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How to Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

Petmate Academy

January 18, 2019

January is National Walk Your Dog Month, and while the month may be halfway over it’s the perfect time to start walking your pet to create a healthier and happier lifestyle. While you may think that a dog automatically knows how to walk on a leash, it is something that needs to be taught. 

Before you Start

1. Your dog needs an appropriate collar that fits him properly, as well as a suitable leash.  If you are wanting to use a harness make sure you can fit two fingers under it at any point. It's important for your dog to be comfortable or else, any collar or leash will be rejected. No matter what dog breed you have, there's always a good collar and leash combination that suits your dog.

2. Make sure you have treats readily available and other rewards.

3. Use a marker for good behavior such as an enthusiastic “yes!” or “good boy!”

Training

Introduce him to the collar or harness and leash. Start by letting your puppy get used to wearing something that they aren’t normally used to wearing. Choosing a comfy puppy collar will make the transition much easier. Most collars are adjustable, which lets you make adjustments as your puppy grows bigger. Begin by letting them walk around with the collar and leash on and as they grow accustomed to it start walking them inside your home.  They should be able to walk without too many distractions and should be able to come to you when you ask.  Offer treats and rewards when they follow directions.1

Take it outside. Now that your puppy knows the basics it is time to bring them somewhere unfamiliar.  The new sights and smells will be exciting for your puppy so be patient and keep the first few walks short. 

Prevent pulling. Start by capturing your dog’s correct behavior and offering a treat when there is slack in the leash.  Even a spastic puppy will slow down enough to create some slack in the lead. Use a training lead that is not retractable. These types of leashes encourage pulling since the dog will try to extend the distance as much as possible. If your dog has already formed a habit of pulling you need to convince him that pulling will not get him to his goal any faster and walking politely next to you will give them a reward. When your dog starts pulling on the leash, stop walking.  When he turns to look at you and there becomes some slack, instantly reward and resume your walk. When they pull again, stop again.  This may take several days, and many slow walks, but soon your dog will realize that pulling on the leash results in less progress.

Have your pet walk beside you. Your pet needs to learn to stay by your side when walking.  The left side of you is the more traditional side, but you may feel more comfortable with your pet on the right. 2 While walking your dog when you notice that your pet chooses to walk beside you, reward him with a treat.  Reward him with every step he chooses to stay next to you and as they progress you will not have to reward as often. As your pet is learning the new smells and he wanders off call him to you and reward this behavior with praise or treat when he comes.  If he doesn’t come immediately tug on the leash to remind him to come with you but do not force them to come. Wait until he comes on his own then reward when he syncs into your steps.

Troubleshooting

My dog crosses in front of me or is running in circles. Stop your feet and make your presence more known to your dog. Once he is still, lure him back to your side with a treat on your thigh.

My dog is lagging behind. He may be scared or not feeling well so use lots of encouragement instead of dragging him along on the walk.

Walking your dog can be a great exercise for you and your pup and a great bonding time for the both of you. To finish the month strong, celebrate National Walk Your Dog Month and keep it up for the whole year!

 

Sources:

  1. Teach Puppy to Walk on Leash
  2. Training Your Dog Not To Pull on the Leash

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