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Leash manners are not just about getting from one place to another. Asking your dog to behave while on a leash affects your dog as well as other animals and people around you. Imagine walking into your veterinarian's office with a dog on a leash who is not properly leash trained. Your dog could potentially pull you through the door injuring himself or you. An excited or fearful dog on a leash may attack other dogs who might be sitting in the waiting room. A dog who is eager might pull you behind him and overpower you. Moreover, a dog who is fearful may pull you in a direction if he wishes, in order not to go where you are leading. This could mean injuries or a direct route back to the hazardous parking lot.
Teaching your dog to walk on a leash is imperative if you live in an area where you will expect your dog to walk with you on a regular basis. Leash manners will help to keep your dog safe, keep him from dragging you behind, and keep him from being distracted by the sights, sounds, and smells of your neighborhood. Taking your dog for a walk has an entirely different meaning if you are running behind your dog with a taut leash, fighting to maintain control. If your dog is easily distracted by another dog, children playing, or a rabbit who may cross your path, you could potentially be in danger yourself, or your dog could become injured or responsible for injuring another animal or person in your path. Training leash manners is a vital part of your dog training process if you expect to take your dog outside of your home for any reason.
Leash training a puppy is a bit easier than leash training a dog who is not used to using a leash and suddenly needs to become more aware of his surroundings while on a leash. Both will require patience, time, and effort.
You will need the proper size leash for your dog’s breed and size. This is imperative if you have a dog that is more than you can handle. A 50lb dog could potentially pull the weight of an adult holding the leash. Be sure the leash you use is secure and strong enough to not only keep your dog safe and near you but also in a position where he is unable to jump on anyone as well.
A collar or a harness will be required to support the leash. Many veterinarians and trainers will not recommend shock collars or spiked training collars. The purpose of a spiked training collar is to tighten the collar around the dog's neck, digging spikes into their fur and skin to correct the dog’s behavior. If you have a large breed dog or a dog who is more than you can handle on a leash, consider a harness instead. Chest harnesses give you better control over your dog's movements. A harness which has the leash clipping onto the back still gives your dog the ability to pull and jump up. A harness with a leash clipping on the chest will allow you to pull the leash down, keeping your dog from jumping up. Chest harnesses can also prevent your dog from going too far if the leash is placed behind one leg. When you are shopping for a leash and harness, be sure to consider the size and weight of your dog and how much control you need over him compared to how much control your dog may have over you with inadequate equipment.
The Clicker Training Method
Using the clicker
If you are clicker your training dog for other tricks, continue to use a clicker for leash training as well.
Introduce the leash
Introduce the leash to your dog by allowing him to check it out and sniff it.
Attach the leash
With the collar or harness already on your dog, attach the leash and stand next to your dog with slack between your hand and the other end of the attached leash. Once you have the leash attached, click and reward.
Your dog may be excited, wondering what is happening, or if he has been introduced to a leash before, he may think he is going somewhere and causing him to be enthusiastic. Stand still with the end of the leash in your hand and wait for your dog to calm down. Once he is settled, click and treat.
As soon as your dog has settled down, give a command such as “walk” or “let's go,” and take a few steps, then click and treat.
Practice with small walks from one room to another within your home or down a hallway. Click and treat at the end of each short walk. Be sure to wait to begin any walk until your dog is calm and settled clicking and treating at each phase.
Take it outside
Once your dog is used to the leash inside your home, take a visit outside on the leash. Either in your yard or very close to your home, take a short walk with your dog on the leash leaving very little slack between you and your dog.
Reward positive behavior
Each time your dog settles down, sits down, stops walking, or is near you, reward with a positive tone reinforcement and a click and treat at each phase of your walk.
Keep him close
If you must tug your dog back to you, shorten the distance between you and the dog by tightening the leash. When the dog comes back to you, click and treat.
Practice this for several days as your dog gets used to longer walks and a looser leash.
The Changing Poor Manners Method
If your dog has been leash trained but needs a refresher course on manners because he has begun to pull away from you, retraining might be necessary. As you are on a walk with your leashed dog, if he pulls away from you take these steps to retrain.
While walking, stop and remain still. When your dog realizes he cannot go any further because you have stopped, he should stop as well.
When he stops for you, reward him with a click and treat or a just treat if you are not using a clicker.
If your dog continues to pull, use a verbal command to stop him and gently tug the leash toward your body.
Practice and repeat
Begin to move forward again. The moment your dog gets too far ahead or pulls the leash, stop and repeat the process above.
The Distractions Method
While walking, stage some distractions for your dog to train him to stay with you using his leash manners while on a walk.
As your dog faces each distraction, stop, use the verbal command “leave it,” and treat your dog when he acknowledges the command and continues to move forward.
Continue your walk past the first distraction and on to the next.
Keep your dog moving away from the distraction not allowing him to stop and investigate.
Repeating the above steps for each distraction, use the verbal command “leave it,” keep moving away from the distraction, and treat your dog when he continues with you.
Keep it up
As your dog gets used to handling distractions with manners and grace, take him on longer walks using treats as motivation to continue the walk without stopping.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 02/14/2018, edited: 01/08/2021