to mark their good and bad behavior with the right timing, is very important. Once pup is calmer in general after the initial training, practice exposing her a lot to the things that trigger the barking normally (make a list - even if it's long). Whenever she DOESN'T bark around something that she normally would have, calmly praise and reward her to continue the desensitization process. Finally, work on calm socialization, and don't skip rewarding pup for calmness around other dogs once she is doing better on walk and is calm enough to reward it! That can help ultimately. If pup continues to be disinterested in treats later too, you can reward with affection, praise, a toy, or something else she enjoys - the goal is just for her to see it as something she likes, so pay attention to what she likes. Do things like joining obedience classes, trainings clubs, group dog hikes and walks, canine sports, ect...Your goal right now should be interactions with other dogs that have structure and encourage focus on you, calmness around the other dogs, and a pleasant activity with other dogs around - opposed to roughhousing or tense environments with tons of unpredictable dogs loose which increases adrenaline. If pup does really well playing with other dogs, have one-on-one play dates with a friend and their well socialized dog and intermittently practice obedience with them together so they learn how to also be calm and responsive to you around another dog. You could also recruit some friends with well mannered dogs to go on walks with you and your dog, following the Passing Approach method and Walking Together method to help the dogs learn how to be calm around each other, while also continuing socialization. Passing Approach and Walking Together methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 18, 2021

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Scotch

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Dashalier

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8 Months

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Scotch tugs on the leash, and doesn't like walks. We will go from the mailbox to the driveway, then he won't go any farther and starts hopping backward. What should I do?

Jan. 19, 2021

Scotch's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Abby, 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. This time of year also pay attention to the weather. If it's very cold where you are pup may be cold and need a doggie coat that was designed for active dogs, like www.ruffwear.com type coats. 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 block - your first goal is just to get past that block. 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 block 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 weather 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

Jan. 21, 2021


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