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Lots of people think that walking patiently on a leash comes naturally to a dog, however, it is a skill that must be trained. You may have an obedient Golden Retriever that has learned several commands already such as 'sit', 'stay', and 'lie down'. You may be thinking training him to walk on a leash will be an easy task. Well, you are likely to run into issues when you are out for walks as there will be many distractions for him. which will make it a much more challenging skill to teach, even if he is intelligent!
Golden Retrievers are usually very vigilant dogs and are sensitive to their owner or walker's pace. This is why they are popular breeds chosen to be guide dogs. You should find that your dog being a Golden Retriever will get the hang of walking on a leash quite a lot quicker than other breeds of dog.
It’s important that you train your Golden Retriever to walk well on a leash while he is still a puppy, as they grow to be large and strong dogs. He will become increasingly hard to handle and dangerous to take out for a walk if he were to lunge or pull you over. Training your dog to walk on a leash will require a lot of patience and commitment to training. You must be persistent.
If he is a puppy, training should take from a couple of weeks to around a month as long as you practice on his daily walks. If you are training an older dog that has had years of bad habits on a leash, these are going to be a lot harder to break. You will probably need a few months to correct these ingrained traits.
Before training can begin, you need to get your hands on a collar, harness, and a leash. Be sure to measure your Golden Retriever in order to buy the right size harness, otherwise, it could end up hurting him if it’s an ill fit. You will also need to source a clicker for some of the below methods. An extending leash will also come in handy so that you can alter the length of it quickly and easily.
You will need a generous supply of tasty dog treats and his favorite toys. If he doesn’t have any toys yet, a good one would be a tug rope so that you can play tug and pull with him.
The Introduce To Harness Method
Get him familiar
The first step is getting him used to wearing a collar, harness, and leash. If he is not yet wearing a collar, you will need to put one on him for a few hours a day to get him used to it. A great way to start walking on a leash is to use a harness. This will give you more control over him.
Start off by making it fun for your dog to wear the harness. Put it on him a couple of times a day and make this play time. Be sure to give him lots of treats and play with his favorite toys while he is wearing it so that he learns to associate the harness with fun and games.
Introduce the clicker to harness and play time. You need to be able to grab his attention quickly when you are out and about so using a clicker is a great way to do this. Give your dog a ‘click’ or a click sound with your tongue. If he does not look right away, repeat the noise until he does.
The moment he turns to you after the click and gives you his attention, make sure you reward him with a treat and give lots of praise.
Over a number of days, you should repeat this training. After a few sessions, you should be able to capture his attention on the first click every time.
The Start Training Method
Find a quiet space
Now that you have gotten him familiar with the collar, harness, and leash, the training can begin. You will need to start practice inside or in a small enclosed area like a yard with few distractions.
While he is wearing the harness and leash, let out the length slightly and move back a few feet. Then, make your click sound either with the clicker or your mouth and get his attention. Hold out a treat so that he comes over to you.
Now that he has come to you, give him his reward. It's important that he starts to associate coming back to you on demand with a reward.
Repeat step 3 and increase the distance slightly each time so that on hearing the clicker noise, he is forced to walk a few feet more towards you in order to receive his reward.
Now that he understands to come to you on demand you can introduce walking. Holding on to your dog’s leash, start to take a walk around the room or yard. After a few paces, give the clicker sound. As your dog stops and turns his attention to you, offer him treats and lots of praise.
The Take It Outside Method
Finally, you will need to put your Golden Retriever’s skills to the test out on a walk. This will mean there will be added distractions such as smells, people, and other dogs. Both you and your dog will need to work a little harder to see results
Patience is the key here. He probably won’t remember all the skills you have taught him inside at first as this is a new location and his attention will be elsewhere. If he is a puppy, he will be extremely excited at the thought of being out for a walk.
Put your dog's harness and leash on and be sure to keep the leash reasonably short so that your dog has to walk beside you or just in front of you. Ideally, you don’t want the leash to be longer in length than around 3-4 feet at this point.
You will need to pay attention to what your dog is doing and try to pre-empt his next move. If it looks as if he is going to lunge towards something or get distracted, make your click sound and move a few steps away. When he comes to you, be sure to reward him with a treat.
If he starts to pull away from you, stop in your tracks and stand very still until he comes back to you. At this point you can also give a click. When he does eventually come back you, be sure to give him a treat!
Gradually you can decrease the number of treats you will need to use out on walks. However, you should always have some to hand just in case you need them.
By Lola Hobbs
Published: 02/19/2018, edited: 01/08/2021