Knowing how to train a dog to lead is something every dog owner should know.
Dogs pulling is one of the top behavioural issues addressed by dog trainers and one of the most common reasons dogs are brought to shelters. Unfortunately, it can also be dangerous and, at the very least, make walking the dog something you dread.
In this article, we show you.
- How to train a puppy to walk like a dream
- How to help an older dog with bad walking habits
- What leads, harnesses and leashes suit which type of dogs (very important)
- How to stop aggressive pullers for good.
Teaching your dog how to act properly on your walkies together doesn’t mean having to invest in dog training classes with the very best trainer in the world. Chances are, you will always be the best trainer for your dog! However, knowing how to train a dog to lead – or to teach a dog to walk properly – is often a case of time.
Every lesson to be learned takes practice, and the same goes for our four-legged friends. You can teach an old dog new tricks, it turns out, and any avid dog walker will tell you that training on the lead needs patience, a treat or two and the right products.
Even an adult dog can learn how to change its behavior with the right amount of training sessions and patience!
So, whether you are a professional dog walker with a tricky client, a new dog owner and your dog pulls, keep reading this article for tips to help Fido learn better manners. We’re seasoned dog lovers ourselves, we love tackling these topics and we know only too well that success stories come through a fair bit of reward training.
Why Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Leash?
Leash training is vitally important for all dogs. Of course, it is easier to teach a puppy how to do it, but older pups will likely be just as keen. As any professional dog trainer will tell you, this could very well save their lives. Walking without a leash is, of course, much more dangerous than walking with one.
Unsurprisingly, most public places require dogs to be on a leash for the safety of everyone. Walking on a lead means you are not only protecting your pup from distractions that may hurt them, but you are also protecting other people.
If you find that your dog refuses to wear the lead, or is constantly pulling on the lead, then both you and your pup will get tired and frustrated pretty quickly!
Leash training teaches your dog to stay close to you and to listen to you. In busy, distracting places, even the best-behaved dogs get lost and confused. Being in a close position by your side will benefit your dog, you, and everyone else. That goes for mutts of any size and temperament.
Loose Lead training is a key part of obedience training that also happens to be very good for a dog’s mental stimulation. It will also help you to cement your trust and relationship with your dog, as it is something that you will both have to work on together.
What Age Should You Start Leash Training a Puppy?
A puppy can start their leash training skills from about four to six weeks old.
Although it may seem early, they will be at a point where they absorb a lot of information and immediately begin training! They will see the leash as a toy and you should reward them for taking an interest in it so they associate it with positive things.
Of course, that does not mean that you should tire your dog out and have them working for hours on end. This will bore and frustrate them, which is not how we want them to feel when we break the lead out. Keep a treat or two on hand and take it in slow steps.
At this stage, lead training your puppy mainly involves getting them used to the leash and to following you around closely.
What if Your Puppy Won’t Walk on a Leash?
There are a few simple things to try to help your puppy feel safe and happy on a lead:
- Firstly, try and put the lead on them to walk around the house with. You do not have to pick up the lead, but follow them at a distance and ensure that the lead doesn’t get caught anywhere!
- Make it fun for them when they see the leash! Break out the treats and make it a more agreeable situation. Increase the length of the session each day.
Step by Step Guide to Teaching a Puppy to Walk on a Lead
Stuck on how to start your walking sessions with your pup? Check out the following tips:
- Start by getting them used to wearing a collar. It is best to start with a soft collar, one made of soft material instead of a stiff one. Making them as comfortable as possible with the collar from the start will make the process go a lot easier!
- Start walking them around in smaller areas. For example, you can start in the house and then transition into the garden or in front of your home have a treat on hand for when they walk nice. This will be far safer and easier to keep your dog’s attention than starting directly in public.
- Always have treats on you. Stop when they pull and reward them when they return to the right position by your side.
- Be enthusiastic about going out together. Show your dog how excited you are about going for a walk with the lead, and they will follow your enthusiasm.
- Train them to heel, sit and stay. These are three fundamental commands that will come in handy more often than you might think!
- Take your time. Be patient with your dog and don’t try to bombard all of this information into their brain at once. Instead, taking the time with short training sessions and each step will ensure its efficiency and your pup’s well-being while out walking.
Choosing the Right Equipment
Collar or Harness?
When it comes to healthy, everyday dog walking, purchasing the right equipment should always be the first step. Then, it’s worth looking up the best brands while you practice.
Most dogs need collars. As you know, dog collars are – unsurprisingly – pretty standard for dog walking. That being said, in recent years, dog harnesses have become increasingly popular, too.
Many people with strong dogs find that using a harness over a collar allows them to exercise greater control over their pets. If pulled back, the pressure from the harness presses against their chest and throat instead of just the neck area. This does indeed allow for greater control and prevents dogs from damaging their throats.
Harnesses are also fantastic options for those dogs who enjoy slipping out of their collars on a walk!
Whichever you pick, it is essential to remember that under UK law, your dog must always have an identity tag on their collar, with your name, number, and address as options.
However, did you know that some breeds of pet struggle with collars? Therefore, they are not always essential if health is at risk.
