How To Teach Your Puppy To Walk Nicely On a Leash
Leash Training can be uncomfortable, unnatural, and very inhibiting. So yeah, it is more than likely your dog is going to have a problem with walking on a leash. Dogs would want to either get out of it or almost drag you on the ground, as they speed ahead of you as they chase whatever they fancy. Despite the discomfort, a dog can be trained to enjoy walking on a leash and not only that but to do it the right way. Even though it is unnatural, a puppy can be taught to do virtually anything, as long as it will bring both of you closer to each other and it won’t damage its health. The first step to this training, therefore, is to make sure your puppy remains safe.
Choose The Right Collar
There are different types of collars and harnesses you can choose for your puppy. When you choose a comfortable collar or harness, your dog is more willing to respond appropriately to you. This is where we reiterate the difference between training methodologies. Those of the dominant method, believe that when you walk a dog, it must respect your position as the alpha, and so must walk beside you or behind you. Also, when the dog steps out of line, it must be quickly brought back to its place. This is often accomplished by the use of collars that punish bad behavior, such as choke collars and electric collars. While these dog collars are effective at getting a dog to walk how you want it to on a leash, they come with serious medical repercussions, both physically and emotionally. So while it may be easier to shock your dog when it is walking too fast, killing your dog’s spirit or the body does not seem like a fair reaction to a dog acting naturally.
With positive reinforcement, however, we don’t take short-cuts. Instead of inflicting unnecessary pain on your dog, it is always better to spend a few minutes training it. You should, therefore, pick out a collar your dog will enjoy wearing and won’t endanger its health.
When you put the leash on it the first time, your dog will find it very uncomfortable. Try to appease it as much as possible by offering treats, or letting it roam about with the leash on, without you holding it. But keep an eye on it while it plays, so the leash doesn’t snag anything.
If your puppy keeps biting the leash, you would need to find out if it is an act of rebellion, or it just likes biting ropes. If it is the former, use the steps above and reward your puppy whenever you put the leash on. This will teach it to relish the time on the leash. Play with your dog at home with the leash on. If your dog is just a biter, we have an article that will teach you how to train your puppy to stop biting, and how to leave things be.
Learning To Walk On A Leash Inside
Now that we have our collar and leash on, it is time to practice walking. It is important to begin this training indoors, where there are fewer distractions. Dogs tend to pull the leash when they are eager to get somewhere or they find something they want to chase. To prevent yourself from becoming exhausted even before you begin, let’s choose a quiet, confined space.
Walking your dog is really about allowing your pet exercise, explore the world, interact with other dogs, and enjoy some fresh air. You, therefore, want to allow your dog some leeway to choose where it wants to go. However, it must not rush off in that direction.
Begin walking your dog in any direction. When you feel it is starting to pull on the leash, call its name, and change direction. For this to work, you should have taught your dog how to respond when called. If you haven’t, you can learn about it from our other blogs. Before you turn, do make sure your dog has your attention first and that it has either slowed down or stopped. To change direction, pull the leash gently. Refrain from yanking the leash as this is not only unsafe, but it is damaging to your relationship with your puppy.
As your dog changes direction with you, give it a lot of praise. After a few successful turns, give it a treat as well, if your pup likes that sort of motivation. Also use vocal cues like ‘let’s go, ‘stop’ or ‘come on’, where appropriate. The aim of the exercise is to get your dog to move in the right direction without being forceful, so if it jumps around or walks slowly, it is fine.
The next part of the exercise is to get your dog to respond to your body movements. When you change directions on your dog a few times after every few meters, it will begin to look to you for direction. As you are walking your dog, take note of when it stops moving when you stop. This deserves a big reward, as it shows your dog is paying attention and is ready to move outdoors. When your dog stops moving, allow it to stand or sit, whichever you are comfortable with. What you shouldn’t reward is pacing. This shows your dog is still a bit restless and might take off in any direction.
Learning To Walk On A Leash Outside
Now, we are ready for the big test. Being able to get your dog to successfully walk on a leash outdoors is by far one of the most satisfying feelings. This would get you massive bragging rights. Before you begin, choose a quiet place outdoors, with limited distractions, so maybe not a busy park or a bus stop.
The training is the same as when you were indoors. When your puppy begins to tug in one direction, flip the script and go the other way. Always remember to call its name when you want it to stop when it is not looking at you. If your puppy is looking at you, it should know by now to stop when you do and to change direction when you do. Remember now, that flying squirrels or distant conversations will attract your puppy’s attention, so don’t expect it to go as smoothly as it did when you were indoors.
Try to maintain eye contact when your dog is looking at you, as it would probably be expecting a change of direction. You can also use clicking sounds to get its attention if you don’t want to keep calling its name. Body language is also important in encouraging your dog to follow you. When you hunch over, as if you are trying to entice your dog to come to play with you, it will suggest to your dog that it should come in your direction.
Remember not to pull the leash by force, as you might be tempted to, when your dog realizes just how much it wants to roam around outdoors. Once your dog has learned to walk nicely beside you, stop when told and respond appropriately to your body language, it is time to move on to more distracting places. I remember the first time I took my first dog to the highway. Poor Spotty was so frightened he could not wait to run back home! But he got used to it in the end. Your dog might be frightened, or over-excited by what it sees. If it doesn’t work the first time, the second time out should be easier. Keep doing this until your dog has mastered the great outdoors.
Pile On The praise
Always remember to celebrate every milestone. Every time your dog responds appropriately, celebrate it with ‘yes’, ‘good girl/boy’, and some lovely treats. The victory is not only for the dog but for you as well as the trainer.
Because puppies have short attention spans, keep the training sessions short. After a while, your dog would want to run off in peace without a hindrance. You should stop the training session while your puppy is still happy and excited about it. Don’t wait until it is exhausted and feels like it was tortured. A few minutes every day should do the trick. If you are lucky, your dog won’t need a reminder after the first day. Prepare a large reward at the end of the session, such as tasty treats, a long play session, or a bunch of toys. And save a few treats for yourself, because after all, you deserve it.