Lessons in Leash Training

By Mary Kirkland

Lessons in Leash Training

Dogs are gifted with enthusiasm -- a good trait if you and your pet are playing fetch in a field. On the other hand, it can be a potentially dangerous trait if you're strolling along a busy sidewalk. An untethered animal poses many risks: It could jump on strangers, get into fights with other dogs, or run into oncoming traffic. That's why leash training is so essential. Leash training should begin as soon as you get your dog, regardless of its age. In fact, in many areas, leashes are required by law.

Authors of the Handbook of Behaviour Problems of the Dog and Cat (Butterworth Heinemann), offer the following advice when beginning to leash train your dog.

  • Be patient. Dogs, like people, learn at different rates. Some dogs may take weeks and even months of patient training before they completely learn how to heel on command.
  • Young dogs usually take well to wearing a collar and leash, though temperament and energy level can influence how quickly they learn.
  • Some breeds, such as Beagles and Dachshunds, often require more intense training because they are very easily distracted. This isn't to suggest that a dog is less intelligent if it doesn't calmly walk at its owner's side after a week of training, only that it may require a longer learning period.
  • Older dogs may take a little longer to get used to a collar and leash, especially if they haven't had leash training before.

Five Easy Steps to Leash Train Your Dog
1. Begin by placing the collar and leash on your dog while it eats, letting the leash hang loosely by its side. This allows your dog to associate the leash with something pleasant (food) and helps it get used to having a collar around its neck.

2. After two or three days, take the leash in your hand and follow your dog around the house for a few minutes after it has finished eating. Do this for longer and longer periods, until your dog is used to both the leash and having you walk beside it.

3. Next, go outside and let your dog drag the leash around, occasionally picking up the leash and following it. Offer a treat while showing the leash.

4. While walking, hold the leash in your right hand and coax your dog along your left side by holding a treat in your left hand. As you walk, repeat the phrase, "Let's go!" Praise your dog when it does well.

5. If your dog starts to pull forward, do a clockwise turn and walk in another direction; the leash will pull its head to the side so it will have to hurry to catch up with you. Repeat this exercise until your dog learns that if it wants to walk beside you and receive your praise, it'll have to stay by your side.

Expert Advice
Make sure your dog's leash isn't too long. Four to six feet is ideal.  Conduct your outdoor training sessions in an area with few distractions, such as your backyard or a quiet park.  If your dog is overly excited, tire it out a little with vigorous play before placing it on the leash. A slightly fatigued dog is more attentive. And never yell at or strike your dog while training. Patience pays!

Proper Training Equipment
Using the right kind of leash and collar can help make your training successful. Most pet supply stores carry a wide selection. Here are the most common types of leashes and collars.

  • Flat leash and buckle collar. These common leashes are available in leather, nylon and metal chain of various lengths.
  • Retractable leash. Much like a fishing pole, this leash lets your pet wander up to 20 feet ahead while still under your control. Pushing the button takes up the slack. (Not a good choice when teaching to "heel.")
  • Head collar. This unique collar, attached to a leash, keeps your dog under gentle control with a loop around the mouth as well as a collar around the neck. It doesn't restrict the mouth, and it thwarts lunging by transferring the forward motion into a sideways head turn. This type of lead is especially effective on energetic or difficult-to-control dogs.
  • Choke and prong collars. These collars, when attached to leads, control dogs by tightening around the neck or jabbing the throat with spikes. You pinch and release for the corrective action and quick attention -- not to choke the dog. They're not for novice handlers and can be dangerous in inexperienced hands. Before you use this technique, check with an expert for instructions.

With a lot of patience and a little bit of time, you can leash-train your dog and keep it safe and sound no matter where you go.

Mary Kirkland is a freelance writer with a specialty in animal issues and needs.

