9 min read

How To Leash Train Your Dog

No more who's walking who 😎

Do you need to train your dog to walk on a leash?

Not only are walks a super great bonding experience for you and your pup, but they’re also a great opportunity for you to do some training — and have some fun!

Here’s everything you need to know about getting your dog ready to walk on a leash (like the polite pup he is).

What you need to leash train your dog

“Making sure you have the proper equipment to safely and comfortably walk your dog is key,” Shelby Semel, head trainer at Animal Haven rescue in New York City, told The Dodo.

Semel recommends a no-pull harness for all but the smallest dog breeds. “This helps to manage your dog’s pulling while you work on teaching your dog to walk nicely,” Semel said. “Additionally, dogs should have a flat buckle collar for tags, including identification tags in case your dog gets lost. Only walk your dog on a collar if they have been fully trained to walk on a loose leash to prevent throat injuries.”

Here’s the equipment Semel recommends:

1. A No-pull harness

Like the Freedom Harness from Amazon for $30.58

Note: if you have a very large — or bossy — dog, you might need to consider a gentle leader or Halti head collar instead — but Semel says you should make sure to discuss this with your trainer before buying one.

2. A 4- to 6-foot nonretractable nylon leash

Like the Frisco Solid Nylon Dog Leash from Chewy for $8.79

Introducing your dog to the equipment

“If your puppy has never had a harness or collar on, spend time desensitizing them to it before taking him on a walk,” Semel suggested. “Go slowly and use a lot of positive reinforcement.”

Here’s how Semel suggests desensitizing your dog to his harness or collar:

  • For a collar, put it on, loosely, while you’re still inside the house, and play some fetch and do some commands to distract him.
  • For an over-the-head harness, lure your puppy to put his head through the harness with a treat, and reward him when he’s completely through. Some puppies can be uncomfortable putting their head through a small opening — so work slowly.
  • If your harness is a step-in harness (i.e. your puppy needs to put his paws through the harness and then it’s buckled across his back), lure your puppy to walk into it with a large cookie, and then buckle it while he chews. “Avoid picking up your dog and manhandling to get him in this harness, especially if your dog is already uncomfortable with handling,” Semel said.
  • While your puppy is wearing his walking gear, walk him up and down your hallway slowly, allowing him to adjust. Make the first few associations with his new equipment very positive!

Tips for leash walking with your dog

Once you actually start walking, here are some common problems and how to handle them, according to Semel.

If your puppy is pulling forwards: When your puppy is pulling, stop dead in your tracks and wait for her to stop as well. You can then get her back to your side with a treat, and start your walk again. Always make sure to stop whenever she’s pulling forwards so that she knows it’s wrong — and give her praise when she’s walking appropriately.

If your pup is pulling you towards a sniff spot or another pup: Rather than letting your puppy take control of the situation, stop walking and call her name. Wait for her to focus her attention on you and then reward her. If you want her to sniff the spot or say “hi” to the other dog — with the other owner’s permission, of course — do so now. If you’re not doing either of these things, keep her distracted by saying her name and giving her treats as you pass by.

If your puppy is dragging: When she’s dragging behind you — how dramatic — avoid turning around or making eye contact. Instead, wait 20 to 30 seconds, and if she starts walking on her own give her tons of praise. Keep praising or rewarding her every several steps. If she doesn’t start walking, hold out a treat and give it to her after she walks a few steps. Repeat as necessary.

If your puppy is switching from side to side: If she’s swerving all around, pick one side yourself and stop walking if she switches over. Lure her back to the correct side with a treat and start again! Make sure to always praise her when she stays on the correct side for several steps in a row.

Walking your dog is probably one of the best and most looked-forward-to activities you’ll do together! With these tips, your walks will always be a good time.

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