Training

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3 min read

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How to Train Your Puppy to Accept a Leash

Training

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3 min read

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1

Comments

How to Train Your Puppy to Accept a Leash
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-5 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Have you ever watched the National Geographic Channel or Animal Planet and seen video footage of alligators or crocodiles doing "death rolls"? The crocodile has its prey in its mouth and it is rolling over and over and over again with it. Or perhaps you have seen footage of rodeo bronco horses, bucking off riders. 

You might be wondering what these images have to do with your puppy. Well, have you ever attached a leash to your puppy for the first time and watched as your adorable bundle of fur turned into a bucking bronco or a rolling gator? Perhaps your puppy did the opposite and turned into a deer in headlights, frozen in his tracks.

A puppy can act wild and frantic the first time that he experiences the sensation of leash pressure. The puppy has no idea how to respond to the strange long object that has suddenly trapped him. You might be experiencing that type of response from your puppy and are feeling distraught, wondering how you will ever take your puppy anywhere in a country with widespread leash laws and dangerous cars! Most adult dogs were unsure of the leash at one time or another, and they overcame it. Your puppy can too, with a little help from you.

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Defining Tasks

Acceptance of the leash is vital for your puppy in so many ways. Your puppy's temperament as an adult will depend a lot on the type of interactions that he has now, as a puppy. In order to learn how he should behave around other people and animals, and in order to gain confidence around new objects and through experiences, your puppy will need to go places with you. Places like your neighborhood, where he can encounter new sights and smells while on a walk. Places such as pet stores, parks, and trails are not safe for your puppy unless he is on a leash. Besides socialization, your puppy will need to be able to walk on a leash for practical purposes. Your puppy will need to go to the vet from time to time. He may need to go to the groomer. He will need to go on walks for exercise, and he will need to go outside to eliminate several times a day!

What type of temperament your puppy has and how old he is should affect which method you choose to use. If your puppy is very young or timid, then take the extra time required for the 'Drag' method, to allow your puppy to become accustomed to dragging the leash around before you apply any pressure to the leash. If your puppy is older, very confident, or even a bit stubborn, then you might find that the 'Pressure' or the 'Wait' method will work just as well but will take less time to teach.

The end goal with all of the methods should be to teach your puppy to come toward you when he feels the leash tighten. You want him to learn that he can always escape the uncomfortable sensation of the leash tightening simply by coming toward you and that when he is with you he will receive wonderful things, such as affection, praise, food, and getting to walk forward. Building your puppy's desire to be with you now can help future off-leash training be more successful. It might also help you keep your puppy safe if you were ever to accidentally drop his leash or let him escape through a door.

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Getting Started

To get started, with all of the methods, you will need lots of small, tasty treats. If your puppy is very food motivated, then you can also use your puppy's own dog food in place of the treats. You will need a collar or a harness that your puppy cannot slip out of, and a regular, non-retractable leash. You will also need lots of patience and calmness when your puppy fights the leash, an encouraging tone of voice while you teach your puppy to come toward you, and lots of enthusiasm and praise when your puppy succeeds.

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The Drag Method

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1

Introduce collar

To begin, put your puppy's collar on him and leave it on him for a week. This is to help him to become comfortable wearing it before introducing a leash also. If your puppy is already used to wearing a collar then you can skip this step.

2

Attach leash

When your puppy is used to wearing his collar, attach a leash and allow him to drag it around your home while you are supervising him. If you have more than one leash, use your shortest leash for this as long as that leash is still at least two feet long. If you have the option, use a leash without a handle, so that the leash will be less likely to get caught on objects.

3

Go outside

Have your puppy drag his leash around for at least four days under your supervision. After you have done this, grab the loose end of the leash and take your puppy to a calm location outside, such as your own yard.

4

Explore

While you are holding the end of the leash, allow your puppy to explore while you follow him around. After ten minutes, encourage your puppy to follow you back inside, without applying any leash pressure. If he will not follow you, then pick him up and carry him inside.

5

Repeat

Take your puppy outside at least five times over the next few days. Following your puppy around and keeping the leash as slack as possible while you do this.

6

Add leash tugs

After you have taken your puppy outside at least five times, then when you take your puppy outside a sixth time, every three minutes call your puppy in a happy tone of voice and give a gentle tug on the leash. If your puppy responds to your encouragement and tug by coming toward you, then praise him enthusiastically and offer him a treat as soon as he comes toward you.

7

Try again

If your puppy pulls against you and fights the leash, then stand still and wait until he stops. When he stops, call him and give the leash a gentle tug again. Repeat this entire process until he responds by coming toward you, even just one or two inches. When he comes toward you, praise him and give him a treat.

8

Practice

When your puppy completely stops fighting the leash whenever you tug on it , then practice calling him and rewarding him until you can walk and encourage him to follow you with the leash and with your voice, and he will continue to follow you while you walk.

The Pressure Method

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1

Attach leash

To begin, attach your puppy's leash to him and give him a treat. Do this whenever you attach his leash for at least two weeks.

2

Give a tug

When the leash is attached to your puppy, pull on the leash so that it is tight and your puppy feels pressure, but do not physically drag your puppy toward you at all. If your puppy steps toward you when you do this, even by a couple of inches, release the leash pressure, praise him enthusiastically, and give him a treat.

3

Wait

If your puppy fights the leash when you tighten it, then simply stand still and keep the leash a little bit tight. Do this until your puppy stops. The second that your puppy stops fighting the leash, praise him, show him a treat, and encourage him to come toward you. When he comes toward you, give him the treat.

4

Repeat

Repeat tightening the leash and rewarding your puppy when he comes toward you when you do so. Do this until your puppy will move toward you right away when he feels the leash tighten.

