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Your puppy has a lifetime of walks ahead of him. Walking with your dog on a leash is great exercise for you as well as for your dog. These bonding moments you share together create time for you both to exercise, enjoy some fresh air, and get out to play. Start your leash manners training as early as you can with your puppy, so the message of your expectations sinks in while he's young and stays with him for many years to come.
When you train your puppy leash manners, you are teaching him that you expect for him to be on the leash, not pulling on you, and not distracted by other things in your path. The size of your dog doesn’t matter. A small dog can pull on leashes and injure his neck. A large dog can pull on the leash, dragging you along.
Giving the skill of leash manners to your puppy will require lots of walks. Don't expect to take your puppy on one long walk and settle this in one training session. At first, consider keeping your walks slow and short, so this training remains simple. You will be showing your puppy what your expectations are by rewarding him for positive behaviors when he is doing well. You can offer your puppy redirection when he needs it, and he will, by stopping and starting over. You may need to consider starting your training on a short, tight leash and then loosening the leash as your puppy becomes better at leash manners. You can also start early training sessions with your puppy indoors instead of outdoors to keep those distractions to a minimum. Starting during puppyhood sets your little guy off for a lifetime of leash manners and fun walks.
To begin training leash manners, you will need a collar for your puppy and a leash appropriate for his size. If you have a large breed dog, you might want to consider using a harness instead of just a collar. Even though your large breed puppy is fairly small now, as he grows he's going to get larger and much stronger--potentially even stronger than you. Put in your large dog on a harness rather than a leash will give you more control. Make sure you bring lots of high-value treats to your training sessions with your puppy, so he works hard and earns fantastic rewards.
The Leash and Click Method
You will need a training clicker and a bag full of enticing treats to encourage your puppy to learn how to properly walk on a leash. Also, be sure you have a leash the proper size and strength for your dog’s size and breed. If you have a tiny pup or a puppy of a large breed, you might consider putting him in a harness now, so he is used to it when he’s full grown. A harness can help you control a large dog and protect the fragile neck of a small pup.
Attach the leash and harness or collar to your dog and once he is ready, click and treat. This will set your little guy up for rewarding training.
Stand next to your puppy with him on your left side. This is a basic 'heel' position, so along with teaching leash manners, you can set your little guy up for the heel command as he grows a bit older. In preparation for your first on-leash walk with your puppy, consider walking with your pup indoors for early training.
Start with a command such as "let’s go for a walk." Take a few steps, expecting your puppy to walk with you. If he doesn’t, entice him with a treat. When he comes next to you, click and treat.
Continue to take a few steps then click and treat your puppy as he walks with you. Move from room to room with your pup on the leash walking next to you and keep rewarding him as he walks with you.
After your puppy has taken several short walks while learning the reward of click and treat, increase the challenge by adding some distractions. You can set some toys on your path, you can go outside where you might run into neighbors or other animals, or you can have someone in your family distract your puppy.
With additional distractions, walk more with your puppy and see how he reacts to the distractions. Continue to click and treat every few steps.
If your puppy becomes distracted, stop walking, hold tight to the leash and do not let him reach the distraction by pulling on the leash.
When your puppy realizes he's not allowed to get to what is distracting him, he will focus his attention back on you. When he does this, click and treat and continue to walk.
You can continue to challenge your puppy by increasing distractions or increasing the distance you walk with him. Continue to practice leash walking with your puppy, rewarding him for staying with you and not tugging or pulling on the leash. Anytime he becomes distracted or pulls the leash, stop in your tracks and start over.
The Redirection Method
Attach a leash to your puppy and prepare to go for a walk. Once your puppy calms down after attaching the leash, give him a treat and stand still until he's ready to go.
Start walking with your puppy. Take several steps encouraging your puppy to come with you. If it doesn't automatically walk you can entice him by holding a treat over his nose. Once he takes a few steps with you, give him the treat.
Any time your puppy makes a poor choice while on the leash such as pulling the leash, walking or running faster than you, or going in a different direction than you or becoming distracted, stop walking, turn and face the opposite direction and wait for your puppy to acknowledge you.
Once you have stopped walking and turned to face the other direction stay very still until your puppy notices you're not with him and he can go no further because he has pulled the leash as far as it goes. He will eventually come back to you, wondering why you're not still walking together.
When your puppy returns to your side begin walking in the direction you are facing and try again. If he becomes distracted or pulls on the leash again, repeat the process by stopping turning in the opposite direction and waiting for him to catch up.
Your puppy will begin to acknowledge his leash manners the more you redirect him for his poor choices. When you begin walking in the opposite direction and he catches up with you, this would be good behavior and you can reward it with a treat. Eventually, your puppy will tire of walking in circles and will stay with you to continue to earn the positive behavior reward.
Continue to practice with your puppy walking on a leash. It will take a few weeks and lots of walks along with lots of positive rewards for your puppy to really understand what your expectations are when he's on a leash. The more you practice, the better he will get it.
The Heel Command Method
Leash and stand
Attach a leash to your puppy and stand with him on your left side. This is a standard heel position so be sure each time you take your puppy for a walk he walks on your left side.
Be prepared with several treats on your right side, either in your pocket or in a handy bag. Hold one up over your dog's nose.
Take a few steps with your puppy on your left side. As you walk forward, give your puppy a treat every few steps.
Continue to practice walking and rewarding your dog as long as he stays with you. Once your puppy has a bit of practice knowing what to expect when he's on a leash, begin to use the command "heel" before you step forward to walk. Say the word "heel", take a couple of steps forward, have your puppy follow you, and reward him when he does.
Continue to practice using the 'heel' command and having your puppy walk next to you on your left side. If he becomes distracted, gets excited and runs forward, or pulls on the leash in any way, stop walking and wait for him to come back to you. When you start again, start with the command, walk forward, and reward for positive behavior.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 03/14/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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