How To Train A Dog To Walk On A Leash

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A person walking three small dogs across a  crosswalk
Amber LaRock author at sitstay.com
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We’ve all seen the dogs that are walking their owners down the street or those that thrash around and cause a headache for everyone involved in the walk! There is nothing better than having a dog that walks readily on a leash, but it does take effort to help your pup get there. 

In this article, we’ll dive into how to train a dog to walk on a leash, and the easiest ways to achieve that goal!


What You’ll Need

Before you begin leash training with your furry friend, you’ll need reliable tools to work with! Make sure you offer your dog the following:

  • A reliable collar or harness that is proven to withstand normal canine activities.
  • A leash that is between 4-5 feet long. This way they have some room to roam, but enough to still give you the control.
  • A vet’s approval to ensure that your leash/harness/collar of choice is safe and comfortable for your canine companion.

Introducing Your Dog To The Harness/Collar/Leash

Our pups are not born with the ability to walk on a leash or instantly affect the new collar that’s placed upon their neck. Similar to a toddler that is trying to learn how to walk around in shoes, it’s a foreign feeling that they will simply learn to get used to. In order to help them become comfortable in their leash or collar, there are a few ways to prepare them before your actual walk. 


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Use Them Around The Home First

Before you attempt to suit up your pup and take them out for a walk, it’s best to introduce them to these things in the comfort of your home. Your dog is likely to thrash or chew on their leash the first time you take them for a walk if they are not used to these restraints, which can make your first few walking experiences stressful. 

To help them adjust to a comfortable area, it’s best to let them wear their new collar/harness/leash around your home a few times. You can simply put on their new harness or attach their leash to their collar and monitor them for 10-15 minutes as they walk around your home and get used to this new feeling. As long as you monitor them to make sure they don’t run into any trouble, this is a simple way to help them adjust. 


Use Them During Play Time

In order to help your dog associate their harness or leash with an enjoyable time, it’s best to offer their favorite activity during the first few times they wear their leash/harness/collar. Try playing a game of fetch with their new harness on, offering them their favorite bone, or any other activity that makes them happy. If the only time they ever wear their harness is for a trip to the vet, they will automatically associate it with a bad experience.


Reward Their Behavior

Each time they wear their new collar/leash/harness without making a fuss, be sure to offer them a yummy treat. By rewarding this desirable behavior, they are more likely to continue this behavior in the future. This will also help to diminish fear or discomfort if they know the use of their leash comes with their favorite treat. 


Using A Sound Command

Like many other aspects of dog behavior, associating their leash/harness with a certain sound can help them learn how to easily come to you when it’s time to go for a walk or leave the house. You can do this by using a clicker, voicing a certain command, or by using any other sound that you will use when it’s time to suit up and go for a walk.

You can implement this sound command by always offering a treat or some form of praise when they come to your attention and easily let you put on their harness or leash. Once they learn that they are offered a tasty treat each time they respond to this noise command, you will no longer have to chase your dog around the house when it’s time to put on their harness!


Practice Makes Perfect

Most dogs will require a few practice runs before they are comfortable enough to walk outside on a lead without any struggle. In order to make your future walks enjoyable, you will need to be dedicated to practice! Some ways to practice their leash training include:

  • Repeat the steps above over and over inside of your home until they respond without any struggle.
  • Once they have mastered the practice inside your home, take them to an enclosed outdoor area and practice the same steps outside.
  • Make sure to refrain from getting frustrated throughout the process. Yelling or offering any negative reinforcement will only put your dog off from the activity altogether.
  • If you notice that your dog becomes easily distracted throughout the leash training process, implement your sound command until you gain their attention again. Make sure to have your treats ready!
  • Understand that this is a process, and be ready to have fun along the way.

How To Handle Misbehavior On The Leash

Most pups are bound to act up at some point as they’re learning how to walk on a leash. Some of the most common behaviors and the ways to handle them include:

Pulling 

If your dog is guilty of pulling on your walks and attempting to walk far ahead of you, plant your feet on the ground and act like a tree. Show them that if they continue to pull ahead of you on their lead that they will no longer move forward. Once they understand that this action will keep them from moving forward on their walk, they will learn to stop pulling. 

Lunging

Many dogs are guilty of lunging at different distractions throughout their walk. Whether it’s a squirrel across the way, a passing dog, or any other distraction, it’s best to have a plan in place. In most cases, it’s best to be aware of what sets your dog off and attempt to redirect their attention any time you see a possible distraction. By redirecting them and offering them a treat or form of praise, you can prevent them from lunging. 

Chewing

If your dog is constantly chewing at their leash and attempting to chew their harness, it may be a sign that they are not yet used to it. Consider taking them back home and practicing your initial steps, or consider purchasing a leash that is not as “comfortable” to chew on.

Showing your dog how to walk on a leash does not have to be a stressful experience. As long as you have patience and education on the topic, you and your pup have everything you need to succeed!


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Meet The Author 

Amber LaRock

Amber is a Licensed Vet Tech with a degree in Veterinary Technology. Recently she has specialized in veterinary and animal-related content creation and social media management. When she is not working she loves spending time with her furry friends exploring the outdoors.