Walks are important for all dogs, regardless of age. In addition to building the bond between you and your pet, exercise keeps you both healthy and keeps boredom at bay. Dogs need to explore their environment for their own well being. Daily walks also aid in your pet’s digestion and help them sleep better at night. 

But many people are reluctant to walk their dogs, afraid of the pulling, barking, and general unpleasant behavior that may accompany leash walks. It’s easy to think that dogs just innately know how to walk on a leash, but in fact, this skill is something that needs to be trained. It’s an important skill to teach, and one that you’ll appreciate every time you take your dog out for her walk. 

Keep reading for tips on leash training from The Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital.

Leash Training Starts Here!

When you start leash training, the place to start is with… wait for it…  the leash! Make sure you have the right gear and that it all fits your dog or puppy well, and that it is comfortable. When in doubt, seek advice from a certified dog trainer or your veterinarian. 

Many dogs and puppies can benefit from a harness rather than a collar that they can slip out of. Harnesses that have a clip on the front can minimize pulling, but this isn’t a cure-all. Still, the right harness and leash can put you on the right path to effective leash training.

The Basics of Leash Training

The goal of leash training is to teach your dog to walk by your side without pulling, straining, lunging, or barking at other dogs while on a walk. 

It’s a good idea to have basic obedience already in progress, such as sit, come, and stay. Our training classes for every level are a great place to start. 

Make the collar or harness and leash fun by allowing your puppy or dog to wear them in the house while you play and reward her with treats. This makes collar and leash time a good thing for your dog. 

Next practice inside. As you play with your dog while she wears her harness and leash, she’ll eventually come over to you. When she does, reward her with a treat. Keep doing this each time she comes to you, then add in the “come” command. Build up to walking a few steps with her as she follows you before the reward. Keep sessions short and positive. 

Finally, take it outside. Talk to your dog and engage her. When your dog looks at you, reward her right away. The goal is to teach your dog to pay attention to you during walks. Use basic commands such as heel, stay with me, or look at me, to teach her to link paying attention to you with good things. Gradually you’ll reduce the amount of treats you give as your dog learns to walk with you on the leash.

Things To Avoid

Leash walking inevitably comes with distractions. But a dog that pulls or lunges can spell trouble for both of you. It can strain your arms and back, cause falls, and injure your dog’s airway or neck. 

If your dog pulls or lunges, take a few steps away and call her to you. When she comes back to you, reward with a treat. It may take time, especially with a dog who has been pulling for awhile. Don’t give up! 

If your dog barks at other dogs while on the leash, it may be due to a lack of exercise. Try a short training or play session before you head out on your walk to burn off excess energy. Once you’ve done this, try moving away from the distraction before he starts to bark and offering treats to keep his attention on you. In time, every time he sees a dog he gets used to turning his attention to you. 

Practice Makes…. Better?

Leash training is one of the best things you can do to give your pet health and happiness. Give it time, patience, and dedication, and you’ll soon have a pet partner that is well adjusted on the leash and happy to walk – a benefit for you both. 

If you have questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.