How to Teach Your Puppy to Use a Leash

Smart young Westie puppy full of energy tugs on her leash.

Leash restrictions may stipulate that your dog should be trained to heel when outside your property and to walk well on a leash. But even if they don't, being aware of proper leash usage is just nice puppy behavior. Your dog has greater freedom to explore the world outside of your front or garden safely with good leash manners.

Large breed pups have the potential to develop into strong, pulling tanks that may drag you about or yank the leash out of your hands. When they rush into traffic, become tangled far from your reach, or get into an altercation with another dog, it can be deadly for both you and them if you are knocked over. Even amiable pups experience fear, and a leash gives protection and reassurance when a dependable owner offers direction through a throng of unfamiliar people or threatening circumstances.

Puppies lack the innate ability to walk on a leash. Dogs automatically pull back when you pull, and if you let the puppy win, it may make it increasingly harder for them to resist the temptation.

A little puppy is considerably simpler to train than a strong teenager or adult. Now is the ideal time to train your puppy to walk well on a leash if you have one. As soon as you get the puppy home, start right away.

Start With a Collar

Since birth, many purebred puppies wear temporary collars (or ribbons with different colors) to help distinguish them from their littermates. However, if your puppy has never worn before, allow the dog some time to adjust. The best collar is a flat nylon one with a metal buckle and enough room for two fingers to fit underneath. As the puppy develops, you will probably need to purchase larger ones, so start with cheaper ones if you can.

Harness a Pulling Dog

Use a no-pull harness on strong dogs that could try to drag you down the street. These training aids are particularly effective for older, stubborn puppies because they teach them not to pull. When the dog pulls, the harness turns the dog back toward the person carrying the leash by connecting the leash to a clip on the dog's front chest. It successfully teaches the dog not to pull.

Engage Your Dog's Sense of Smell

Encourage your dog to sniff them before securing a leash or putting on the harness for the first time. Puppies communicate mostly through smell, so getting a good whiff is crucial. However, a leash is not a toy, so you shouldn't let your dog chew on it or play tug of war with it.

Get the Right-Sized Leash

For your puppy's size, pick a leash style that is acceptable. Small pets do well with lightweight nylon leashes, while bigger dogs may be better suited for heavy leather leashes. You should resist the impulse to get a retractable leash. Although they may be suitable for toy-sized dogs, these leashes can encourage puppies to pull since they serve as an incentive for jumping up. Puppies often have enough mobility at a 6-foot length without owners losing control.

At this stage, all that is required is for your dog to just walk gently on either side while being leashed loosely (not tightly). Avoid straining or attempting to drag the dog since the leash will naturally pull against you if you maintain it taut. Hold the leash in your right hand at the level of your belt buckle, doubling up any extra slack to prevent dragging.

Reward Good Behavior

Use your free hand to provide food, beloved toys, or other prizes (a smell of something nasty for curious dogs). You can also want to train your puppy with a clicker to communicate.

While the dog is sitting or standing at your side, give your puppy a reward. It's customary to walk your dog on your left side if you intend to someday engage in obedience competitions or other canine sports. It doesn't matter which side you are on, though, as long as you are consistent if you don't care about competition.

Await the puppy's attention to shift to the treat. Say "Let's go!" or another verbal signal you routinely employ after that. You must learn how to communicate with a puppy in its language. Hold the reward directly in front of the dog's nose as you start to move, encouraging it to follow.

Practice Walking

You might wish to vary the speeds after the puppy comprehends the concepts of loose-leash walking and sitting when asked. Whether you stroll, trot, or run, you'll want your dog to keep up with your speed and follow close behind. Practice reversing your direction as well. When your dog walks on the left, it should be rather simple for the dog to follow you when you turn or pivot to the right. Initially, tempting with the reward could be necessary to turn to the left. Make it into a game so that when the dog grasps it, you may lavishly reward him.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

When a behavior is "proven," it indicates that your dog will continue to exhibit it even under trying circumstances. Move the practice sessions to locations with additional distractions to demonstrate your dog's good leash manners. After all, you'll have to leave your backyard or living room when you visit a park or drive to see friends and family, so you want free leash walking to be the norm everywhere you go. If your husband is tossing a ball across the room or during morning rush hour, you should practice in the front yard.

You may begin to "heel" train your dog as it gains more training. Walking next to you on your left side at knee level, stopping and beginning when you do, and sitting when you stop, is known as the "heel" posture. You might want to try teaching your dog to heel around the whole perimeter of the yard or perform laps around the house once they have learned to pay attention to the "let's go" command and anticipate the "sit" order when you stop.

Even the most intelligent dogs sometimes struggle to maintain a habit, so you may need to reinforce some of the training you've done to assist your pet understand actions and get over everyday obstacles without getting immediate rewards.

  • Jumping up for a reward. Your puppy should not be for the treat or toy, so lower the position if the puppy is trying to jump up. You can also use a long wooden spoon with a sticky treat or a commercial “treat stick” designed for that purpose so you don’t have to bend over. After a few steps, stop and tell your puppy to "." Reward the pup with the treat.
  • Rushing ahead or tugging at the leash. Repeat the leash walk exercise with the lure. Stop every few steps, place your pup in a sit or down position, and reward it. The pup quickly should understand that “let’s go” (or other consistent commands) means to walk at your side—and you will pay with a reward when the dog sits as you stop.
  • Behaving properly only when a reward is given. When the pup has performed several exercises, it won’t need to be lured but will want to know you have rewards handy. Increase the pup’s attention span by eventually offering the reward intermittently—rather than every time, reward every second, third, or fourth time. This teaches your dog to always obey since it is unclear when a reward is coming.