How to Train Your Older Dog to Walk Calmly on Leash

Medium
1-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

You’re out on a pleasant walk through the countryside, the sun is out and life is good, but every 5 seconds you’re pulled in every which direction by your old, but surprisingly strong dog. The problem is even worse if he sees a dog on the horizon, or a stranger approaching. Are you finally ready to concede it’s time to get a handle on his pulling? After all, it’s better late than never!

Walking with a dog who can’t control themselves on a leash is simply exhausting. You simply can’t relax on a walk when it’s really him walking you. Plus, you may have aged along with him, and your shoulder sockets and arms simply aren’t as resilient as they once were. You don’t want to be pulled to the ground just because a dog crossed the road 100 meters away. Solving this issue will give you the calm and relaxing walks you deserve!

Defining Tasks

"Heel" is one word that could save you considerable aggravation and make the relaxing dog walking fantasy you once had many years ago a reality. Unfortunately, teaching your dog to walk calmly on a leash is never straightforward. His senses are sent into overdrive when he leaves the house and comes across so many varied and often unpleasant smells. 

The problem is worsened if he is old. Puppies respond to training quickly, but older dogs' bad habits have often cemented over the years, so you have an uphill battle ahead. Having said that, with patience and consistency, you could have a calm and well-behaved dog trotting alongside you in just a few weeks, if you follow the methods below. It’s important to finally get a handle on his behavior on a leash, not only for your sanity, but also to prevent a serious accident ever taking place, such as him leaping across a busy road.

Getting Started

Before you get going with training, you need to ensure you’re fully stocked on doggie treats. You can use pre-made treats, or you can simply break his favorite food into small bits. You will also need some quiet space, free from distractions. 

A secure training leash and possibly a harness will also be essential. Aside from that, bring all the patience you can find and an optimistic attitude. With all that, you're ready to get to work.

Now you’re fully stocked on essentials, it’s time to put him on a leash and address that mischievous behavior. 

The Training Leash Method

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Step
1
Training leash
Swap your normal leash for a training leash. These short leashes allow you to correct behavior quickly and effectively. So secure him to his new leash.
Step
2
Keep him calm
He may be uncontrollable on a leash because he associates the leash with walking. So use the training leash on him at home for 10-15 minutes each day. This will dissociate the leash with the excitement of a walk.
Step
3
Pulling
Tackle pulling before you even leave the house. Take him out the door as if going for a walk and if he goes crazy with excitement, turn around and re-enter the house. Repeat this until he is well and truly bored and can leave the door in a calm manner. Repeat this process every time you start a walk.
Step
4
Come to a standstill
Stop suddenly as soon as he pulls. Stop in your tracks and don’t budge until he calms down. I hope you’re feeling patient because it may take quite a while to get anywhere, but consistency is key, so persevere!
Step
5
Reward
Reward him when he does walk calmly. As he slowly realizes from all of the above steps he needs to remain calm to get anywhere, he will stop acting up. To speed up the process, reward him with treats whenever he does travel any distance calmly by your side.
Recommend training method?

The 180 Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Setting up
Secure him with a training leash, or his normal leash. Then open the door and take him outside to start the walk.
Step
2
Wait
Hold the leash firmly and wait for him to pull. You are waiting for him to pull so you can straight away correct the behavior.
Step
3
React
When he does pull, turn around and walk in the opposite direction. This quick jolt will tell him if he does pull, he won’t get to travel in the direction it wants to.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat this process. Even if it means you are constantly walking back and forward, only taking 5 steps at a time, this corrective action will eventually show him that you are in total control of the walk.
Step
5
Patience
Be patient, and reward positive behavior. Slowly he will catch on that walking calmly is the only way he is going to get a walk. When he does cotton on and walk calmly, be sure to give him a treat and praise him. Positive reinforcement is always effective in dogs.
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The ‘Heel’ Method