Brachycephalic dogs are dogs who have shortened, flat noses. These canines come with their own list of health issues, some of which can be worsened by collars.
- Difficulty breathing: this can include Dyspnea, Stridor, etc. This is why they usually breathe through their mouths and have labored breathing.
- Heat intolerance: Most vets would advise against walking these kinds of pups for a long time as they could very easily collapse due to their trouble breathing.
- Snoring: Anyone with a Brachycephalic knows that owning one means no more quiet nights.
Dogs That Shouldn’t Wear Collars for Walks Include:
- Boston Terrier
- British Bulldog
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Bull Mastiff
- Lhasa Apso
- Shih Tzu
Retractable Leads – Yes or No?
Retractable leads are one of the many dividing topics when it comes to dog owners. The best extendable dog lead on the market will likely allow your dog to have more freedom without losing you – however, they also have their faults.
- As your dog can walk so far ahead of you, they can easily get tangled up without you even noticing.
- They are too far away to pay attention to you when they are off doing their own thing.
- Especially for canines who aren’t great on normal leads, retractable ones encourage them to pull as they are rewarded with more freedom.
- They can easily get stuck. Anyone who has ever used a retractable lead knows that they are not fool-proof and they do get stuck, sometimes at the worst of times.
Use a regular leash while training your pooch to walk properly. If you’ve never used a loose lead with your dog before, it’s baby steps all the way.
How to Stop Your Dog Pulling on the Lead
Firstly, it is important to understand that a dog is pulling to move forwards. As we are dragged along, they believe that pulling is the only way to keep walking and therefore only slow down or stop at the end of the walk or if they get tired.
The best way to stop this behaviour is by stopping every time your dog pulls until the lead is loose. Unfortunately, this should be repeated every time they pull and will therefore require a lot of patience and treats!
Secondly, carry treats or their favourite toy with you as a reward factor. Always reward them when they return to your side, act well, sit and heel on command, etc. Of course, making a fuss of them is very good too, but the occasional treat always works best to get them on side!
Choose the right training and walking products. For example, a collar and a lead may not provide sufficient enough control over your dog and should be replaced with a strong and comfortable harness.
Teaching a Rescue or Older Dog to Walk Nice
Older and rescue mutts may seem like they are entirely set in their ways, but, thankfully, this is not the case. The good news is: every dog at every age can learn something new, and for you to ensure their health and longevity, you need to teach them how to walk on the lead! This may take significantly more time than it would with a puppy, but the reward will be worth it.
Most of all, have patience, take it in slow steps and have plenty of treats on hand. They will learn, but Rome was not built overnight!
Do Dogs Have to be on a Lead Legally?
In most public places, our four-legged friends need to be on a lead. This is to ensure the safety of everyone around, including your pup. Canines can get concerned in crowds and, at the very least, can get lost.
Even in certain nature reserves, on dog walks and beaches, the chances are that there will be signs indicating that your dog must be on a lead. You run the risk of getting a hefty fine if they are found not to be on the lead, so it isn’t worth the fuss!
A good rule of thumb is always to check the location’s website or with local representatives for any information regarding your dog being on a lead. Always keep your dog on a leash if you are teaching your dog to walk nicely in any case.
How do I control my dog in public?
In public, always keep your dog on a lead and close to you. Being near you will help if they are panicking or becoming overwhelmed. Always have treats in your pocket to reward good behaviour. Teaching a dog to walk safely when nervous is going to take time.
Why won’t my puppy walk on a leash?
There are a few reasons why your puppy may not like being on a leash. First, check that the collar that they are wearing is flexible and not too tight. Experts recommend training your dog with treats or rewards like their favourite toy; at times you bring the lead out.
How long does it take to teach a puppy to walk on a lead?
It can take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks to properly teach a puppy how to walk on a loose lead. This completely depends on the puppy and your consistency with the training, but with plenty of treats and encouragement, they’ll get there. It’s a good idea to keep an open mind.
Is a Halti or Harness better?
A Halti is a head halter that can be useful to keep their attention on you. However, not all puppies take to a Halti; and other brands can be more comfortable for pooches and makes it easier if your dog pulls to control them.
Walking the dog is an essential part of pet ownership, and although the lead may seem like a natural thing for them, it really isn’t.
Learning how to walk on a lead properly by your side takes time, finding the right method for your pet, and a treat here and a treat there, a lead of the right length and a flat collar and slow steps. It doesn’t take any particular skill, top brands, or anything else to teach your dog leash manners! Learning how to control a dog without losing patience is so important.
The main idea is to teach your dog to listen to you and pay attention, even when surrounded by distractions. It also takes you to learn a few things! Walking them well means you are always learning to keep them in your sights (even when they are loose or on a loose lead), teaching them hand and voice signals, etc.
Your puppy or older dog likely has a mischievous side – when teaching your dog to walk properly, Consistency is key – carry a clicker or reward if need be, and you’ll soon find they love leaving home again and again.
Dog training – especially attention training – takes a lot of practice. Take a look at our further guides and tips on dog walking to learn more.