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How To Train A Dog To Walk On A Leash

How To Train A Dog To Walk On A Leash

Daily walks are essential — not just for your pup’s health, but their wellbeing. Sure, walking your dog on a leash helps them maintain a healthy weight, but it also helps them burn off excess energy, engages their mind and senses, and gives them the opportunity to socialize with other people and dogs. 

Walking your dog also benefits you, the pet parent — getting outside and moving your body feels good, and it strengthens your bond with your furry friend. 

To ensure that walking your dog is the positive experience it should be, start by teaching  your puppy how to walk on a leash. We’ll tell you how to do it in the following sections.

Shopping List For Training A Puppy To Walk On A Leash

Before you start  leash training your puppy, make sure you have everything you need to set them up for success:

  • Training treats (our flavorful Jinx Tiny Treats are low calorie, making them perfect for repeat rewarding during training sessions with your pup)
  • A quality, 6-foot leash that feels good in your hand (avoid using a retractable leash, which can be confusing for some dogs due to its constant pulling)
  • Dog poop bags and a poop bag holder
  • A well-fitting dog harness
  • A collar with an up-to-date ID tag
  • A  pouch specifically designed for holding treats (not a necessity, but you may find it nice to have!)

When To Start Leash Training Your Puppy

You can start leash training as soon as your puppy is old enough to be away from its mom, which is typically around 8 weeks old. 

When leash training a little baby pup of this age, remember to keep things low-key: practice indoors, in the smallest room possible, and do so  in short durations (no longer than a minute or two before taking off the leash).

As your puppy gets older, you can gradually increase the length of their training sessions — they’ll be a leash-walking pro before you know it!

How To Train a Puppy To Walk On A Leash

Training your puppy to walk on a leash is all about teaching them where you want them to be.  Avoid yanking on the leash — this doesn’t help your puppy learn what they’re supposed to do, and can even cause an injury. Positive reinforcement (aka rewarding your little pal with treats whenever they make progress) is a much better strategy.

To successfully train your puppy to walk on a leash, follow the steps below. 

Let Your Puppy Adjust To Their Leash

First, give your puppy a chance to get used to wearing a collar/harness and leash. Have them wear these items for short periods of time at home, while you’re playing with them and giving them treats. This helps your puppy associate leash time with food and fun. You can gradually increase the length of time that they wear the harness/collar/leash as they get more used to them.

Establish a Sound Cue

Introduce your puppy to a sound cue that means, “Treats are coming!” Some people like to click and treat, while others use a word like, “Yes.” Whatever cue you choose, the method is the same: 

  • In a quiet, distraction-free area, with your puppy wearing  their leash and collar/harness, make the sound. 
  • When your puppy turns toward you and/or looks at you, reward them with a treat. 
  • After a few repetitions, you’ll notice that your puppy not only looks at you, but also comes over to you for the treat.
  • While your puppy is on their way to you, still wearing their leash and collar/harness, back up a few paces, then reward them when they get to you. 
  • Continue this progression until your puppy, upon hearing the cue, comes to you and walks with you a few paces.

Remember that puppies have a short attention span, so keep your sessions short, and end them when your puppy is still eager to do more, not when they’re exhausted.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Now that your puppy understands how to come to you, practice walking a few steps in a room with few distractions. Feeling and seeing the leash around them will be enough of a challenge for your puppy — offer them treats and praise as they get used to coming to you, as described above, with a leash on.

Take A Walk Outside

After practicing at home, you’ll be ready to test your puppy’s leash-walking skills in the great outdoors. Be mindful that there will be new challenges with this step  — all of the new sounds, smells, and sights that your puppy encounters outside  will be exciting and distracting for them. Be patient, and keep your first outdoor walks together short.

If your puppy looks like they’re about to lunge at something or otherwise gets distracted on your walk, simply make your sound cue and move a few steps away — then, reward your pup with a treat when they follow you.

Top Tips For Training a Puppy To Walk On A Leash

Many factors can affect how well your puppy responds to the leash training process above: your pup’s excitement level, mental stimulation, the weather, your surroundings, and even your own mood.

Try to avoid making your pup excited before a walk — the calmer they are, the more receptive they’ll be to training. If your pup starts to get overexcited, try asking them to sit while you put on their leash and open the door. This can bring down their level of excitement, and help them concentrate.

Encountering some challenges with leash training? Here are a few tips for troubleshooting common issues.

Be Consistent

When it comes to training a puppy to walk on a leash, consistency is by far the most important factor. Each time you take your pup out for a walk, reinforce what they’ve been taught. Establish a routine and stick to it, so your puppy learns what to expect at walk time.

Try Loose-Leash Walking

When you hold your puppy’s leash, it should feel loose, which means that they’re walking in the correct position rather than pulling you ahead. If your puppy is having problems with pulling their leash, you might try a technique called “loose-leash walking.” Here’s how it works:

  • When your puppy walks on the leash without pulling, reward them every few paces with tasty treats, then continue walking.
  • If they start to pull, stand still temporarily so that your puppy learns that this behavior means no walks. Don’t continue on with your walk until your puppy comes back to your side.
  • You can also use this same technique to stop your pup from chewing on their leash. 

If your puppy continues to pull on their leash even after this training, you might try switching them to a leash that uses a front-attach harness rather than a collar and leash.

Offer Positive Reinforcement 

If your puppy starts pulling their leash or chasing something on your walk, stop walking and hold steady. Instead of yanking on their leash or yelling at them, try calling your pup’s name in a cheerful tone, making kissy noises, or stomping your feet. Once you have your puppy’s attention, praise them, hand them a treat, and then continue on with the walk, feeding them treats with each step until they calm down.

Distract Your Puppy To Reduce Barking or Lunging 

It’s common for dogs on walks to bark at other dogs or passers by. If barking becomes a recurring problem, try redirecting your puppy’s attention with treats or a sound cue. Then, slowly move them away from the target of their barking.

Some dogs are also prone to reacting to other dogs or people by lunging at them. To curb this, you can use the same technique mentioned above: distract them with treats, then slowly move away from their target. Seek out help from a certified dog trainer if unwanted behaviors like lunging  persist. 

Enjoy Quality Time With Your Puppy

Teaching a dog to walk on a leash opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Leash training your puppy can feel challenging at first, but with the tips above, walks with your puppy will soon be your new favorite part of your daily routine.

Try to stay patient, and remember: it’s worth the time and effort. After all, this is a skill that will be with your pup for life!

Adding a new puppy to your family soon? We’re here to help you prepare to welcome a new little bundle of (puppy) joy into your life. Read our tips for potty training a puppy, and check out our new puppy shopping checklist


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