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How to train a dog to walk on a leash

11/16/21 3:31 PM

how to train a dog to walk on a leash

One of the signs of a well-behaved dog is their ability to walk on a loose leash. “Loose leash” means they’re not pulling – you should be taking your dog for a walk, not the other way around – but they’re walking close to you with some slack in the leash while you remain in control.

But this can be easier said than done. Even dogs who are well-behaved at home can lose their manners when faced with all the exciting sights, sounds, and smells outside on their walk. That’s where leash training comes in, so you can finally stop your dog pulling on the leash and walk on a loose leash.

Choose the Right Leash and Dog Collar

The right dog collar and leash can make a big difference.

If your dog pulls a lot, there’s a risk they could slip out of their collar (if their head is small enough), in which case a Martingale collar is a good choice. Martingale collars have a two-loop design that tightens without putting pressure on your dog’s delicate trachea area, and it’s a standard collar for dogs with slim heads like greyhounds and Borzois.

Other options for training include a dog harness where the leash attachment is on the front by the chest (not the back) or a head collar, aka a gentle leader. Not everyone agrees that both of these tools give enough control during training, but some people swear by them, so try to find what works for you and your dog.

While you’re training your dog to walk on a loose leash, avoid choke collars, which can injure your dog if they pull too hard, and dog harnesses with the leash attachment on the back, which can actually encourage your dog to pull harder.

As for the best leash for dog training, skip the retractable leash, and use a standard 6-foot-long leash, as it will give you more control.

Stop Whenever Your Dog Is Pulling on The Leash

Now that you have the right tools, it’s time to learn a few tricks. This first one is simple to do but takes patience and consistency on your part. Every time your dog pulls on the leash while you’re walking, stop. Don’t start walking again until your dog has stopped straining and putting tension on the leash. Over time, your dog will learn that you only walk when there’s slack in the leash.

Reward Your Dog for Good Behavior

Reward your dog for good behavior

Positive training methods rely on rewarding good behavior in order to encourage it, so that’s another tactic to try. Bring along some small, high-value treats your dog loves on your walk. When your dog pulls and you stop, as soon as your dog relaxes and allows the leash to go slack, praise them verbally (“good boy!”) and give them a little treat. Then carry on with your walk.

When you first start, you may also want to give treats regularly during the walk, too, as long as there’s slack in the leash. You could be using a lot of treats, so keep them small!

Alternatively, if you’re already using clicker training, you can bring along your clicker to reinforce your dog’s good behavior.

Common Dog Walking Problems

A dog pulling on the leash isn’t the only problem dog owners encounter when walking their dog; other common dog walking issues include:

-Dog barking, growling, or lunging at other dogs or people

-Dog pulling towards, or jumping up on, adults and children

-Dog not paying any attention to you

-Dog constantly stopping to mark

-Dog reacting in fear to garbage trucks, cars, and other stimuli

You can use positive training methods to tackle these problems, too. Remember to reward good behavior with verbal praise, treats, and/or clicks, and most of all, remember to be consistent.

Dog Walking Tips

Looking for more tactics to train your dog to walk well on the leash? Try these tips.

Change directions

If your dog simply won’t relax and let slack back in the leash, change directions. Turn around and say “this way” or “let’s go” or something similar, then start walking. This is also a good tactic to use when you see that your dog is likely to misbehave. For instance, if your dog pulls a lot when walking by another dog, or in response to children playing, then turn around and walk in another direction when you spot those potential distractions ahead. Simply don’t give your dog the opportunity to misbehave!

Swap equipment

Try another collar or harness style – switch from Martingale to gentle leader, for example – if what you’re using isn’t working.

Structured walk

To focus solely on improving your dog’s behavior when walking, try a “structured walk.” This is a walk that is just for walking, close to you and on a loose leash. It’s not a time for your dog to explore, sniff other dogs, constantly mark, etc. Ideally, your dog will do their business before the structured walk starts, so the walk can just be about walking. This is harder than it sounds, as you’re asking your dog to pay attention to you and ignore a lot of exciting things in the environment.

Keep it short

You want your dog to be successful during training, and one way to help make this happen is to keep training sessions short. For this reason, it’s better to go for two 10-minute walks than one 20-minute walk when you’re training good walking skills. The longer it goes, the more likely your dog is to misbehave, but a short walk means you’re more likely to end on a “win.”

Leash training for the long haul

Training your dog to walk on a loose leash isn’t just a matter of good manners. It’s safer for you, your dog, and other people and dogs you cross paths with during your walk. While the process can be a little tedious, and it may take longer than you want, stick to it! You’ll be rewarded with a dog who’s a pleasure to walk with. 

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