How to Train Your Dog to Use a Leash

Easy
1-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

Your puppy is still a cute little ball of fur, but now he needs to learn to brave the outdoors and walk with you while on a leash. Except when you try to put on the leash, he goes berserk. He doesn’t know what this peculiar long bit of string is, and when you do get it on him he either refuses to walk at all or pulls you in every direction. Not getting the point of the leash might have been cute to start with, but you’re quickly getting fed up so he needs to learn fast.

Most people don’t realize that dogs often need training to use a leash to start with, but it’s a lesson we all learn swiftly. If you can train him to use a leash properly then your walks will be stress-free and relaxing.

Defining Tasks

"Walkies."

It’s one word that turns many dogs into crazed and over-excitable creatures. Training your dog to use his leash calmly isn’t always as easy as one might hope. You need to motivate him to stay calm and incentivize him to behave when he’s on his leash. If he’s a puppy and the concept of the leash is new to him, then he may need a week or two to adjust. If he’s had years of messing around and refusing to use his leash properly, then you may need up to a month before you break the bad habit.

Get this training right though, and you’ll be forever thankful you stuck with it. The leash is an essential part of leaving the house and coming into contact with other people and dogs, so it’s worthy of your time. He won’t pull, he’ll quietly and patiently wait for you to secure him to his leash and the word ‘leash’ won’t ever conjure up headaches.

Getting Started

Before your work can begin you’ll need a few bits. As you can imagine, a leash will be the first requirement. You may also want to invest in a body harness to reduce the strain on his neck. Treats or his favorite food will also play an essential role during training.

Make sure you have a few minutes each day to commit to training, plus ensure you have a quiet outside space you can practice in. A quiet field or a yard should suffice.

Once you’ve checked that all off the list, you just need to be patient and come with an optimistic attitude and then you can get going!

The Constant Approval Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Put him on the leash and then take it off
To start with you need to ensure he will wait calmly while you secure him to his leash. Hold a treat out in front of him to keep his attention on you. Then when the leash is secured, let him have the treat. Wait a few seconds and then take it off. Once the leash is off, give him a treat again. Practice this a few times for the first couple of days.
Step
2
Time to walk
He now knows whats expected of him when you put him on the leash, so he should behave for at least the beginning. Once he’s on the leash, head out the door. As you walk, give him verbal praise and hold a treat by your side at his head height. The idea is to reward him for as long as he behaves and walks calmly next to you.
Step
3
React swiftly
Keep using the treat and praise to keep him on side, but as soon as he starts to pull or misbehave, react promptly. Turn around and give him a quick pull so you set off walking in the opposite direction. This jerk will signal to him that if he misbehaves he gets yanked away from where he wanted to go.
Step
4
Be consistent
It’s vital you are persistent during the first couple of weeks. If you have days where he misbehaves and you don’t correct the behavior, you’ll delay the end result. Also, if you don’t use treats and praise to reward him the whole time he is behaving, he may stop bothering.
Step
5
Slowly lose the rewards
Wait a number of weeks, until he is calm the whole time he’s on the leash, from the moment you go to secure him to it until the walk is finished. At this point, he knows how to behave and you can slowly cut out the treats and rewards until they’re no longer needed.
Recommend training method?

The Gradual Introduction Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Leave it in his bed
This may sound bizarre, but before he starts using the leash he needs to be comfortable around it. Leaving it in his vicinity for a couple of days will make it smell like him and put him at ease.
Step
2
Secure him to his leash
Calmly and quietly have him sit in front of you and then secure him to his new leash. Once the leash is on, give him a treat and verbal praise. It’s important you keep things as calm as possible, the more excited he gets, the harder he will be to control.
Step
3
Walk around the house
For the first couple of days, you need to practice simply walking around your home with him on the leash. Here you will be able to control his environment and there’ll be less distractions. Hold him on a short leash so he has to stay right by your side.
Step
4
Head out the door
After a couple of days, follow the steps above but this time go out for a walk. Again, keep him next to you on a short leash. If he starts to pull, stop walking and wait for him to get back in line. You can verbally praise him as you walk to keep him on track and to reinforce the right behavior.
Step
5
Consistency
The key is to keep him on a short leash and then gradually extending it when he behaves. When you can leave the leash lax and he walks calmly next to you, your work is done.
Recommend training method?

The Behavior Method

Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Secure him to his new leash regularly
Leashes can often send dogs into overdrive, so you need to get him comfortable and calm with it. That means securing him to his leash when you’re in the house and letting him carry it with him everywhere he goes. It soon won’t be exciting, it will just be there.
Step
2
Play with him half an hour before a walk
Before you head out, get some of that energy out by playing tug of war. If he’s not quite so energetic when it comes to the walk, controlling him will be far easier.
Step
3
Be firm
When you do secure him to his leash and head out for a walk, pull him firmly to your side. Don’t give him any slack to start with. You need to lay out the rules from the start.
Step
4
Keep him focused
All walks should be thought of as training sessions until he can walk properly on the leash. That means keep his eyes on you with quiet praise and using the odd treat.
Step
5
Positive reinforcement
The entire time he behaves on the leash, give him verbal praise and tasty treats. He will soon associate calm behavior with handsome rewards. When he does misbehave on the leash, stand still until he gives you the behavior you’re looking for. Keep up these steps consistently and he’ll soon know nothing else but obedience. When he gets the hang of it, gradually cut out the treats.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Lucky
Labrador Retriever
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Lucky
Labrador Retriever
7 Months

My dog keeps chewing up his leashes. I canct count but think he'd chewed up 20+ leashes already since we got him. We now use dog cables, cut them in the middle, and splice one end to make a loop, making a strong leash for Lucky to use without it breaking when he chews it.

