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

Most Recommended
2 Votes
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.
Recommend training method?

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 Trainer
329 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
Reese
Doberman Pinscher
3 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Reese
Doberman Pinscher
3 Years

My dog is a very big Doberman who unfortunately has not had much leash training or walking in general. I have been trying to leash train him recently and he is learning slowly but surely. What I've been doing is stopping when he pulls and making him wait to walk until I am next to him, but he still pulls (only now he waits for me to walk next to him only to pull ahead again!) My question is which method would be better for a dog of his breed and size? Should I stick with what I am doing or switch up my method?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
329 Dog owners recommended

Hello Vee, I actually would suggest a different method entirely for your situation. Check out the article that I have linked bellow and follow the "Turns" method from that article. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Specifically, as soon as Reese starts to put his head in front of your knee, turn directly in front of him at a ninety degree angle. Turning in front of him should not only help him learn what position to walk in but should also adjust his attitude and show him that he needs to be following and not leading. There will be times when you cannot do this. During those times, do what you are doing now, but work on the turns as much as possible. Fields, parks, and other open areas are the easiest places to practice this. I find that turning while I am crossing over a driveway while on a walk in a neighborhood is a bit easier than doing it on the sidewalk. Practicing this in a neighborhood cul-de-sac is also easier. Do not expect walks to be very linear while you are working on this. Your walks might be a lot of circling and going back and forth and that is okay. If your whole walk takes place in your driveway, front yard, and cul-de-dac for a while your dog should be just as hired because he will be focusing the whole time and moving still. Just keep in mind that you are putting in the work now to create a lifetime of enjoyable walks with him later. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Hi any advice appreciated as I have a German shepherd cross he nearly 5 yrs old now and my mistake as instead of continue with leash training when he was a puppy I started letting him run free on lands in country but have tried walk him on leash buy omg he so strong and don't think he realised that he is pulling me as I'm disabled now ostioathritis fibromyalgia and can't get him stop pulling me or it me to weak control him as he good dog but so strong on leash walking for me and I've tried many times different ways and all kinds different leash and harness for him and all I want wish is to walk my dog shadow without been dragged pulled as I'm struggling with leash walk and I so want to enjoy walking him as he is my companion as he always with me since he was puppy as can't leave him alone as to clever can open doors and windows as I had a shock one night I had left him in new home with 2 other dogs as middle moving house but when return home after securing doors he had managed open them went upstairs and jump out bedroom window which shocked me how clever he was as new neighbors had reported it to RSPCA so I had to contact them quickly explain suituation just lucky they new me as I used help volunteer housed dogs .. so my dog is with me 24/7 and I'd love be able control him on leash walking and don't think treats going help me as he is determined and yes dominates rule us because he been alloud to but otherwise to always getting his own way spoilt by my partner .he good 🐕 dog in home and when out in country of leash playing fetch ball on a secure field and he gets on with other dogs it just leash walking he to strong for me and my health has worsened getting older but can you help plis how can I crack the leash walking as I'm thinking more it my fault to weak not enough strength to pull him back to me ?????🙏🙏🙏🙏🤞🤞🤞🤞

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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 Trainer
329 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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Question
Doug
Greyhound
7 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Doug
Greyhound
7 Years

WE have a retired Greyhound. Our Doug is a gentle loving dog and is very well mannered. Doug walks very well on leash. He is polite and minds all commands. Our problem is getting the leash on him and getting out the door. As soon as he hears the leash picked up, he goes nuts. He is wild as we try to clip the leash on and as we try to get out the door. AS soon as we are outside, he is calm and mannerly again. What do you suggest?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
329 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jeff and Paula, I suggest making the leash very boring during practice sessions, and rewarding him for sitting (or a Stand-Stay if he struggles with sitting like some Greyhound do because of how they are built). Go through your usual routine with getting ready for a walk and grabbing the leash. When he gets excited, ignore him unless he is calm, until he calms down. If he doesn't calm down, then put the leash away and take your off shoes again. Do this several times a day. After lots of repetitions, he should get less excited when he sees the leash because he doesn't think he is really going for a walk. Him being calm will give you an opportunity to encourage the calm behavior more often. When he is a bit calmer when you get the leash out, tell him to Sit or Stand and Stay. If he obeys, give him a treat and clip the leash on. If he starts to get wild, drop the leash and walk away until he calms back down. When he is calm again, pick up his leash and start to leave for a walk with him again. Practice making things boring when he gets overly excited by going through your walk routine without actually leaving. Practice having him sit or stand-and-stay when he is calm enough to obey (if he doesn't know one of those commands, then teach him that first). Finally, practice clipping the leash on and taking him on a walk while he is staying calm. Don't expect perfection at first, but as he gets better, you can require him to be even calmer before you reward him by taking him on the walk. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Candy
German Shepherd
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Candy
German Shepherd
1 Year

