How to Train Your Big Dog to Walk on a Leash

How to Train Your Big Dog to Walk on a Leash
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon6-12 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Training your big dog to walk on a leash with you instead of pulling you will be imperative if you ever plan to take your large breed out for walks. You need to make sure you have complete control over your dog so he does not pull you along, become distracted chasing a rabbit or squirrel, or drag you down the sidewalk, and so that he knows who is master. Your big dog may overpower you way more than you can overpower him, and he may be bigger than you are. Having control over him has nothing to do with how much power you can exert over him. It has more to do with how much respect you can teach him to give you. Training a big guy to walk on a leash beside you will be imperative for most of your additional training to come with large breeds.

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Defining Tasks

Because this training, for large breed dogs especially, is more about your dog knowing his place with you instead of pulling you along a walk, you will need to find ways to encourage him to walk with you without pulling. This may require a special harness, a thicker leash and lots of treats to keep him in your control and wanting to stay with you to continue to earn delicious foods. For your early training sessions, you will need to find places without distractions so you can focus on your dog and your dog could focus on earning treats. As he gets more comfortable on the leash and you are more comfortable controlling him, take him places with minimal distractions so you can see how he reacts when something else draws his attention away from you. You may find for large breed dogs, a harness that clips on the chest rather than on the back gives you more control.

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Getting Started

Of course, for this training, you are going to need some incredibly high-value treats. Cheese sticks, hot dog pieces and dried liver treats are all great items for large breed dogs to learn how to walk with you on-leash. Keep in mind just because your dog is a large breed he doesn't need a larger treat. Even the largest of dogs will work hard for the tiniest morsel of food. Check your harness and leash to ensure your dog has proper equipment before you head out for a walk.

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The Clicker Loose Leash Method

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1

Leash and harness

Let your dog sniff his leash and harness to get used to it. Attach the leash to the harness and show it to him. Introducing these pieces as his will get him used to them and get him excited for walks with you in the future. As he sniffs and acknowledges the leash and harness, click and treat.

2

Wear harness

With the leash attached to the harness, place it on your dog. For large breeds, many owners find harnesses with chest attachments rather than back attachments for the leash give the owner more control. Once the harness is on, click and treat.

3

Slack

Stand beside your dog with the leash loose. Give lots of slack so he doesn’t feel a pull on the leash.

4

Calm

If your dog is excited, simply stand next to him. He will eventually mirror your behavior and calm down. Once he does, click and treat.

5

Command

Give a walking command such as ‘let’s go,’ and walk forward. If your big guy doesn’t immediately walk too, use his name with excitement and enthusiasm. Take a few steps and then click and treat so he knows he can earn treats by walking with you.

6

Walking

Keep your walks short and in places without distractions. These first few walks can be done indoors or in your yard just to get your dog used to the leash and commands. Reward with a click and treat as you both walk in an effort to keep him near you.

7

Redirect

If your dog pulls you or the leash, or is distracted, stop walking and let him feel the stop of the leash as he continues. Again, he will stop and eventually mirror your actions. Once you have his attention, click and treat. The click may get his attention enough to return to your side.

8

Practice

Keep walking with your dog using the leash and harness. Remember to stop if he pulls, click and treat when he is doing well, and do not discipline but rather reward for positive actions.

The Leash Play Method

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Introduce leash

Attach a leash to your big dog and stand still next to him. Remain still. You can look at him but do not talk or move. As he settles down and sits with you, give him a treat and verbal praise.

2

Step away

Take a step away from your dog, creating a tighter leash. Stand still again and wait for your dog to react. If your dog does not come toward you, taking a step himself, call him using his name. Once he takes that step to close the distance, give him a treat.

3

Toss treat

Toss a treat behind your dog. He will want to go get the treat and may pull the leash to get to it. Loosen the leash and allow him to go with the leash loose. If he doesn’t come back to you when he gets his treat, call him by name. Once he comes back to you, give him another treat for listening and returning.

4

Walk

As soon as your dog starts to walk back to you, turn your body and walk away from him. If he wants more treats, he’ll follow you and walk with you. Once he catches up, give him a treat.

5

Repeat

Repeat walking, stopping, enticing, and encouraging your dog to come back to you should he be distracted as he was when you threw a treat behind him.

6

Practice

Every time your dog is on the leash, repeat these steps to keep him with you. Over time, he will know he is to be with you and not pulling on the leash going away from you. Continue to entice with treats to redirect your big guy should he begin to pull or tighten the leash between you two.

The Leash Manners Method

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Walk

Place a leash and harness on your large breed dog and go for a walk. Try to pick a walk without a lot of distractions.

