All dogs need regular exercise. Some people are lucky enough to have a large yard for their pooch to run around in. If you don’t, you’ll have to put your Fido on a leash and take him for a stroll through the neighborhood. Learning how to train a dog to walk on a leash is imperative to making daily exercise an easy task for both of you.
As with any type of training, this will take a lot of patience and time. In my step-by-step video guide above, you’ll see that it’s taken us months of training to work with our stubborn little Beagle.
She’s doing better than she was, but it’s certainly a time consuming and frustrating process. Your dog may not be as stubborn as our little Molly, but even the fastest learners won’t grasp walking on a leash over night.
Learning how to train a dog to walk on a leash is the easy part. It’s putting these skills to use that will be tricky. Stay calm and be patient, and you’ll be walking with furry friend in no time.
How To Train A Dog To Walk On A Leash
1. Find the right harness/collar and leash
As I explain in my video, I prefer to use a harness instead of a collar when learning how to train a dog to walk on a leash. You’ll need to find the right collar or harness for your dog, but I would definitely recommend a harness for all dogs that are new to leash walking.
Your dog won’t understand what is going on at first, meaning he may pull on the leash or try to back out of a collar. Of course, if a collar is properly fit this shouldn’t be an issue. But, think of the pressure and strain that this is going to put on your pet’s neck and throat.
A harness spreads the pressure out evenly through your dog’s chest causing him no harm and eliminating the risk of injury to his throat.
Whichever you choose, you need to be sure that the device is properly fit on your dog. Collars should fit tightly around your dog’s neck, but not too tightly. You should be able to comfortably slip two fingers between the collar and your pup’s neck.
If you need more information about properly fitting your pet with a harness, watch my step-by-step video on how to put on a dog harness.
As in my video, I’m going to say harness, but if you use a collar that’s fine too. Once the harness is properly fit, allow your dog plenty of time to walk around with it on. Let him get used to the feeling of the harness so he will realize that it is comfortable and does not restrict his range of motion.
When he’s used to the harness, allow him some time to get used to the leash. Place it on the floor where he can sniff it. Attach it to the harness for 1-2 minutes at a time so he realizes that the leash isn’t a threat.
2. Find a motivational reward
You’re going to need a reward that motivates your dog. In the video above, I explain that Molly isn’t highly motivated by biscuit treats. She eats them and seems to enjoy when I use them as a reward for other training, but they don’t motivate her enough to want to walk on a leash.
As my video displays, Molly does not want to walk on a leash at all. We’ve been struggling to train her for quite some time, but she’s just not into it. I needed to find something that would motivate her to want to participate, and I did – fresh turkey.
3. Be patient
I briefly mentioned that all types of training takes patience. If you get frustrated your dog is going to pick up on it, and he’ll become upset too. If you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated, take a break and come back to your training later.
Learning how to train a dog to walk on a leash isn’t something that will happen in one session. It won’t even happen in a few sessions. Training your dog to do anything will take many sessions over the course of many days.
Of course, this will all depend on your dog. As I explain in my video, we have a chocolate Labrador that took to leash walking very quickly. She loves it, and it only took her a few weeks to learn how to properly walk on a lead.
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Molly is proving to be much more difficult to train. When learning how to train a dog to walk on a leash, you need to keep your dog’s happiness in mind. When training, work at your pet’s pace. If he is having fun and enjoying the training, continue; if he’s starting to get discouraged, take a break.
4. Don’t pull!
Most dog owners think that if they just coax their pup along and pull on the leash a little bit he will naturally follow and begin to walk along. While this may work with some dogs, it’s not the best way to learn how to train a dog to walk on a leash, and it could result in your pooch getting injured.
Pulling on the leash may cause your dog to become nervous and view the leash as a threat. It may also backfire and cause him to become scared of the leash, which will lead to him trying to back out of his harness and escape.
5. Begin with small steps and increase distance gradually
As with all dog training, learning how to train a dog to walk on a leash needs to be done gradually. As you’ll see in my video, you want to start down on your dog’s level about 2 feet in front of him.
Using the motivating treat that you’ve selected, show him the snack and call him toward you. If he’s like Molly, he’ll be a bit skittish at first, but he’ll come get the treat eventually. When he does make his way to you, lots of affection and praise will show him that he’s doing what you want.
Once he gets comfortable walking 2-3 feet toward you, you can slowly increase the distance between the two of you until you’re entire leash length away. As you back away from him, you’ll also want to decrease the use of the treat – only treating him every other or every third time that he comes to you.
You also want to slowly increase your height. You can start on his level to make him feel more comfortable, but as he begins to understand the concept of walking on the leash, you’ll want to stand up a little straighter each time you train him. The goal is to get him used to walking beside you when you are standing up, right?
When your dog walks comfortably on the leash, you can begin moving around your yard. Again, you’ll need to build your dog’s stamina gradually. Small dogs and puppies won’t be able to walk as long as larger breeds.
Start with short walks around the yard or down your street. 5 minutes walks are a great starting point and you can increase in 5 minutes intervals once your dog has built up his endurance.
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