Loose leash training is one of the first basic skills you can teach your dog or new puppy. Ensuring your puppy can walk on a loose leash helps you communicate with your dog and also keep them safe. In addition to puppy obedience classes (which they can start around eight weeks old), check out these useful tips for leash training your dog.
Find the Right Collar and Leash
First, find a flat-buckle collar and a six-foot dog leash that’s the right width and weight for your dog or puppy. Make sure that you can fit two fingers between your dog’s collar and their neck to ensure that it’s not too tight. Take care not to yank their leash too strongly, as this can injure the trachea, larynx or cervical vertebrae.
If your puppy has respiratory issues, or is known to pull on the lead, try a front-hook dog harness. Harnesses that attach to the leash in the back can encourage pulling, but a front-hook dog harness provides a safe training aid, and also prevents damage to your puppy’s neck. Too, allowing your new puppy or dog to pull on the lead too much can put stress on their joints, especially if you train them to always walk on the same side.
Start Slow and Keep the Leash Short
Before you can take your dog for a walk, get them used to wearing their leash or harness, preferably in a familiar place, such as inside the house or in your backyard.
Once you start walking your puppy, keep the leash short enough so that they know to walk next to you. Between obedience classes, try a few of these techniques:
- Stop, Stand Still: Stay consistent, and avoid reinforcing pulling behavior by stopping your walk and remaining still when your dog tugs the leash. Do not continue forward until your dog relaxes.
- Turn and Walk: If your puppy is pulling on the leash issue a cue and reverse direction, turning your walk without yanking or tugging the leash. Make it clear that you will not reward pulling with forward movement. Once your puppy has this down, try varying your footwork by turning in a circle or figure eight.
- Give Rewards: Keep treats on hand to reward good behavior. The more enjoyable the walk is, and the better your dog feels walking close to you, the more likely they are to continue by your side.
Remember that leash training can be frustrating for you and your puppy in the beginning. But, with patience and consistency, your puppy can walk great with a lead in no time.
Reward Good Behavior With Dog Treats
Positive rewards are best for encouraging good behavior. Instead of shouting or tugging on the leash when your puppy does something you don’t like, giving treats, like small biscuits or pieces of kibble, when they are obedient will help you build a stronger bond with your dog.
For instance, when you tell your puppy to sit, guide them to sit until they recognize your command. When your puppy obeys, remember to reward them with a dog treat. When you tell your puppy to heel, make sure your puppy is following your direction, and not pulling on the leash, before you start walking again.
If your puppy is afraid to walk on a leash, try planning a short route with treats placed along the path. This will let the puppy know that good times are ahead. You can also try holding a treat in your hand to guide them on a loose leash.
Be Patient and Consistent
When your puppy reaches three to four months of age, they will begin to respond to their name. At this time, you can introduce them to simple commands, such as “come,” “sit,” “wait” and “down.” It will take a while for an easily distracted puppy to understand your commands, but practice in a calm environment with positive reinforcement can help your dog learn quickly.
If you still have trouble teaching your puppy to walk on the leash, consult your veterinarian for advice that’s specific to their breed and temperament.
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