2

Stop

While walking, stop and remain still. When your dog realizes he cannot go any further because you have stopped, he should stop as well.

3

Treat

When your big guy stops for you, give him verbal praise and a treat.

4

Pulling

If your big dog pulls, both of you could get hurt. You need to stop this behavior right away and redirect. Pick a command such as ‘stop,’ and stop in your tracks any time you feel the leash tighten. As you stop, you can tug the leash. Once your dog stops as well, give him a treat.

5

Move

Start walking again once your dog has stopped. As soon as he pulls, repeat stopping and waiting. He will feel the tug on the leash and stop as well.

6

Control

If you do not have control over your dog and he does not stop when you stop, do all the above steps with a treat out in the air above his nose to keep his attention on you and the reward.

7

Distractions

Use commands such as ‘leave it’ or ‘wait’ to get your dog’s attention when he’s distracted. These commands can be taught outside of walking.

8

Pass by

Once you make it past the distraction without being pulled or stopping, give your dog a treat. If you have to stop to keep him from pulling, include that step again in your walk.

9

Longer walks

As your dog gets better staying with you, earning treats along the walk, and without distractions pulling him along, go for longer walks. Be sure to have treats on hand for your dog to see and earn.

By Stephanie Plummer

Published: 12/15/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Kaiser

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Dutch Shepherd

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13 Months

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My partner and I have had Kaiser for a about a week or so he is a big dog, he’s a very good boy and is willing to learn but needs tweaking just a little bit with certain things. When we take him out to walk he pulls a lot on the lead and doesn’t seem to listen when we try to tug him back/shout his name or entice him with treats he gets distracted really easily and sometimes barks at nothing

July 6, 2022

Kaiser's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Demi, Check out the Turns method from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel If pup isn't sure of the leash itself, I would even practice the Pressure method from this article below before the Turns method too. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash For barking, I would begin teaching the Quiet command and desensitizing and socializing pup to the things that tend to cause the barking - if can be anything with a puppy (a garden gnome or decoration, flying leaf, other animal, car, person, ect...Whatever pup finds strange or new, no matter how silly to us, work on helping pup get used to that thing). Desensitize method and Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 7, 2022

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Taz

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Labrador Retriever

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2 Years

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When Taze goes into his crate he starts barking at us. Once he is out of the crate he stops. We just adopted him about a month ago and at first he never barked, now it is very annoying. We try to ignore him, but he's loud!

Nov. 30, 2021

Taz's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello T., Ignoring the barking can be a great approach with puppies and less persistent pups, but some older dogs need a more direct approach if you aren't seeing the barking improve after two weeks. To get started, first, work on teaching the Quiet command during the day using the Quiet method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, during the day practice the Surprise method from the article linked below. Whenever pup stays quiet in the crate for 5 minutes, sprinkle some treats into the crate without opening it, then leave the room again. As he improves, only give the treats every 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2, hour, 3 hour. Practice crating him during the day for 1-3 hours each day that you can. If you are home during the day, have lots of 30 minute - 1 hour long sessions with breaks between to practice this, to help pup learn sooner. For some dogs, the Surprise method and Quiet command are all that's needed after a couple of weeks of practicing this. If pup isn't improving though, an interrupter might be needed also, since barking is a self-rewarding behavior. Whenever he cries in the crate, tell him "Quiet". If he gets quiet - Great! Sprinkle treats in after five minutes if he stays quiet. If he continues barking or stops and starts again, spray a quick puff of air from a pet convincer at his side through the crate while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Repeat the rewards when quiet and the corrections whenever he cries. Once pup is doing well with you in the house in another room, use a camera to spy on pup from outside. Start going outside where pup can't see or hear you. When pup barks, return to quietly correct then go back outside again. When pup gets quiet and stays quiet, initially for a couple of minutes, gradually working up to longer periods, then return to sprinkle in treats then leave again. After 30 minutes of practice, gradually working up to three hours, return when pup is quiet, ignore pup in the crate for 10 minutes until they are waiting calmly while go about your business in the home (correct if pup gets really loud and isn't settling down on their own). When pup is being patient and quiet in the crate, let pup out calmly. If pup tries to rush the door, close it again, making pup wait. Practice this until pup is waiting inside with the crate door open. At that point, happily tell pup "Okay" and let them come out calmly. You want to set that expectation of staying calm as they exit, so they don't get into the habit of getting anxious and excited in anticipation of being let out. As pup improves when you are outside, work that time up until you have worked up to you being outside for three hours and pup staying quiet the whole time. At that point, you can give pup a dog food stuffed chew toy in the crate to help entertain him and encourage long term quiet habits in the crate. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 1, 2021


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