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How to Leash Train a Dog — Your Complete Guide

November 22, 2021 8 min read
pup in park on walk

How to Leash Train a Dog Your Complete Guide

Did you know that the average dog owner walks with their dog for almost nine hours a week? That’s a lot of time spent walking every week. That should be a relaxing time where your dog gets to explore with you, and you get out and take in some fresh air with them. But that relaxation will fly right out the window if your dog isn’t properly walked on leash. 

Suddenly, those calm nine hours a week turn into 12 hours of sweating, frustration, and exhaustion. That’s why it’s imperative that you leash train your dog. But if you haven’t done it yet, or if you just adopted a rescue dog, you must be frantically Googling, “How to leash train a dog?” 

Don’t worry. With dog chews and proper training regimens, you can keep your dog on the right path. You can expect in no time to train your dog to walk on a leash. 

Why It’s Important to Leash Train Your Dog 

Besides making your walks easier, there’s a major reason why you need to train your dog to walk on a leash. First off, you want your dog to understand that you are in control and that they should focus on you during your walks. If your dog doesn’t pay attention to you while on your walk, you’re in big trouble. They should understand that you guide the walk, not them — you dictate the trail you follow. 

pup waiting for walk on leash

But frustration becomes a real issue because of this. For one, you’re bound to get frustrated if they’re pulling, not listening, and refusing to listen to you. You may even find yourself losing your temper, taking it out on your dog with verbal punishment — something that should be avoided. Doing so will scare your dog, harming your relationship going forward, making it even harder to train them. 

Similarly, your dog is going to get frustrated with you. They’re pulling because they feel as if they should be in control. Feeling that strain on their neck will deeply bother them, as they’ll think of it as you’re causing them to strain doing your walk, simply by holding them back. That frustration is as bad for your dog, as it could lead to them reacting negatively on leash, either against you, other people, or (most of all) to other dogs. 

Excessive pulling could also cause your dog to injure their neck, especially if their leash is tight around their neck. While owners might think a harness is better for an excessive puller, the redistribution of force may make them more likely to pull while walking. 

Lastly, regular pulling could put your dog in harm’s way, too. By pulling, and both of your levels of frustration go through the roof, your dog may try to lunge or break out of their leash and collar. If you’re walking on a major road, this could easily lead to them rushing into traffic without realizing it. 

That’s why it’s imperative that you work with your dog. You need to make sure they feel comfortable on leash. And lastly, you need to make sure that they listen to you, look at you, and respond to you when commanded. 

the basics youll need

What You’ll Need

Now, what do you need to properly leash train your dog? Here are the very basics: 

  • A leash that’s either 4 feet or 6 feet long
  • A buckle or Martingale collar 
  • Low-calorie training treats you can feed your dog as they listen and react to you

Those are the absolute basics you’ll need. But there’s more you may want and need to consider. For instance, if you’re walking at night or in the morning, you want to illuminate your dog. This could include having them wear an illuminated hazard vest or an LED-illuminated collar. You should also carry a flashlight so you can see where you’re walking and what your dog is sniffing at. 

Some dog owners may want to use a retractable leash, but you should never use those with a dog you’re training. The reason is that a pulling dog could manage to break the leash. If they do — welp — they’re off to the races and you’ll have a hard time catching up to them. On top of that, you should never use a retractable leash with a dog that’s over 25 pounds. A dog any larger may pull harder than the leash can handle, so it’s better to use a fixed-length leash. 

Some owners will also want to get a GPS-tracking device for their dog’s collar, too. This is essential for any dog who likes to either wander or run away. So even if they happen to get away, you can at least track down where they are. 

Getting Your Dog Used to Their Leash and Collar

Before you head out the door, you should take the time to get your dog used to their collar and leash. If a dog has never worn one before, they’re bound to be uncomfortable, either trying to paw it off or scratch it off. 

dog holding leash in mouth

Put it on them in the house and simply walk around, slowly, to try and get them used to it. Give them treats while they walk around with you. And make sure to give them a great treat, like pig ear dog treats, once you’re done with your training session, to remind them that they should be working with you. It’s a simple way to show them that it’s a comforting thing to do alongside you. 

Make Training Easy with Dog Chews

Start Out with Short Walks 

When starting out, you should take your dog on short walks. Don’t head out for a five-mile walk to start. Instead, for the first few weeks, you should walk your dog on your regular route. This is the route you’ll take morning and night to let them stretch their legs, get some exercise, and go potty. They’ll begin to understand that this is their allotted time to use the bathroom and get outside — so they should enjoy it prior to heading back inside (and until they get to go back out again).  