5

Require more movement

When your puppy is consistently coming toward you when you apply pressure with the leash, then begin to wait until your puppy comes all the way to you before you give him the treat. Continue to praise all movement toward you with your voice though.

6

Practice

Once your puppy has learned to come all the way to you when you tighten the leash, practice walking with your puppy on the leash outside. Whenever your puppy begins to pull ahead, simply stop or change directions, so that the leash tightens, then do not allow your puppy to continue the walk until he has returned to your side first. Practice this until your puppy no longer pulls on the leash and follows you whenever you change directions.

The Wait Method

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1

Put on collar

To begin, put your puppy's collar on and have him wear it for a week, to accustom him to wearing it before attaching a leash. If your puppy is already used to wearing a collar then move on to the next step.

2

Attach leash

After your puppy has worn his collar for a week and is used to the sensation, then place small treats into a zipper bag in your pocket or into a treat pouch. Attach your puppy's leash to his collar and hold the end of the leash and stand still.

3

Stand still

When your puppy reaches the end of the leash, if he begins to jump around and fight the leash or to pull, simply stand still and wait until he stops. This may take a few minutes the first time. Be patient.

4

Reward

When your puppy stops fighting and pulling on the leash, and puts a little bit of slack in the leash by coming toward you a bit, then praise your puppy and offer him a treat.

5

Repeat

Reward your puppy every time that he stops fighting or pulling on the leash. Do this until your puppy stops fighting or pulling on it completely.

6

Create tension

When your puppy is no longer pulling on the leash or fighting it, then take one or two steps away from him. Let the leash become a bit tight, so that it is pulling your puppy toward you a bit. If he starts to fight the leash or to pull away from you when it becomes tight, then simply wait until he stops. Reward him with a treat when he stops fighting or pulling and comes closer to you, even by one or two inches. When you reward him, immediately relax the leash.

7

Practice

Repeat walking away from your puppy until the leash becomes slightly tight, and then rewarding your puppy when he comes toward you in response to the leash pressure. Do this until your puppy will immediately come toward you whenever he feels tension in the leash.

By Caitlin Crittenden

Published: 03/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Izzy

Dog breed icon

Golden Retriever

Dog age icon

13 Weeks

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Question

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Trying to get Izzy to walk on leash without biting on it and refusing to walk. Jumps and flails about 😩

Oct. 24, 2021

Izzy's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Carmen, If pup is new to the leash, pup is probably doing what most dogs do when first introduced to the leash - buck it or freeze. If that's the case, I would follow the Drag method to get pup used to the leash itself for a few days, then practice the Pressure method to get pup used to walking with you. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash If pup is already used to the leash itself but simply getting too excited or wanting to be free, first, know that a lot of puppies do this behavior as well when first learning to walk on leash, so try to be patient with pup, knowing that it's common. Check out the Step Toward method or Leash method for the jumping, from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump I would also practice the Leave It command. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite When pup bites the leash, you can either try spraying the bottom of the leash with bitter apple or bitter melon or white vinegar to make it taste bad (make sure the material your leash is made out of won't be ruined by these - a nylon leash is often best for this). You might discolor leather. Or, you hold the two ends of the leash that are sticking out of pup's mouth while they are biting it and pull the sides of the leash along pup's cheekbones, so that the leash actually hits the area inside pup's mouth where their jaws meet at the back of the mouth (picture a horse with a mouth bit that's pushed too far in). Doing this until pup tries to spit the leash out on their own because of the discomfort of it being at the back of their jaws. Pup will likely spit it out, then immediately try to bite it again. After doing this each time pup bites it again, most puppies will decide it's not any fun to bite the leash anymore and focus on something else, needing occasional reminders when they try to bite it again later, until they stop the biting completely. Do this very calmly. Not angrily or overly harsh. The point is simply to make what's usually a game to pup, not fun for pup to do anymore. The stopping is likely related to socialization. Pup is probably stopping to observe because they are not used to all the things they are seeing. Spend a lot of time intentionally taking pup places and rewarding and praising pup for exploring new things and reacting bravely or calmly to new things. Take this as a sign pup needs a lot of socialization and is trying to figure out what to think about new things. As they get more exposure and you build up their confidence through rewards, they should be able to ignore things better. With pup in a secure harness or collar, they won't slip out of, spending extra time taking trips slow to leave time for socialization and encountering new things in a fun way. When pup stops and you need them to continue, give quick tug and releases with the leash over and over - not continuously pulling but making stopping a little uncomfortable with a quick little tug then release, then tug and release, ect...- continuous pulling will cause pup to pull in the opposite direction, and you don't want the tugs to be really harsh, just annoying. Act really excited and goofy when pup stops and you want them to continue, doing a little dance or running a couple feet away (while on a six foot leash, don't drop the leash), calling pup in a silly, excited voice. Know that when pup is stopping they are probably nervous, so you want to get your energy up and help them refocus on you, making the situation fun while also insisting pup keep walking with you. You should be enthusiastic enough that you feel silly - all good puppy trainers look pretty silly at times because that's what works best. As soon as pup takes a step forward with you, even if you had to act silly or give tug and releases, give pup an easy to eat treat (freeze dried meat or liver broken into small pieces tends to be loved and easy to swallow). Reward pup along your walk anytime they choose to follow initially, have walked several feet staying with you, turn with you, stay calm around new things, act curious, and generally show that they are willing to venture out into the world with a good attitude, obey your commands, and focus on you. Also, recognize that when pup keeps stopping over and over, it's probably time to head home for now. Pups can get easily over stimulated and tired, and often stopping over and over can mean pup has had enough for now. View outings as training and socialization rather than trying to get somewhere far right now. When it's obvious it's time to head home, get pup to follow you a couple more steps again and you initiate turning the walk toward home, so that pup is rewarded with heading home for following and not stopping. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 25, 2021


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