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1 Vote
Step
1
Getting ready
Put a leash on him and head for the door. If your dog is big as well as old, then it could be worth putting a body harness on. This will put less pressure on his neck when you pull on the leash.
Step
2
Set off
Start walking as you normally would. Hold the leash firmly and wait for him to use up the loose leash.
Step
3
'Heel'
Say "heel" in a loud and firm voice. The second he pulls, give the command and give the leash a gentle but noticeable jerk and then stand firmly still. He will eventually walk back to your side.
Step
4
Reward
Reward him with a treat and praise. By doing this when he returns to your side, you are incentivizing him to always return to you. Plus the ‘heel’ cue will signal to him he has gone to far and needs to turn back.
Step
5
Practice
Practice makes perfect. All you need to do now is keep up with the training and be patient. It may take many weeks and hours of slow and disjointed walks, but your old dog will eventually break his old habit. As he gets much better at walking calmly by your side, slowly cut down on the number of treats you give him.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
JoJo
Terrier mix
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
JoJo
Terrier mix
5 Years

When I walk Jojo, she doesn't pull on the leash for our entire walk. But when we pass by other dogs, she seems to get pretty aggressive. Any tips? Thanks!

- Justin

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
32 Dog owners recommended

Hello Justin, Does JoJo act aggressively when she actually meets dogs also? Many dogs act aggressively when on the leash but not when interacting with dogs up close. Those dogs have what is called Leash Reactivity, and it is often caused by frustration or fear rather than true aggression. For Leash Reactive dogs you can work on making dog sightings more pleasant. To do this, whenever you see a dog from far away, before JoJo reacts poorly, praise her in an upbeat tone of voice and offer him a treat for remaining calmly or looking at you for direction. It is important for you to stay far away from the dog for her to know that it is there but still remain calm. You do not want to reward her rude barking and growling behavior but she also will struggle to learn when she is in that excited state. Practice bringing her around other dogs at a distance often. As she improves then you can very gradually decrease the distance between you and the other dog. The other thing you can do is to teach her a very structured heel, where she has to remain right beside you and focused on you. When you approach another dog then have her follow you closely in the heel position while you make a lot of turns, have her do sits and downs, and change your speed often. If you can picture a drill Sargent commanding his cadets, that's the attitude that you should have. It should be fast paced, alert, and you should mean business. When she is busy heeling in such a structured fashion, she should not be able to focus on anything else. You will still need to experiment with the distance with this. She can likely get closer to other dogs doing this than the treat protocol but too close will prevent her from being able to focus on you. This practice is good dogs who struggle with leash reactivity and less dangerous forms of dog aggression.

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Question
LadyBug
pitbu
5 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
LadyBug
pitbu
5 Years

LadyBug has never been leash trained! Where do i start? She dosen't even "sit"!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
32 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ella, First, if LadyBug is not comfortable even wearing the leash, then spend about a week just clipping it to her collar and letting her drag the leash around your house when you are supervising her inside, to get her used to the sensation of it. After she is comfortable with that, then pick up the end of the leash and follow her around wherever she wants to go. When she is comfortable with that, then while you are following her, periodically put a little bit of pressure on the leash and hold it there to get her to come toward you. Expect her to pull against this and possibly even thrash around. Wait until she calms down and gives up fighting it, and then coax her over to yourself with a treat or a toy. As soon as she moves toward you and makes the leash loose again, then praise her and give her the treat or a toy. Expect for this to possible take her a long time at first. Simply be patient. It could take up to thirty minutes the first time. After she moves toward you and receives the reward, then keep the leash loose and follow her around some more, and after a little while, repeat tightening the leash a bit and encouraging her to come toward you. Repeat following her around and periodically tightening the leash. Do this until she will consistently come toward you when she feels pressure on the leash. Once she has learned what a leash is and how to handle the pressure of it, then you can start to teach her how to "Sit". Here is an article on how to teach sit: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-golden-retriever-to-sit After you have gotten her used to the leash and have taught her how to "Sit", then you can move onto one of the methods in the training article: "How To Teach Your Dog To Walk Calmly On A Leash" or one of the methods found in this training article bellow instead: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-large-dog-to-not-pull Once she knows how to walk on the leash and to sit, then I would encourage you to teach her "Down", then "Come", then "Stay", and then whatever else you would like for her to learn. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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