This guest post is from Samantha Randall, YouTuber, podcaster and blogger at Top Dog Tips.
You’ve just adopted a new puppy or an older dog, and want to learn how to leash train him—one of the first, and most important dog training basics to cover.
It seems like everybody has their own ideas on how to do it right, but the best resource will always be experienced dog trainers. As someone who’s adopted many tons of dogs over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with and learn from dog trainers.
In this article, I’ll let you on a few tips on how to successfully leash train a dog and what really matters when trying to accomplish this task.
Get the Right Equipment
The first thing you need to do is make sure you have the right equipment for training your dog, and adjust your walking habits. Let’s start with the basics.
The type of collar you should get is dependent on the dog you have. You may even need to use a back harness, or a muzzle harness, when walking.
The following is just a brief overview of the types available, and their uses. Remember, that your dog should only wear a collar while being supervised. If your pooch is alone, a break-away collar is recommended.
- Standard Collar – This is the collar you see everywhere. For some dogs, this is all you need. Dogs with sleeker necks and heads may be able to easily slip out, so it wouldn’t work for them.
- Muzzle Harness (Head Halter) – This is a type that you don’t see very often. The idea is to keep your pooch from following its nose, and instead, focus on you. It also gives the leader more control.
- Back Harness – This is great for smaller breeds. Smaller dogs can get chocked easily by a traditional collar. This keeps them from having airway damage if they pull on the leash. It also keeps fur-babies from sliding out of restraints. Like the muzzle harness, it gives you more control, as long as you know how to put on a dog harness the correct way.
- Martingale Collar – Another great collar for dogs that have the bad habit of pulling on a leash. This is a double looped collar. When your four-legged companion pulls, the loop on its neck tightens. Don’t worry about choking; it only tightens enough to be uncomfortable.
There are not near as many leash choices as there are collar choices, but I’ll give you a brief overview.
The main thing to remember for a leash is that it’s sturdy enough that it won’t break if the dog tugs on it. It also needs to fit the leader’s hand well. You don’t want a skinny leash that just slides right through your hands if your canine pulls.
- Standard Leash – This is the old-fashioned leash. It can be rope style, or just be a flat band. It comes in a wide variety of styles and materials.
- Retractable Leash – Before the advent of the retractable leash, dog walkers would have to wrap the leash on their hand to have length control. A retractable leash is coiled up inside a compartment. The person can let out as much as desired and then lock it, so the pooch can go no further. This leash is not recommended until your pet is fully trained on a standard leash.
The Right Kind of Leash Training
There is an order of operations to effectively leash train your dog. Just like with a lot of things in life, the order is very important. Don’t move to the next step until the previous one is mastered.
Here are the basic steps to go through, which is all you really need as long as you stay consistent:
Step 1. Get your new pooch used to the collar and leash. Vets do not recommend you take your pup out to parks, or even down the street, until it has had all its core vaccinations.
This is the perfect time to get your dog used to its collar and leash. Start by putting the collar on. Just let them run around in it. After they are used to the collar, start with the leash. If your fur-baby is uncomfortable, or fights the equipment, use treats and praise to help it get used to them.
Step 2. Take your friend for walks in the house. This helps your pooch to get used to the leash and collar while in a safe, familiar environment. If your dog walks without pulling, give praise and treats.
This is also an excellent time to train other commands like “sit” and “stay”. It is also recommended to tire your canine out before leash training. This makes them less likely to run and pull at the leash.
Step 3. You are now ready for the great outdoors. By this time, your pup should be used to the equipment. You have had time to learn your dog’s personality, and see what type of leash and collar will work best for you and your furry friend.
When you start walking, if your dog pulls and tugs, do not painfully pull back on the leash. Just give a quick pop on the leash, say “no”. When pooch stops, then say “no” again, and immediately reward with a treat.
Maintenance and Continued Leash Education
To make sure that your canine has the leash and collar routine down pat, you need to repeat this training in many different settings, and at many different places.
Fortunately, leash training isn’t the most difficult dog training trick you’ll have to teach your dog, and it’s fairly easy to get ahold of this. You can even combine leash training with “stranger” training. Just make sure you do them separately in the your home first.
Here are some final tips to success:
- Keep training sessions short, frequent, and don’t exhaust your dog.
- Be consistent and let the dog know that pulling is not acceptable – the first time, every time.
- Walk at a quick pace when training. It keeps your canine more focused on the walking, and less focused with the smell you just passed.
- Make your pup sit calmly before putting on the leash. You want to start the session with you being the boss from the very begin. Make sure focus is always on you from start to finish.
- Keep at it! If you stop walking for a while, be prepared to have to do some refreshing on leash manners. Keep to a regular routine, and your pooch will train faster, and retain the knowledge.
Remember that structure and consistency are the most important factors that will impact how successful you are with almost any dog training task. Don’t fall for all the marketing gimmicks or “unusual” training advice that’s supposed to train your dog quicker; there’s no such thing. But if you stick to these tips, you’ll have an easier time leash training your dog and ensuring that this conditioning sticks with you pup.
Don’t worry if it seems to be taking longer than other owners say it took them. This is your quality time spent with your dog. Only worry about moving at the pace that is right for yours and your dog’s personality and schedule. The main thing is not to give up! If you are consistent with your training, the results will come.