Having a new puppy is like having a blank slate that you can mold into exactly what you want. Teaching a puppy how to walk nicely on the leash is a great trick to work on early in your dog’s life. Read more to find out how to get your pup started now!
Conditioning Your Puppy to a Leash
For some puppies, having a leash put on them can be pretty upsetting at first. Some puppies take to the leash without skipping a beat, and others seem to turn into fuzzy three year olds, flinging themselves down and throwing a full-fledged temper tantrum. Getting your puppy used to a leash can and should be done in a gradual manner. Begin by snapping a regular leather or nylon leash to your puppy while in the house. Remember to have them say please by sitting before you do so! Give them a few high value treats after you place their leash on them. Let them feel the weight of the leash and continue rewarding them with treats here and there. You can also let them drag the leash around for a few minutes every day so they get used to the sensation. Just make sure you keep a close eye on them so they do not get their leash caught on something and injure themselves. This can be done even with very young puppies! Once they get used to the feeling of the leash being on them you can begin training them how to walk with you.
Training How to Walk on the Leash
Step 1. Take up some of the slack in the leash and walk a few paces in any direction. If you’ve already taught your dog to come when called they may recognize this action and begin following you. When they catch up to you give them a verbal praise marker such as “Yes!” and immediately give them a treat when their body is lined up with yours.
*If your pup doesn’t begin following you right away to catch up you can pat your leg or use food as a lure. Hold the food down by your leg along your side where you want their body to end up and entice them to walk over to you.
Step 2. Continue taking a few steps at a time and rewarding your puppy when they catch up to you.
As your puppy is first learning, reward it often for being in the right place while on the leash. If you walk a few steps and they catch up to you, reward them in position and continue walking and rewarding them with frequent treats as they remain by your side.
Once your puppy gets the hang of walking with you they may begin to run out in front of you. You do not want to reinforce this behavior. If your puppy runs past you simply turn around and begin walking the opposite direction. Your puppy will now be behind you, and you can try calling them to you again. Only reward them when they are in the position you would like him or her to be in. They will learn that they don’t get food for being behind you or in front of you, but they do get food when they are right next to you. They will make the decision on their own to be in the right position that consistently gets them rewarded.
As with every new thing you train your puppy, you will need to start in a quiet environment and work your way up to a more distracting environment. Leash training can begin in your home, and then move to a quiet backyard before finally moving to working on leash training while on walks around the neighborhood.
Have an older dog that has already developed some bad habits? Check back in the near future when we will talk about how to break bad habits, and behavioral issues.