Training Your Dog to Walk on A Lead
Teaching your dog to walk on a lead is an essential skill for both your dog and you. You may love to walk your dog off lead but there are always going to be times when your dog needs to be on a lead for their safety and for yours. Dogs don’t innately know how to walk on a lead, this is something that needs to be taught and a skill you will value every time you take your dog for a walk. Puppies can be taught from as early as six weeks old to walk on a lead, at this age they absorb new information like sponges just like human babies.
Lead Walking Equipment
it is better to introduce your dog to a lightweight collar to start with and to keep the fit on the looser side
Similarly to the collar, a lightweight lead that doesn’t weigh the puppy down is advised
To start lead training it is preferable to introduce just the lead and collar. Once a puppy is used to both of these you can introduce a harness if you prefer. We recently reviewed 5 different harness with the help of Benafim Shelter Dogs – to read what they thought click here.
Lead Walking Training
Introducing a Collar
First things first, introduce a loose fitting collar onto your puppy. Let them get used to this in short bursts and under supervision. Think back to the first time you put a watch on, it felt strange and bulky and you were aware of wearing it. Over time of course you got used to wearing a watch until you no longer noticed.
This is how a puppy or dog will feel the first time you put a collar on. It will feel strange and they may even try and remove it. During the initial ‘introducing a collar’ sessions, play with your puppy or dog, distract them, make the sessions fun and give them treats.
Your dog should associate collar wearing with good things, fun, play and treats.
Gradually increase the collar wearing time until you can leave the collar on for a whole day without taking it off. By this stage your puppy will, in the same way you stopped noticing wearing a watch, will not notice they are wearing a collar.
Introducing a Lead
Attach the lead to the collar and let go. Let the lead drag behind your puppy, do not pick it up or immediately try to walk them with it. Your puppy may try and chase the lead, may try and bite it or may refuse to move.
Teach your puppy a cue. This cue to your dog will, once learnt, mean ‘food is coming’. You can choose any word (for instance “yes”), some prefer to click their tongue or make a sound. Whatever you choose, stick to it.
Gradually move around the room with the lead and collar on your puppy and encourage them to follow you. Use your cue. As soon as your puppy reacts and either turns to you or looks at you, give them a treat, kisses and praise. Repeat this process until you notice your puppy will be looking at you and coming to you looking for the treats and praise from you.
As your puppy comes towards you take a couple of steps away from them and then when they reach you, reward them with a treat.
Repeat this process several times until your puppy upon hearing your cue comes to you and then walks a few paces with you resulting in receiving a treat.
The aim is this process is for your puppy to get used to the feel of a lead on them, to walk with it dragging behind them and to associate your cue with treats.
Go as slowly as your puppy feels comfortable with, before moving onto the next step. Remember puppies have a short attention span so keep sessions short and fun, do not wait until your puppy is exhausted to stop.
Time to Start Walking Your Dog on a Lead
We recommend starting this process inside where there are less distractions such as smells and noise.
Gently guide your puppy around the home holding the lead loosely so that they follow you and stay close. If they start pulling on the lead stop.
Do not follow your puppy to where they want to go. Going to where they want to go is rewarding them. Stop and stand still. Eventually your puppy will stop pulling and return to your side. Repeat this process every time your puppy lunges or pulls forward. They will soon learn the fun stops when they pull.
Move to Outside
Once outside it is time to start teaching your puppy to walk to heel.
Get into a start position. Hold the lead in your left hand and treats in your right hand. Use the treats to encourage your puppy to be on your right side facing the same direction as you. The lead should cross your body and be held loosely with your left hand only. Give your puppy a treat. If they move away, encourage your dog back to your right side and give another treat. Give them another treat for remaining by your side.
In the start position let your dog sniff the treats in your hand. Remember the cue word or noise you introduced earlier to encourage your puppy to follow you? It is time to use the cue again. Take one step forward as they begin to walk with you give a treat. Remember stick to the same word or noise as your cue.
Keep repeating but by increasing step by step. Every time your puppy moves away from you stop. Use a treat to encourage them to come back to you. Do not pull on the lead.
Once you have mastered a few steps you can build continue to build on these. Remember not to over tire your puppy and stick to the same cue word and be consistent, patient and enjoy.
Do not rush the process, be patient, calm and consistent
Make the training fun
Always keep the lead loose
Keep handy plenty of treats
Use the same cue when teaching your dog
Never pull your dog back on the lead
Note – the same process can be used to train an older dog to walk on a lead, not just puppies.
For help with lead reactive dogs check out our article.
Teaching your dog to walk on a lead is an important and vital skill. Regardless of whether you enjoy off lead walks with your dog there are always going to be times when a lead is required. In addition training your dog to walk well on a lead teaches them some of the basic skills required for training in other areas. This training is invaluable and will set you and your dog up for positive walks, help strengthen your bond and is fun for both you and your dog to practice and master.