How to Train Your Rescue Dog to Walk On a Leash

Medium
2-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

Rescue dogs are special pets. They come with a history that may affect their behavior and even their personality. But this is a history you may know nothing about. You may get some hints about your dog's past based on his behavior. Rescue dogs are special in your lives because you're choosing to give them a chance for a good home and a good life. Some rescues have been abused. Some have been neglected. Some have just been left behind without an understanding of why. Any or all of these things could cause your rescue dog to behave in ways you may not understand. Your rescue dog may have been abused with a leash. This might make walking on a leash extremely scary for your dog. Or your rescue may have never been on a leash before. He may be a bit apprehensive about trying something new. 

Defining Tasks

Loving your rescue dog and giving him a chance to be an amazing pet and to learn and grow with boundaries and love are the best things you can offer your pup. Training your dog after rescue to walk on a leash will not only take some patience, love, and understanding, but it may also take some guesses as to why he behaves the way he does. If he's fearful of the leash, it may be because he was abused at one time. Take this training slow, let him lead the way and show you the pace he needs to go in order for him to be comfortable and willing to try something new with you, his new owner who loves him dearly. Introducing the leash and how to use it and what your expectations are with a rescue dog needs to happen in small phases. Have lots of patience and remember your dog’s stomach is a great path to his heart and building trust.

Getting Started

Because a rescue dog requires special kind of attention and training, be sure you are very patient and calm during your training sessions. You don't want to trigger any anxiety or trauma from your dog's past while training. Be sure you have a leash that is appropriate for your dog’s size and weight. If your dog is highly anxious or fearful, you may want to consider putting him in a harness instead of just a collar. This will help you have better control over him while on the leash. High-value treats are great for any pup, but for training rescue dogs you may need to consider using treats that are extremely tasty and offer more than you might a dog who doesn't have a past you're not aware of.

The Loose Leash Method

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Step
1
Introduce leash
Your rescue dog might be apprehensive about everything and you might not know his triggers, so go slow with introducing new activities for you to do together. Make a big deal out of his leash. Let him sniff it and talk it up with a calm voice. Be sure to pair food with this introduction.
Step
2
Clip on
Once your dog has earned a treat or two sniffing and getting to know his leash, clip it onto his harness or collar. Consider a harness if he is fearful or anxious about a leash. A harness will give you more control over your pup while giving him the independence of a loose leash.
Step
3
Treat
Start with a high value treat just for putting the leash on. Then take a few steps and encourage your rescue dog to follow you. If he needs coaxing, take a step or two away from him and encourage him to come to you for the treat.
Step
4
Repeat
Continue to take a few steps, offering your pup a treat for every few steps he takes with you.
Step
5
Short walk
If your rescue dog is eager to please and happy to be on a leash, take a short walk, encouraging him with treats. If he is bored or anxious, keep your first few times on the leash short and sweet with lots of treats. Be sure to practice again for several days until he’s eager or even excited to take a walk with you.
Step
6
Pulling
If your dog pulls you or even if you find yourself pulling your dog along, take a step back and stop walking. If your dog is pulling you. When you stop, he will stop as well. If you are dragging him along, he will be happy you stopped.
Step
7
Entice
If you need to regroup with your pup because he’s pulling, stop walking and wait for him to stop. One he stops, give him a treat. Hold another treat over his nose while you take the next few steps. If you are pulling your dog on your walk together, you want to entice him to move with you using a treat on front of his nose.
Step
8
Continue
Keep practicing with your rescue dog until he is eager to head out on a walk with you. Continue to use treats to entice and reward him as necessary.
Recommend training method?

