Puppy training: How to train a puppy to walk on a lead
Getting your puppy to feel comfortable and at ease on a lead can be different for every dog. It might be a difficult process, but keeping your dog on a leash is a big part of ensuring its safety and the safety of other animals.
It’s important to understand the stress that some pups can feel if they aren’t given the time to properly get used to a lead before stepping outside properly and here are tips on how to avoid it and ensure happy dog walking for you and your pup.
Get them used to wearing a collar
The first thing you need to do to ease your puppy into feeling comfortable on a leash is to get him or her used to the feeling of having the collar on. This can often cause a lot of panic for a dog who isn’t accustomed to it, so try to do it as gently as possible. Put the collar on so it sits firmly, but not too tight and let them get used to it.
A great way to prevent your dog from feeling uneasy during this step is to distract them in some way. Try putting it on during meal times as this encourages a positive association and your dog is rewarded for wearing their collar.
When it comes to removing the collar, make sure that it isn’t while your puppy is protesting or struggling against it as this can cause negative associations. Additionally, if you take it off while your dog is trying to get out of it then it will seem like their struggling has been rewarded and this will become learned behaviour.
Attaching the lead
To get your dog used to the lead, start by letting them run around while it’s attached and getting them to come to you. Treats and games often work well for this.
As your pup gets used to coming towards you, they will be much more responsive as you try to get them to walk alongside you.
Occasionally pick up the leash and gently bring them to you, so they can get used to the sensation of having you in control of their movement. When teaching your dog to walk on a lead for the first time you should use a space with limited distractions, i.e. the living room or a back garden. The dog should initially be off the lead to ensure he/she isn’t frightened and there is no temptation to pull on the lead by either the dog or owner.
The next tactic is to use high value treats (sausage or cheese) that the dog does not normally get to help with your training, then follow the steps below:
Using treats to train a puppy to walk on a lead
- Hold a treat next to your side and in front of your dogs’ nose to show him where to walk. Ask your dog to follow the treat and build up the amount of steps you take before you give the treat – then practice.
- Make the dog think a little and with-hold the treat completely until the dog takes a few steps at your side. Practice and build up the number of steps before the dog is rewarded.
- Put a name or a cue to the behaviour and use that cue (heel, close etc) every time the dog performs that behaviour – then practice.
- Practice outside the home in more a challenging environment with distractions from other dogs, people, children, other animals etc. with lead attached – and remember practice, makes perfect!
It is important to not drag or pull the lead too hard as this can be very distressing for your puppy and only increase negative feelings towards the lead. You may also want to consider the type of lead you select for your puppy as there are various different types.
Harnesses which fit the body are better for larger dogs while those which fit the face can offer more control but will need to be introduced to your dog with care to avoid them becoming scared.
Taking them out
For some dogs, their first journey out with a lead on will come incredibly easy, but it may not always run smoothly for everyone. Don’t expect your pup to walk to heel straight away but reinforce training from puppy classes to help them learn the required behaviour.
The best way to get them to take to walking on a lead is to make them feel as relaxed as possible and this means you need to be relaxed too. It’s common for dogs to stop and freeze up if they start to get become nervous or fearful and if your pup won’t move then you can try moving away or getting them to come to you with a treat.
Neither you nor the dog should be using the lead to pull the other along; if your puppy tries to pull you on the lead, stand firmly but do not pull back. Use verbal communication to indicate what you want your pup to do and remember that puppy training is a gradual process that takes a lot of patience from both you and your pet.