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Posted on September 29, 2007

ROSE MILES says: so too much snack are not good for it training I have a walking problem so weight is a problem for me go whem i feel good may every two day thank you rose

Posted on October 7, 2007

Ellen S. Byers says: I always appreciate any tips or pointers I can find to aid in my care and feeding of my little doggies and they seem to be grateful for the tender mercies they receive. So thanks from all of us, Mary. Sincerely, Ellie

Posted on October 15, 2007

doglover says: Dog training collar can be really helpful for many dog owners. The best way to use it is only when the dog is doing unwanted or undesirable behaviors that you do not want them to do. Thanks for posting this entry. It is very relevant and informative especially for pet owners like me. I learned a lot from it. -andrei http://www.dogtrainingcollar-4less.com/

Posted on October 16, 2007

Lisa says: Oh, maaaaan, does my Beagle have a short attention span, but once he gets it, it's set! Leash training has been the hardest thing to train both my dogs with. They walk on it, but they PULL. I'm going to try step 5.

Posted on July 7, 2008

andrei says: Thanks for the tips! I will be saving this page to my favorites for sure. -Andrei

Posted on July 15, 2008

Allan Johnson says: Just a note of encouragement to others. We just adopted an experienced breeder but she is still unsure of us and won't come. However because she was well trained with a leash, she does that better than I do.

Posted on August 19, 2008

Ellen Byers says: I rescue dogs and most are already leash trained and love to be put on the leash, but the ones who aren't are just impossible to train to it. All cues are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Posted on August 19, 2008

Sally Schafer says: Ever since we got our Sheltie at 9 weeks of age [he's now almost a year] he will NOT wear or walk on a leash. Even at 9 weeks, he would hide if he saw it. If you put it on, carry him, or sit him down, he just becomes dead weight. Tried enticing with food - nothing works. For hours afterwards, he won't even look at us or come to us. What would cause this? We live in the country with a fenced in yard which he is never out of, but someday he will need to walk on a leash. Help!

Posted on March 3, 2009

Lori says: I have a norweigan elkhound, he is almost 1 very well behaved, very social so far, he is outside dog but needs walks for exercise, very hearty dog very obedient except for walks he pulls very hard to the point of choking himself. going to try step 5 hope it works thanks

Posted on March 6, 2009

Michelle says: Good morning. I have a 10 month old female Belgian Sheepdog. She stays loose in the family room with my two crated terriers which works out well in my absence. There is a gate between the front door and the family room. The problem is this - as soon as the dogs hear me the car pull in the driveweay hey are barking and highly excited. My guess is that this is how the puppy is woken out of a deep sleep and is generally very cranky when I come in - she starts charging the dogs in the cages which she only does at this particular time and then jumps and grabs at me and ignores her commands. I had tried to get her on a leash before I climb over the gate but that wasn't very successful either. Once she gets outside she's fine - all of this only lasts about 3 minutes. Any advice?

Posted on March 11, 2009

teresa says: I have a 21/2 yr.old chorki/jack russell mix. He pulls so hard when i stop to correct him by turning the opposite way, he throws a temper tantrum by grabbing the leash and shaking it. when he isn't doing that he barks the whole time.The neighbors see me and laugh and make fun of him. what advice do you have for me.

Posted on March 24, 2009

Nick Gamez says: Hi Mary, I really need your help with my dog (Duke). He's 8 months old and absolutely refuses to walk on a leash. As soon as I put the leash on him he either seats down or worse he lays down. I 've only had him for 3 weeks but he acts scared or unsure of himself. Help! Thanks

Posted on April 3, 2009

Pat Wyman says: I just found your article today. We rescued a 1&1/2 yr old terrier mix who was originally in a puppy mill - had a litter, had never been on grass. She's a good but excitable dog who pulls on the leash constantly when I walk her - to the point of choking herself, or panting. Before I try step 5, I have to get a really snug or good fitting collar as she can slip out of her collar now when I turn in a different direction and then runs around the entire block as if it were her backyard. She always comes back but not when I call her. We need help!