He also chews on dry erase markers, highlighters, or any type of stick like the shape of a pencil whenever they fall onto the ground. He sometimes would jump up and steals it as though it was a treat.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
872 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kien, You did the right thing by creating a chew proof leash. Seven months is a heavy chewing period because of jaw development. You can also purchase chew-proof leashes here: https://www.amazon.com/VirChewLy-Indestructible-Leash-Dogs-Medium/dp/B004HIM590/ref=asc_df_B004HIM590/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=218543830990&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12356904543524668648&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9010518&hvtargid=pla-353603998053&psc=1 If he is still attempting to chew the chew-proof leash, then purchase "Bitter Apple" or "Bitter Mellon" and spray it on the leash so that it tastes bad. Also be sure that he has access to his own chew toys. For the markers, work on teaching him a "Leave It" command and once he can leave food alone when told to, practice the command with the markers also. Check out the article below and follow the "Leave It" method. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite You can also booby trap places like desks, that he tends to jump up on to steal markers from. To do this, set something up that will make some noise or quick movement on the desk so that when he jumps up he is surprised, even when you are not there. There are several products on the market designed to discourage counter surfing, which is where a dog jumps up to steal things. You can also stack lots of metal things, like pot lids, run a string through them, and attach the string to a marker, so that when he jumps up and grabs the marker, he will pull the string and cause the lids to crash together, surprising Lucky. When you do this, go to the next room over and listen for him to trigger the booby trap, so that you can run back in there and pick up the marker to keep him from going back to it after he triggers the booby trap. You can also attach a string to the lids and to something secure behind them to keep the lids from falling off of the desk all of the way, to avoid any of them hitting him. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Yoda
German sheppard, Boxer, Boston terrior, Akita mix
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Yoda
German sheppard, Boxer, Boston terrior, Akita mix
5 Months

So when I first got my dog there was no issue with him pulling on his leash. I could walk him with the leash loose with no problems, but that was when I was living back home with my mom at her house. I moved about a month ago into an apartment and the first couple of weeks I had no problems walking Yoda even though we were in a new place but the past week Yoda has been really bad with pulling to the point where it hurts my hands after every walk which is about every other day. I don't know how to get him to stop pulling and I've tried to retrain him and take him on shorter walks stopping him telling him no then making him sit when he pulls but it doesn't seem to be working that much. The behavior didn't really happen till I started walking him with my roomates dog because both dogs try to pull us the whole walk. I'm not sure if my dog is just to hyped up on walks because I have walked my roomates dog alone and he does not pull me as much as Yoda does when I walk him alone. I'm in dire need of some help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
872 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, know that puppies tend to get more excited about the world around them at 4-5 months, and also become a bit more independent and test more boundaries as they approach 6 months - it's essentially the beginning of puppy teenage period. Walking with another dog is also a huge distraction and encourages pulling in many dogs because they compete to be out front, or to keep up with each other at least. Check out the article linked below and follow the Turns method found there. Practice this method in an open area like a big grassy area or unoccupied parking lot at first. Pay special attention to turning directly in front of pup at a ninety degree angle like the method mentions. Your timing needs to be good for this to work. Require pup to walk with nothing more than their muzzle beside your leg, a bit behind you in other words. As soon as their head starts to move past your leg, turn directly in front of pup at a ninety degree angle. This helps pup learn that they should walk slightly behind you to avoid being cut off. Turning abruptly away from pup or picking up your speed can also help pup learn not to lag too far behind, tune out, or range away from you. In your case, the turns in front of pup will be the most important. If the dogs will be continuing to walk together, practice with just pup at first, then see if your roommate would be up for practicing with them together once both are good separately, before trying to go on long straight walks with them again. Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Mavis
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
12 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Mavis
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
12 Weeks

Would like help training Mavis to walk on the leash. She fights some having her collar out on (wants to chew it), stops often to try and eat things on the ground and sits and watches people. We get stopped a lot on walks because she is a cute puppy and she wants to interact with people and their dogs. I would like the interaction to be less of her leaping at people / jumping on people. Overall, need help in making the walk more of a walk.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
229 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I have a link to a wonderful, in depth article for making leash walking a bit more peaceful. There are quite a few steps, so I am sending a link instead of putting all of the information in this box. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/teach-puppy-walk-leash/

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Question
Max
Yorkshire Terrier
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Max
Yorkshire Terrier
4 Years

Hi my dog has never liked the leash he refuses to even walk with it.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
872 Dog owners recommended

Hello, 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. 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. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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