The Around the House Method

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Step
1
Leash
Introduce a leash to your dog slowly. Leave it near his bed or in his crate or even near you so he can explore it without you at the other end. Leave this leash around in various places for a few days, letting your dog sniff it so he is used to seeing it around the house. If you are using a leash that came with your dog, get a new one. That old leash may harbor bad memories for your new pup.
Step
2
Put leash on
Attach the leash to your dog’s collar and let him roam around the house without you holding the other end of the leash. This will give him time to get used to the leash while wearing it.
Step
3
Walk outside
With the leash on, walk your dog outside. If you have a fenced in yard, you can try to walk him in the fenced in yard with the leash on but without holding the leash. If you do not have the ability to have the dog wear the leash without you holding it, walk him on the leash but only a bit. You can walk him up and down your driveway and then take him back inside.
Step
4
Repeat
Practice this several times a day for a week before extending the length of the walk. Once he’s ready to go further without anxiety about the leash, take your rescue pup for a longer walk.
Step
5
Treat
Offer the dog treats along the way to reward him for a job well done. Be sure to offer him lots of verbal praise as well to reward him.
Recommend training method?

The Gentle Love Method

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Step
1
Treat
Spend some quality time with your dog, offering love and affection. Offer him lots of treats as you two bond.
Step
2
Play
Take your pup outside in a safe, quiet area and play with him. Your playtime can include toys like a rope for tug of war or you can sit on the ground and bond with him.
Step
3
Leash
During a play session, put a leash on your dog and keep playing together. Ignore the leash while the dog gets used to the weight of it and watching it drag behind him.
Step
4
Walk
With treats, get your dog to come over to you dragging the leash behind him. While he’s near you getting his well-deserved treat, grab ahold of his leash and take a step forward with it in your hand.
Step
5
Sniff and explore
Hold the leash and let your rescue pup explore the leash. He will want to sniff it and look how it is connected to your hand.
Step
6
Walk more
Try to keep the leash loose and walk your pup while holding the leash.
Step
7
Practice
Keep practicing these steps to get your dog used to the leash. Take him for short walks as long as he’s comfortable. If your rescue dog is skittish at all, try to keep the walks short and with few distractions or noises.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
sugar
Springer spaniel
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
sugar
Springer spaniel
2 Years

Thanks for any help you can give us. Adoption date Jan.4th,2018 Shelter did not have any history. She'll not walk or potty if we are present. She loves to eat:) she is really sweet but very frightened. She'll walk after we bring her in from her outside pen(definitely inside dog with us) we believe she was always outside in the past. She only walks to her bed inside sometimes to her water and food in kitchen. I worry she is not getting enough exercise. We would love to walk her but will not move on leash or harness.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
53 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kimberly, It sounds like Sugar might be timid either because she was treated harshly, or because she was neglected and has a naturally submissive and hesitant personality. If she was neglected it's possible she was never around people or only had interactions with people that involved confrontation and punishment. If she always got in trouble for eliminating in the house and was punished in a harsh way that could cause her to be fearful of eliminating around people. Expect this year to be spent building her trust. Since she loves food you can use that to build her trust. Her love of food is a huge asset. If she will take it, begin to hand feed her her meals. At first just toss her pieces of food from a distance and praise her when she eats them. Try not to sound sorry for her when you speak to her but instead act proud of her, happy, and confident. Overtime, decrease the distance between you and her while you toss the food, until you have worked up to her eating the food out of your hand. When she will eat the food out of your hand, then encourage her to walk with you on the leash by creating a line of treats several feet long and letting her choose to follow the line while you keep the leash slack. Overtime increase the length of that line and when she will walks that line well, then work on having her walk a bit past that line by dropping treats to her every couple of feet. After she will do that, then increase the distance that she has to walk before you drop another treat. The whole idea in doing this is to take away her fear of walking by making the experience fun while also motivating her to continue forward. When you take her to the bathroom outside try using a twenty or even fifty foot leash. That way she can eliminate without you having to be right next to her. When she finishes, praise her and toss a treat over to her. Make this treat large enough for her to find after you throw it. When she begins to improve, then you can gradually decrease the length of the leash, until eventually you are next to her when she goes to the bathroom and giving her a treat out of your hand for it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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