Top Dog Training Basics | How to train your Dog to Walk on a Leash

Just got yourself a new dog or even an ‘old one’ and you want to be walking with him and you’re now wondering How to train your Dog to Walk on a Leash? Then this right here is for you.

Contrary to popular belief that dogs innately know how to leash walk properly, this skill is one that the dog has to be trained on. Training your dog on how to walk on a leash is one of the keys and practical skills your dog has to learn. Every dog-owner relationship involves a great deal of time and effort dedicated to teaching important life lessons and skills.

Every so often, we see most dog owners leash walking their dogs in the neighborhood or parks and we seem to admire that quite a lot. Leash walking your dog is quite a fun exercise especially if your dog is well trained and does not pull on the leash or just misbehaves in any other way.

Why train your Dog to Walk on a Leash

Knowing how to train your dog to walk on a leash comes with a number of advantages. The most familiar is that it is another great way to create a bond with your dog. Other reasons include but is not limited to;

  1. Improved Health
  2. Improved Behaviour
  3. Improved Socialization
  4. Safety

Improved health: Regular walks with your dog helps your dog by lowering blood pressure, improving heart health, and improving muscle and bone build-up. Regardless of your dog’s age/stage, regular walks are quite necessary and helpful in order to develop a healthy body, maintain strength and stamina for an adult dog, and keep an older dog active and fit.

Improved behavior: when walking your dog, your dog engages in physical and mental stimulation and this helps eliminate boredom or stress, which often leads to destructive behavior.

Improved Socialization: More often than not, while walking your dog, your dog gets exposed to new people, places, and most importantly, new dogs, which helps develop good behavior with other animals. Dog parks, dog runs, and other areas where dog owners and their pooches congregate offer ample opportunities to socialize your pet.

Safety: Stepping out with your dog on a leash helps in keeping your dog safe (and protects other dogs and people, too) and does not let them stray away or get lost.

How to train your dog to walk on a Leash

Before we head to the steps on how to train your dog to walk on a leash, here are some things you’ll need to successfully carry out the training.

  • Dog collar: Your dog needs an appropriate collar that fits him properly.
  • The Leash: It is somewhat the center of the training, you need to use a leash that is suitable and comfortable.
  • Marker or Cue word: Find and decide on a suitable marker for good behavior; a clicker or an emphatic “yes!” – whichever works perfectly for you and your dog.
  • Treats: Treats are very important in most training processes and this case isn’t an exception. They are more like the best rewards for your dog but you can choose to use other rewards for your dog.

Here’s the list of steps on How to train your Dog to Walk on a Leash;

1. Introduce the puppy to the collar or harness and leash.

After getting a suitable leash, introduce the leash/collar to your dog and let him get comfortable with wearing a collar or harness and a leash. Before he goes off on an outdoor adventure with you, your dog needs to feel comfortable and enjoy wearing the collar, leash, and possibly a body harness.

Do well to give your dog ample time to get used to wearing each item. Let him wear them for short periods of time while playing around in the house and each time your dog wears them, reward him with some treats as a way of reinforcement. Over time, your dog will love collar-and-leash time because it represents food and fun. Increase the time your dog wears the collar-and-leash till he gets comfortable.

N/B: If you plan to use a body harness, introduce it slowly, providing treats and praise as you place it over his head and connect the straps.

2. Teach a cue and stick to it.

After introducing the leash, you will need to introduce a cue word/action that you’ll stick to. Mark the behavior the second you see it. The more accurate and quick your mark is, the more effective your teaching becomes.

3. Get Your Dog’s Attention

After getting familiar with the collar, leash and harness, don’t fall into the temptation of just starting to walk with your dog. Make sure your dog is actually paying adequate attention, otherwise he may pull and dart about. It’s quite a patient process and you need to wait for your dog to offer you even a tiny moment of eye contact or look at you—then immediately mark and reinforce (with treats or action, whichever you choose from the start).

Repeat this frequently so that your dog understands looking at you equals treats. You can add a “cue” for attention, too. Say “look” or “eyes” right before your dog is about to look at you and then mark, reinforce, and praise.