Correct Pulling 

If your dog regularly pulls while on walks, you have a problem on your hands. Whether they’re pulling in an opposite direction or the same direction you’re walking, stop dead in your tracks once they begin. Do not move until they stop and come back to you. If they also refuse to move, call them. If they don’t move, tell them to sit. If they don’t do that, you’ll want to keep their leash tight and walk to them. Once there, stand and wait. Do not let them walk. Begin moving. If they move before you say they can, stop and tell them to wait. 

It will make your walks much longer, but it’s important to teach them the lesson, rather than allowing them to continue following the same behaviors. 

how to correct pulling

Besides that, if you’re just starting out, you’ll want to work with your dog inside of the house if they’re pulling. First, walk around the house free of your leash. Work on commands, with treats, to show them that they should be walking beside your side. This will show them that this is the norm. They shouldn’t be leading the way.  

Continue working on these steps and gradually upgrade to a collar. Once they grow accustomed to walking around indoors with a collar and leash, you’ll want to upgrade to walking outside. You may find they don’t behave as well as before, primarily because there are distractions all around them now. 

Don’t take it to heart. Your dog will get used to it with regular training. 

They Should Walk Beside You 

As mentioned above, you need to teach your dog that they should be walking beside you, not in front of you. It’s a simple way to avoid injury, keep your walks stress-free, and find a regularity between the two of you. 

If they’re not walking beside you, you should work on aligning them until they’re walking next to you. The basic steps to follow include:

  • Getting your dog’s attention, with your voice and finger, and directing them to walk beside you
  • Shortening your dog’s leash so they don’t have enough freedom to walk away from you
  • Rewarding your dog with treats to keep them closer to you, and treating them further once they begin walking next to you
  • Give your dog more leash once they begin listening to you, showing them that they’ll get more freedom back once they begin working with you

Besides that, you also want to work on commands such as sit, wait, and heel. You’re in serious trouble if your dog isn’t paying attention to you. They need to be honed in on your voice and face; otherwise, they’re going to wander off on their own, doing whatever they want to do. 

doberman pulling leash with mouth

Try to nip their behaviors in the bud, early on, by working on basic commands. If they ever act out of line, you can correct their behavior by requesting them to follow a command. If they listen, they get a reward. Once they get an understanding of that Pavlovian response, they’ll know to react to you positively while walking on leash, too. 

And once you get home, be sure to give them a high-reward treat like bully sticks. It’s a simple way to show them you appreciate them for listening to you and being on their best behavior (at the time). 

Other Behaviors to Consider and Work on

There are particular behaviors you’ll want to work on — and get rid of — once they show up on leash. 

Some dogs may be compelled to also lunge while on leash. Whether it’s towards a car, another dog, or a cyclist, it doesn’t matter. You need to make sure that your dog does not lunge while on leash, as it could scare other people and potentially put them in danger. 

The reason they’re lunging is because they’re frustrated and potentially scared. Try to do what you can to calm them down. If they lunge at another person or dog, don’t get physically aggressive with them — that will only make matters worse. Instead, you should try to calm them. Pull them back towards you and take hold of them. Comfort them and get their attention away from whatever they lunged at. Use treats and your voice. This is the time when you need to use a “Look at me” command. 

Barking dogs can also be a nuisance, especially when barking at other dogs and people. It can cause fear in others. Barking tends to happen when dogs have too much energy. They want another dog or person to pay attention to them, to play with them. To avoid this, you should work to get your dog’s energy out through the day, whether it’s going to a nearby dog park or taking them out for longer walks or runs. 

And if they begin barking and lunging, you’ll want to employ the methods as used for lunging, taking the time to calm your dog and get their attention somewhere else. 

In due time, your dog will grow accustomed to the things you're asking from them. Treats will make it easier, too, as they’ll be more compelled to listen to you when they know they get a reward out of it. 

Reward Your Dog with Bully Sticks

Remember to Be Patient 

Lastly, you need to remember to be patient with your dog. It’s similar to teaching a child. They’ll learn slowly, and they’ll still push the boundaries whenever they can, primarily to see what they can get away with. 

Reward your dog throughout training

Remember that it all takes time. Your dog will get there eventually, and it’s not worth getting mad at them, as it could lead to worse issues you then have to remediate. So keep your dog on the straight and narrow and remain patient. Further, reward your dog all throughout training, whether it’s with low-calorie dog chews or braided bully sticks post-walk. 

Your dog will get used to their leash and collar in no time, walking right beside you every mile you go.

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