Training Your Puppy Part 3: Leash Walking

To get started, there are a few beginner training steps that are necessary. After all, training a puppy to walk next to you, at a set pace, and alert to verbal and non-verbal cues requires advanced learning skills from your pup. Training exercises build a bond and a language to communicate. Remind your pup that you, the master, have fun and interesting things to share and they will be rewarded for paying attention.

Plan to leash train once or twice a week, but no more than that. If you train daily, it may take longer for your dog to learn. Remember, there are two ends of the leash; one attached to your dog and the other end in your hands. Before asking your puppy to learn new tricks, become familiar with canine behavior and proper leash training techniques.

Is Your Dog Dragging You Back, or Pulling You Forward?

In the perfect world, by gently tugging on your dog’s leash they would follow. That’s not generally how it goes, however. There are two main camps when it comes to difficult-to-walk pups – dragging or pulling.

Puppies Who Just Won’t Move

These pups plant their feet and lean back until the collar or harness slides right off. Your new puppy has a natural instinct to resist the pull of a leash and it’s called “Opposition Reflex”.

If your puppy walks behind you and you feel as if you are dragging them along, keep a squeaky toy in your pocket. When your dog loses interest in following your lead, squeeze the toy to engage his prey drive. Toss the toy down the path and praise them when they run ahead. The goal is to maintain your pup’s attention during the walk.

Dogs tend to resist more when pulled by the head and neck. Some trainers believe a dog harness will reduce the opposition reflex and allow the owner to redirect the puppy. However, it takes more than a specific collar or harness to teach your puppy how to properly walk on a leash.

Puppies Who Speed Off

If your dog darts forward, pulling you with the leash, you have a different problem. Trainers recommend a collar and loose-leash training for dogs who pull. Loose-leash literally means, while walking, the dog is not pulling the leash tight, and there is slack.

The simplest solution to solve pulling is for the master to stop walking and encourage the puppy to return. When the dog comes back to you, reward them, pause for a moment, and begin walking again. Stop every time the dog darts forward. They quickly learn that when they stay by your side and listen, rewards are given.

Training Tips for Walking on a Leash

Introduce the leash inside your home. Choose a time that is quiet with the fewest distractions. Attach the leash to the D ring and let it drag behind the puppy. Let your dog become familiar with the leash before picking up your end.

Don’t pull your puppy with the leash but wait for them to notice you and then give the first reward and praise. Begin walking around the home with your dog on the leash. Your actions should remind the pup that paying attention benefits them. Every time they look at you, respond to your voice, walk a few steps beside you, reward their behavior.

Train After Potty

Generally, it’s a good idea to wait until after your puppy has gone to the bathroom before starting a leash training lesson. Giving your dog the opportunity to urinate and release a little energy will make it easier to hold their attention.

Bring Treats

Decide on a verbal cue to let your puppy know when they are allowed to begin walking. “Let’s go,” is a good one. Take a step and if your puppy also takes a step, let them know you are proud.

While training, praise your dog and reward them frequently for all good behavior. When the pup knows you will reward them for following commands, they will pay close attention to what you are saying and doing.

Change Your Pace

Walking at a consistent pace does not come naturally to dogs. They want to sniff, mark other dog’s spots, and play. Puppies have a short attention span. As soon as they are bored, they’ll look for something else to do.

So, change up your pace during the walk—brisk, slow, run, and trot. Keep your puppy’s attention by continually altering the walk and reward them for maintaining their focus on your instruction.

Finish with Play

Playing with puppies after a lesson improves training memory. It reinforces your bond and the idea that working together is fun and rewarding. Play encourages good behavior because your new puppy wants to make you proud.

Walking in a straight line at a specified pace is not a natural canine activity. Remember, they have a built-in instinct to pull back. Learning to walk on a leash will improve your puppy’s problem-solving ability and confidence in taking on new challenges throughout their lifetime. So, be patient while teaching your new pup. And give rewards for every little accomplishment. Good luck!

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