4. Start with the Backing Up Move

Backward steps are a great way to begin moving without encouraging your dog to pull. With your dog wearing his collar and leash, take a few steps backward and as he follows you mark, reinforce, and praise.

Gradually increase the number of steps backward you take. Start with two or three steps and then turn to walk forward two or three steps. Mark and reinforce him if he stays by your side.

5. “Come” is a good way to Start

The aim of this particular practice is to help prevent your dog from pulling, forging ahead, or any other issue while on the leash.

This practice is also a good opportunity to teach your dog to come on cue without the risk of him running away.

Once your dog is still wearing his leash and collar, toss some treats a few steps ahead. After eating the treats, and he turns back around to face you, say “come” and quickly, mark and reinforce the moment he moves towards you. Repeat this so it becomes a game of tossing a treat and then turning around to come to you for another one.

6. Step Outside For Practice – don’t go too far

After a series of indoor practices, it’s time to take a step further but there are some things to look out for. Your front yard, garage, or backyard will make a good head start – just anywhere with little or no distraction.

Just practice with very few steps and stop to ask for attention. Again, mark and reinforce as many times as possible when you notice some good leash walking and when you stop. Be sure to be patient and not make it too long, especially while starting out.

7. Increase Distance Coverage over time

After constantly stepping out over short distances, it’s time to take it a notch higher, and slowly begin to move from your home to the neighborhood. Begin by walking the distance of just a few metres away from your house and gradually increase the distance with time as your dog masters the skill.

Always endeavour to mark and reinforce constantly until your dog becomes better and better at walking on the leash. It takes time to get good at coordinating the mark and treat delivery while moving, but after a few days of practice, be rest assured you will be good at it. Keep with it and stay positive!

Puppies have short attention spans despite their seemingly energetic look. Be gentle and don’t expect a young dog to walk long distances with you until they are more mature and grown.

While on the walk, be ready to stop a few times as your dog may have the urge to sniff, pee on trees and bushes (doggie email), and just enjoy being outside with you. Walks should always be fun, not a chore nor a time to perfectly follow your lead.

Dog Walking Tips
Follow safety precautions:

When you are out with your dog for leash training, a valid form of identification with its name and your contact information should be on its collar in case of an emergency and it strays away or people would just want to socialize with him by calling him by name. Always go with treats and poop bags, both during and after training.

Keep Sessions Brief

Just like other training sessions with your dog, if your dog has never been leash trained, begin with short, positive sessions. As seen in most sports, dogs are trained to walk on the handler’s left side, but if you prefer to have your dog on your right, it’s not a bad idea as far as. It is a good idea, though, to teach your dog to stay on one side so that he doesn’t trip you as he runs back and forth.

Prevent Pulling

Pulling on the leash can cause undue pressure on your dog’s trachea and this may lead to some injury. To respond to pulling, you can;

  • Stop walking and wait for the dog to return to your side
  • Turn and walk in the opposite direction until it catches up to you. Offer praise and treats for good behavior.
  • The instant the leash goes slack, mark and reward.
  • If your dog walks pretty nicely without pulling or dancing, mark and reward him every so often to give him a “reference point.”

If your dog has already formed the habit of pulling on his leash, you must convince him of two things:

  1. Pulling will not hasten his arrival at his goal
  2. Walking nicely will make you happy enough to reward him

Determined pullers may need a special no-pull dog harness, such as a front-clip harness or head halter.

Teach Him to Walk by Your Side

Training your dog to be on one side does not only make the walk enjoyable but also serves as a safety measure. If your dog is constantly weaving back and forth or goes around you in circles, your walk won’t be much fun and you could trip and injure yourself or your dog.

  • Keep your dog’s leash short enough that he cannot easily leave your side, thereby modeling the position you want him to be in. Don’t keep it so short that you’re dragging him, though.
  • Simultaneously lure him into the correct area by your side with tiny treats. You can mark the behavior with a word or clicker if you like.
  • When he starts to get the idea, stop luring but do reward him for staying by your side.
Try eliminating stimuli to prevent barking or lunging

Dogs often bark at outside stimuli while on walks, such as other dogs or passersby. If barking becomes a recurring problem, redirect its attention with treats or a cue word and reduce its accessibility to the object moving away.

Find out other tips on how to prevent your dog from barking HERE

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