Beyond Basic Obedience – Beginning Leash Training Part One – New Puppy Series

So your puppy can sit, down and come when called. What next? It might be a good idea to teach your dog how to properly walk on a leash next. Conditioning them from the start and performing a little bit of basic leash training will give you years of hassle-free walks and control of your dog. Let’s learn a bit about leash training and why retractable leashes aren’t such a great tool to use.

Beyond Basic Obedience

Once your puppy has learned sit, down, stay, and come they should have a good grasp on the majority of training they will ever need in obedience. You may want to continue your training at this point by teaching your puppy even more tricks. Such as going to a certain place when you ask, and also how to behave nicely on a leash so that you can comfortably take them for a walk. Even if you don’t plan on keeping your dog on a leash at home it is a very important skill for them to learn in case they need to be leashed while in a public place such as the vet’s office, parks, or even rest stops if they travel with you. By teaching your puppy what the appropriate behavior is when they are young you will avoid a vast amount of frustration in the future. Dogs that develop undesirable behaviors such as pulling while on a leash only do so because that behavior is rewarding to them, and they were never taught an appropriate behavior that is more rewarding than pulling.


There are as many different kinds of leashes as there are breeds of dogs. Finding out which one is right for you and your puppy can take some trial and error. It is recommended that you use a plain, nylon or leather leash with a well-fitting, flat, buckle collar while doing any training. The less bells and whistles the better.

Using a retractable leash is not recommended. There are many reasons why retractable leashes are not recommended for training or otherwise. The biggest concern with these leashes is safety. The second largest concern is that these leashes automatically teach your puppy or dog to pull. When the puppy pulls, the leash gets longer giving them the reward of more freedom. The more they pull, the more they get rewarded.

Dr. Marty Becker, a well-known and trusted veterinarian wrote a concise article on the facts about retractable leashes:

“Why I Don’t Recommend Retractable Leashes by Dr. Marty Becker

A retractable leash is not so much a leash as it is a length of thin cord wound around a spring-loaded device housed inside a plastic handle. The handles of most retractable leashes are designed to fit comfortably in a human hand. A button on the handle controls how much of the cord is extended.

Retractable leashes are popular primarily because they aren’t as confining as regular leashes, allowing dogs more freedom to sniff and poke around on walks. But unfortunately, there are many downsides to this type of leash.

10 Reasons Not to Use a Retractable Leash

  1. The length of retractable leashes, some of which can extend up to 26 feet, allows dogs to get far enough away from their humans that a situation can quickly turn dangerous. A dog on a retractable leash is often able to run into the middle of the street, for example, or make uninvited contact with other dogs or people.
  2. In the above scenario, or one in which your pet is being approached by an aggressive dog, it is nearly impossible to get control of the situation if the need arises. It’s much easier to regain control of – or protect — a dog at the end of a six-foot standard flat leash than it is if he’s 20 or so feet away at the end of what amounts to a thin string.
  3. The thin cord of a retractable leash can break – especially when a powerful dog is on the other end of it. If a strong, good-sized dog takes off at full speed, the cord can snap. Not only can that put the dog and whatever he may be chasing in danger, but also the cord can snap back and injure the human at the other end.
  4. If a dog walker gets tangled up in the cord of a retractable leash, or grabs it in an attempt to reel in their dog, it can result in burns, cuts, and even amputation. In addition, many people have been pulled right off their feet by a dog that reaches the end of the leash and keeps going. This can result in bruises, “road rash,” broken bones, and worse.
  5. Dogs have also received terrible injuries as a result of the sudden jerk on their neck that occurs when they run out the leash, including neck wounds, lacerated tracheas, and injuries to the spine.
  6. Retractable leashes allow dogs more freedom to pull at the end of them, which can look like aggression to another dog who may decide to “fight back.”
  7. The handles of retractable leashes are bulky and can be easily pulled out of human hands, resulting in a runaway dog.
  8. Along those same lines, many dogs – especially fearful ones – are terrorized by the sound of a dropped retractable leash handle and may take off running, which is dangerous enough. To make matters worse, the object of the poor dog’s fear is then “chasing” her, and if the leash is retracting as she runs, the handle is gaining ground on her – she can’t escape it. Even if this scenario ultimately ends without physical harm to the dog (or anyone else), it can create lingering fear in the dog not only of leashes, but also of being walked.
  9. Retractable leashes, like most retractable devices, have a tendency to malfunction over time, either refusing to extend, refusing to retract, or unspooling at will.
  10. Retractable leashes are an especially bad idea for dogs that haven’t been trained to walk politely on a regular leash. By their very nature, retractables train dogs to pull while on leash, because they learn that pulling extends the lead.”

Keep in mind that you will have less need down the road for specialized no-pull harnesses and leashes if you start puppy off on the right foot and teach them early what the correct behavior is so it will be less likely for them to pick up the incorrect behavior in the future.

In our next post, we will be writing about how to start your puppy off right with leash training and desensitization. Check back soon for part two!

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