Hello so my dog is always crazy when we walk her any movement she sees on the streets she tries to go after it, or when we walk her she pulls her self really hard amd she’s pretty strong so it’s hard to pull her back, and she always try’s to find a way to take off her harness we tried everything to teach her how to walk calmly but nothing seems to work can you please help?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
329 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gabriela, Check out the video linked below. Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo I also suggest working on other commands that build respect. The pulling can be rewarding by itself but the complete lack of focus on you suggests that she would benefit from more structure, increasing respect for you, and building her trust. German Shepherds are a breed that tend to listen much better if they respect you first. Gaining her respect should not look angry or physically rough though. Shepherds are very intelligent and tend to do well when you engage their brains and are very consistent with them. Check out the articles and videos linked below for some commands that you can incorporate into her daily life to help with respect. Be sure that you are being consistent when you give commands also, and calmly but firmly follow through to ensure she obeys a command once it is given. This might mean, not letting her walk away while she is on a leash until she Sits if you told her to sit - even if it takes ten minutes. Going to get her and bring her back to where you called her from if she didn't come when called, then practicing Come on a long leash until she comes willingly five times in a row to refresh her training afterwards, and so on. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Rocky & Ellie
Alaskan Malamute
9 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rocky & Ellie
Alaskan Malamute
9 Years

Rocky and Ellie are brother and sister that we got together as puppies. We tried to leash train them when they were younger but they had dominance issues and one always wanted to be in front (lead) of the other when we tried walking them on the leash. We stupidly stopped trying and now they are 9 years old and the only time they ever go on the leash is when we take them to the vet. And all they do is pull like crazy. They are not good with other people and other dogs (they can get skittish), so we believe their pulling is out of anxiety rather than excitement. We are really wanting to leash train them, and get them harnesses so they aren’t choking themselves. We aren’t really sure where to begin, they pull like crazy and are strong, old dogs set in their ways. Any help or methods would be appreciated!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
329 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessika, Check out the article linked below and follow the Turns method. Also check out the video linked below on leadership during a walk. I would suggest using a gentle leader head halter on both dogs at first, until the pulling improves with training also. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo If you decide to use a prong collar, be sure to look up how to fit and correct with it correctly. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Dakota
Yorkie Pomeranian
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Dakota
Yorkie Pomeranian
1 Year

I received Dakota from a friend who kept her in the home. She had a private fenced in backyard for her to play and do her lady business so a need for a leash with them was not necessary. She also had not traveled in a car since she was brought home as a puppy. That is not the case for me. For the leash training, I have introduced her to her collar, harness, and leash and she freaks out and attempts to wiggle out of it or lay completely down and refuse to move or get up, even with treats. When taking her for a ride in the car, she gets very scared, anxious, shakey, and stressed to the point where she nipped at and bit me the first day I got her and nipped at the groomer when I took her to get groomed. I believe it's because she is scared and car sick, which in turn makes her irritable. I've only had her for a week and I understand everything is new to her. She truly is a loving dog. I just don't know what to do in these cases. Should I get her dog melatonin for car rides? How do I get her to walk on the leash? Going on the puppy pads is another can of worms. HELP!

Chardon

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
329 Dog owners recommended

Hello Chardon, For the leash issues you will need to treat her like you would a puppy who has never been on leash. Check out the article linked below. Follow one of those methods to get her used to simply wearing the leash first, then you can work on heeling later. Accepting a leash article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash For the car riding, it does sound like anxiety, and unfortunately car anxiety can actually lead to car sickness and it's a cycle. The first thing to do is address the anxiety. If the nausea still persists once the anxiety has been address (which is less common but still a possibility), then you can speak to your vet about medications or supplements to help the nausea too. Speak with your vet before giving any supplements or medication though since I am not a vet. Have her ride lying down. Standing up and moving around in the car contributes to car sickness. Check out the article linked below for addressing the car anxiety using the overcoming fear method. Also practice a Down Stay in the car with the car off once she is comfortable being in the car while it is still. When you start driving with her, have someone come with you and do the driving or work with her so that the driver can just focus on the road while the other person focuses on Dakota's training. Start with just pulling in and out of the driveway and practice that for a while. Next, drive down the street and back, then around neighborhoods and back, then to fun and calm places like calm parks. Gradually work up to longer trips, super exciting trips, or more fearful trips like the vet. You want most trips to be fun, calm, or uneventful, so that the car isn't a big deal and is pleasant. For the potty training, since she was trained to go potty outside, I suggest using a real grass pad instead of pee pads - many dogs associate pee pads with carpet and rugs and she is likely confusing them with things like that inside. Use disposable real grass pads and follow the "Crate Training" or "Exercise Pen" methods from the article linked below. The article mentions litter box training, but you can use real grass pads instead, and follow the same steps. Potty Training article: https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Real grass pad: https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Patch-Disposable-Potty-Grass/dp/B005G7S6UI/ref=asc_df_B005G7S6UI/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=309763115430&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=10454607119916871826&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9010791&hvtargid=aud-643330155750:pla-568582223506&psc=1 Also sold on freshpatch.com Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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