Training Your Dog to Walk on a Leash: Tips and Benefits
Leash training may seem like a daunting process, so we’ve narrowed the training down into some simple tips that will have your dog walking politely by your side in no time.
The first goal in leash training is to teach your dog that leash time means fun time. So, of course, a plethora of treats will be involved. When rewarding good behavior, the more treats, the better.
When giving out lots of treats, you'll want to use little bite-sized treats. A quality, cost-effective option you can try is Blue Bits by Blue Buffalo.
What you’ll need:
- Collar (preferably a harness)
- Leash (non retractable)
How It Works
For your dog to become better acquainted with the leash, put it on him while you two are inside, and start by having play time. You can also use this time to train simple commands. This first step is all about having fun and giving your dog treats (only for good behavior!). The result is that your dog is now used to the leash and will associate it with good times.
Now that you've taught your dog how fun it is to wear a leash, it's time to teach him a cue to come to you. The importance of teaching this command is two fold: having a dog that comes when called is a valuable training and safety tool. If you’re ever out on a walk and you drop the leash or your dog slips out of his/her collar, having a recall could save your dog’s life on a busy street and also saves you a lot of stress. If you find a dog friendly area that allows your dog to be off leash, knowing that he/she will come when called allows your dog to get the extra exercise off leash while you enjoy a relaxing walk.
With the leash still on, and with treats in your hands, say the cue to your dog (try something like “fido come!” in an excited, happy tone. The instant your dog looks at you or makes a move towards you, reward with a treat. There is nothing more potent in the dog world than the anticipation of a treat. This comes in quite handy when you’re competing with a squirrel or bunny for your dog’s attention.
Continue teaching your dog the cue word and back up a few steps each time to make your dog come across the room towards you. Once your dog consistently comes to you on cue, it’s time to brave the outdoors and go for a walk.
Before walking on a leash, if you have a fenced-in yard you can continue to practice using your cue word with your dog off leash. Let your dog wander around and enjoy being outside while you go about doing some work in the yard. After a bit, excitedly use your cue word (treats in hand of course).
You can practice this in intervals, giving your dog time to enjoy himself, and then calling him to come to you whenever he hears the cue word. Teaching your dog the cue beforehand will come in handy when he inevitably gets distracted on your walk.
Start off with short walks, the sensory overload for your dog is going to be real, and your dog will likely be distractedly sniffing every which direction. Inevitably, whether it's a taunting squirrel or the sudden movement of someone walking down their driveway, your dog will likely make a move to pull you in another direction.
When this happens, take a couple of steps back use your cue word to get your dog’s attention. If he comes to you, reward with a treat and continue walking. Every few steps that your dog continues to walk by your side, reward with a treat. Whenever he pulls, stop the walk and step back, use your cue and as soon as your dog responds, give him a treat and continue the walk.
Don’t be surprised if your dog isn’t as perfect as you’d like to think. Distractions are part of what makes walks so enjoyable for your dog. While you don’t want your dog pulling, you can take a few seconds to let him pause and sniff that extra tasty blade of grass.
If your dog stays near you and isn't pulling your arm off, let him enjoy the walk. He’s finally outside in a brand-new environment, and there are so many new things to sniff and experience. It's no fun if you plow ahead the whole time.
You may have a dog who is more prone to pulling than the average pup. If so, shorten your leash and stick to your training by rewarding every moment of good behavior. Also, try walking at a brisker pace. Walking with more purpose will communicate to your dog to follow along—you must be going someplace fun!
Also, some dogs aren’t so sure about other people. If your dog has anxiety when they come across a stranger, you can train them that people are good by treating your dog every time you see another person walking. Soon your dog will see a person and immediately look to you for a treat, rather than reacting negatively.
Walking your dog is a rewarding activity for everyone involved. It gives you a chance to train your dog while giving him much needed exercise. In addition, your dog is going to love enjoying his exploration of the world outside of your home. Especially if you work all day and your dog spends a lot of hours home alone. A walk right after work will be something your dog looks forward to all day long.
Also remember, if you don’t have enough time to walk your dog on any given day, Rover offers a fantastic dog-walking service. Rover has a user-friendly website and app where you can select from a variety of dog-walkers with reviews and pictures available for you to pick the perfect walker for your dog.
Before using Rover though, make sure you’ve gone through the initial leash training and have taken a couple of walks with your dog to ensure he’ll be comfortable and polite for your walker.
A final recommendation for walking your dog: use a harness or a harness lead.
A traditional collar can cause stress on your dog's neck, and over time can cause severe damage to the trachea. Another safety reason for using a harness is your dog won’t be able to slip his head out like he could if the collar is a bit too loose. There’s nothing more panic-inducing than your dog off leash when he shouldn’t be. So, please be safe, and use a harness.
Walks are an integral part of your dog’s life, both for exercise, and socialization. They also give you the perfect opportunity to bond and train your dog, all while he happily enjoys an exciting new adventure.
When out walking, your dog can feel your energy through the leash. Train yourself to send calm energy to your dog. Your dog, and everyone you come in contact with, will thank you for it.