Basic Training, Part 6

Teaching Your Dog to Walk On a Leash

Dogs are not born knowing how to walk on a leash without pulling or straining. That is something you’re going to have to teach your new puppy or older, un-trained dog. For this exercise, most professional dog trainers don’t recommend using a retractable leash. Purchase a regular leash and collar or halter that gives you more control over your dog while you are training him.

Your first step is to get your dog acclimated to his collar or halter. Place them on his body and adjust each so that you can slip at least two fingers between his neck and the collar, and between his body and each strap of a halter. Make sure both are tight enough so that they don’t slip off the body or over the head, but loose enough to be comfortable.

Leave the collar or halter on him without removing it until he adjusts to it and feels calm sleeping and moving around in it. This may take a few hours to a couple of days, so patience is needed here.

Once he is relaxed, slip your leash onto his collar/halter and take him outside. Place your hand through the leash’s loop and wrap it around your wrist. This keeps your dog from possibly pulling it off your hand and getting loose.

Begin walking forward at a slow pace. If your dog refuses to follow you, hold a treat in front of his nose as you step off without allowing him to take it. Once he takes 2 or 3 steps, give him the treat and praise him. You may need to give a slight tug on the leash the first several times to get him to move, but a gentle tug is important. DO NOT pull. 

Continue with this until he is moving forward freely and looking for his treats.

This part of his training may take several days of consistent work for him to move freely on his own. Slowly take the treat away as he learns, but continue to praise him when he walks without that initial tug on the leash.

If your dog insists on walking quickly in front of you and pulling on the leash, immediately stop moving and make him sit. Give him a treat if he sits promptly. Once he learns that he won’t be allowed to take off on his own, and that he has to stay with you – and that there is a reward in that behavior – he will start walking at your pace.

Remember, consistency is the key here. You MUST train him the same way every time or you’ll have a dog that pulls and tugs when you walk him. That type of uncontrollable pet is a danger to himself and to other people and dogs on the street. 

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