Training Your Dog to Walk on and off a Leash
No matter what age, breed, or size, it’s important to teach your dog to walk on a leash. Good leash skills and mastery of basic commands are vital for your dog’s safety and your own.
First, the only real distinctions between teaching a puppy or an adult dog to walk on a leash are shorter training sessions for puppy attention spans, and the time it takes for them to get used to the leash, collar and even a harness. Once they’re used to the gear equipment, you can begin to leash train your dog. Puppy training sessions should be conducted in three- to five-minute training sessions a few times each day, and most adult dogs can handle training for 10 minutes, anywhere from two-to-four times a day.
Before You Begin to Train a Dog to Walk on a Leash
Make sure your puppy or dog has an appropriate collar or harness that fits properly to prevent them from slipping out, as well as a suitable leash. A great way to help your pup get used to wearing a collar/harness and leash is to put both on for short periods of time in the house and during playtime. During this exercise, give him/her small treats and praise so he/she learns to love collar-and-leash time since it’s now associated with food and fun. Another thing to determine prior to training is your marker for good behavior. Here are the most common options:
● Get a training clicker so the dog learns to associate the sound with a reward
● Training treats are tiny tidbits to keep your pup interested in earning a reward
● Positive Verbal Reinforcement
Your pup dog wants to please you, so consistency in your training commands can help your furry friend quickly understand what you want him to do.
Whichever reward you use, the method can produce the same result. It’s recommended to conduct your first leash training session in a quiet place indoors that’s free of distractions. One of the best exercises to start with is “Sit-Stay-Come” training while still wearing their leash and collar. Even though you are not actually holding the leash and walking your pup just yet, it’s a great first step that allows dogs to associate the reward with wearing the collar and leash, making it more likely for them to listen to these commands while on a walk.
Start out by making the marker sound or offering a training treat, and as soon as your puppy dog
reacts by turning towards you or looking at you, reward him. Trust us, it won’t be
long before they understand the new game!
Keep this exercise going and continue backing away from your pup, make him come to you, then reward him. You can gradually increase the distance, and once he’s mastered coming to you, you can now actually pick up the leash and walk together for a bit before he gets the reward. Remember, puppies have a short attention span, so keep your training sessions short.
Tips & Training Guidelines to Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Leash
Now that your dog has collar-and-leash walking mastered indoors, it’s time to introduce a few more distractions by going outdoors. You can expect challenges and a few mistakes because all the sounds, smells, and sights will be intriguing and new to him. You want him to learn to walk on a leash nicely by your side, without pulling or lunging. Always remember that you are in control. Do not yank or jerk the leash in an attempt for control or drag your dog along with you.
● Be patient and keep your first walks together short. Keep your eyes on your dog so you can anticipate any behavior issues such as lunging at something.
● Use your marker sound to redirect his attention whenever he’s distracted or drifting too far away from the task at hand. Reward him with a treat for following you.
When walking outside with your pup, being proactive and trying to avoid distractions like bicyclists, skateboarders, other dogs, and cars is very important. If you see some improvement , you can increase the distance between you, your dog and whatever is distracting him. If your dog starts lunging at something or pulling in the other direction, stop in your tracks, stand very still and refuse to move until your dog comes back to you. Once he does, make your marker sound again and reward
If barking while distracted is a problem, use the same process as you would if your dog is lunging or pulling — create distance and offer treats before he begins barking. Be consistent, and eventually every time he sees a dog he will know to turn his attention back towards you.
Tips & Training Guidelines to Teach Your Dog to Walk Off-Leash
Let’s say that your dog has mastered walking on the leash. He’s healthy, even-
tempered and non-aggressive. You can trust him to come to you on command. Is it
enough for you to trust him to walk off-leash? The safety of you, your pet, and
others around you is always important to keep in mind, and that’s why we don’t
recommend off-leash walks with your pup. However, there are a few environments
distinctly designed for some off-leash fun in a fenced and controlled area. Working
with your dog to help prepare for these types of environments to ensure your pup
still follows your commands is a great idea. Here are some ways to safely work on off-leash training!
If you decide to begin off-leash training, know it is going to take firm, consistent training and lots of
positive behavior reinforcement. Your dog must stay right by your side or under your
voice control at all times when it is off the leash, even when distractions are
everywhere. Make sure your dog is micro-chipped and ID tags are current. If your dog gets away from you, ID tags and microchips will be your best bet at reunification.
If your dog is ready, the dog park can be an option as a place to practice being off-leash. You can test your voice control commands and his/her response, as well as see how your dog behaves when distractions are everywhere. Your dog should always follow your direction no matter the situation or distraction. If your pup is not responding well and does not maneuver around the dog park by your side while obeying commands, it may be beneficial to practice those commands some more at home on a leash with fewer distractions. If your pup does well at listening to commands at the dog park while sticking by your side, you can allow them to begin exploring interesting smells, running freely, and playing with other dogs in ways they can’t at home or while on-leash, and generally have some fun!
The best part? Your dog can develop more confidence while earning your trust. If you feel it’s appropriate, you can tackle more challenging situations each time, until you’re able to trust your dog and his behavior virtually anywhere it’s appropriate for him to be. Remember, consistent, positive reinforcement punctuated with random treats helps promote good behavior, build skills and good canine citizens.
Finally, if you’re worried about your dog’s weight or fear spoiling him with too many treats, enthusiastic praise (i.e. “Yes!”) is another type of reward for good behavior. You can mix it up so he never knows which he’ll get – food or praise. Both feel good to him because he’s pleasing you, and you are rewarding his good behavior.
We hope this gives you what you need to help begin leash training your furry family member! Happy walking!