Posted on April 8, 2009

kristyna says: my dog is very little and he is a pekingese.he needs a leash and a collar.i want to get a leash and a collar for him.i really want to wack my dog.as soon as i get the collar and leash i would follow the steps

Posted on April 10, 2009

steph says: We just adopted an Australian Cattle Dog mix from the local shelter. It is simple enough to get the leash on him and he loves to walk, but pulls incessantly. He also loves birds, rabbits, squirrels, etc. I'm going to try #5 and see if I can get him to quit lunging and pulling. Thanks for the help.

Posted on April 23, 2009

Michelle says: I really like to use the bungee dog leash when training my dog to walk. I purchased a leash from a pet expo called Bungee Puppy and it works really good. My dog no longer pulls and it has really been a great leash.

Posted on April 30, 2009

Jane says: I have 2 cocker spaniel puppies, age 6 months, litter mates. The breaking tugging advice is very helpful. Is there a formula to know the proper distance for their walks? A neighbor commented that I take them on too long of walks for their ages. However, I do not walk them to exhaustion and we take frequent breaks. About 15 minute to 20 minute walks a few times a day. I don't want to damage their joints. Any guidelines or advice?

Posted on June 4, 2009

steve says: when I walk my german sheperds puppies they will follow, however the older they get the more curious they get and tend to run off. Tried to put them on the lease and they went NUTS! biting barking and just about anything you can image. what to do? Steve

Posted on June 10, 2009

Julie says: I have a 6 month old chihuaha/jack loves to run and I take him to an open field to run and he loves this but when it is time to go home he is very easily excited when he sees cars or people and tends to pull on the leash He wears a harness and leash which he is ok with but I am concerned with the pulling as we are near a busy road Please help Thank you

Posted on June 13, 2009


Posted on August 3, 2009

wendy mcclure says: I can get a leash on raven but when I do she doesnt move its like she freezes. I tried giving her treats to come but no she wont move she tries to get out of her collar and pulls back just like a horse

Posted on August 5, 2009

Delores says: I am training my dog to stay within her boundaries by walking her around it. Now when she is trained to stay in her yard,if I take her for walks down the adjacent driveway will she become confused and think this is part of her boundary?

Posted on August 5, 2009

kim lester says: my dog aways dragrs me down me down the strree please help

Posted on August 12, 2009

Dale says: My 13 week old shepherd mix lies down when I lease train her. I've tried treats. She will get up for the treat and come to me then lies back down. How do I handle this?

Posted on April 6, 2010

Suzanne says: Please do not even consider using prong collars or choke chains - if you are thinking of using either of these, you really need to get yourself to a dog training class or a dog behaviourist to get expert advice on how to train your dog by methods which are not risky or cruel.

Posted on May 4, 2010

MichaelMihelle pratt says: I'm 9 just to start off.Should I put my dog in timeout if he,eats my comes and burs and etc. should my mom and I use thing like what we are using now.

Posted on September 7, 2010

jeremiah says: how do i train my cat?

Posted on September 11, 2010

linda brink says: i adopted a 1 1/2 to 2 yr. old yellow lab/chow mix. his enrgy is boundless. he pulls toward any smell in the wooded area we live in. off leash he will run away. he has heartworm which showed up a month after i rescued him. i am using a less invasive treatment than the arsenic/crate method. other loose dogs and turtles and snakes distract him to the point of physically wrestling with him to keep him from snakes and turtles and dogs. i have sesorted to going to the local 4 lane highway which has a new sidewalk and no homes so once he gets over the overstimulation of the cars, he walks quite obediently. i am considering getting some pepper spray for other dogs. any advise?

Posted on September 12, 2010


Posted on September 17, 2010

susan says: 9 month old maltese refuses to MOVE if we put her on a leash...just plops down and THAT IS IT...treats ...? no motivaton...i am stumped...we have had several large breeds in the last forty years..never had a problem....this little one has us stumped!!! HELP!!!!!!

Posted on October 16, 2010

Jessica says: my 8 month old yorkie, roxy, will not walk on her leash. She just sits there. I have tried treats and everything else. She will not budge one bit and people have even told me to drag her that eventually she will start walking but i dont like to drag her WHAT DO I DO??!!!

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