The basis of training a dog of any age is to win his trust, confidence and respect. True training will only begin once your dog has accepted you as his alpha. Only then would s/he respect you and entrust you with her/his confidence. Another important factor in canine training is consistency. When you train with your dog daily, you are in a better position to see positive results. Are walks with your dog a chore? Is your dog always pulling the leash or leading you? A well trained dog will walk on leash by your side and never pull you or show leash aggression. Walking a dog that pulls on its leash or bites it or simply refuses to move altogether can be very annoying. Pulling the leash can also actually be very harmful for both you and your pet.
So let us study some important tips for puppy leash training. We will also cover some tips for leash training an older dog.
Who leads, where do we go and at what pace?
These are some basic questions that all dog owners must get clear answers to in their minds. When you walk with your dog then you (the guardian) must lead, decide where to go and also set the pace.
- On the lead – When, you, the guardian gets to stop, start, change directions. It is important to identify these stages and practice the maneuvers.
- Off the lead – You call once and then leave. We will cover training dog to walk off leash in another article.
The aim of this training is: you walk with your dog in heel position on a loose lead by your side. You decide the direction and set the pace of the walk. Also, you are the one to decide the distance of the walk. Once you let your dog off lead, they look to see where you are, respond to your requests and follow you no matter what distractions are around. We have covered off lead walking training in another guide.
How to train a dog to walk on leash without pulling
1. Starting the lessons
To start with, practice the heel command without dog, in a safe place devoid of distractions. It is best to do this training session indoors, in the comforts of your home. This way, there are fewer distractions and your pet will also feel safer than he would in a park.
2. Praise and rewards
Start by making your dog walk nicely to heel, around the house without lead. You can use praise and rewards and encourage your pet to walk by your side. Reward your pet on regular basis when he walks by your side. This training session will get your pet into the habit of watching you and also listening to you.
3. Know when to abandon the lesson
If your pet does not show signs of following you or listening to you, then abandon the lesson and come at it again after a few hours. The key is to get him to follow you in the home on its own free will giving him the feeling of comfort and you an opportunity to teach him.
4. Start the lesson again
Once your dog shows an inclination to again follow you, then continue the reward and praise method of teaching.
5. Try going into the yard
The next step is to get your dog outdoors, on lead. You can start off by going to the yard. Make sure you walk out first and he follows you. Each time he rushes out the door, you pull him back in and repeat the exercise. Once he follows you, praise and reward him. Do all of this without talking. Your dog should figure out what he should be doing as consequence of its actions.
6. Train on quiet streets
Once you have done the above exercises successfully, it is time to practice on a quiet street-on leash. You can get him to walk by your side, change directions a few times, stop, start and move back and forth a few meters. Your pet needs to follow you each time and when he changes, stops and moves exactly as you want him to, reward and praise him. Each time your pet is distracted, stop and change directions. This will teach him that you are the boss and that you choose where to walk, set the pace and the distance as well.
7. Training on busier streets
Once the above stages of heel training on a quiet street are done, you can take your training on a busier street, on leash. Walk your pet in a street that has many cars, people and other sights, sounds and smells to distract him. Walk up and down such a street and encourage your pet to stay by your side all the time. If your dog feels uncomfortable, re-train him in a quieter area where he is more comfortable.
8. Increase the distractions
Once your pet is quite comfortable heeling by your side, increase the distractions more and more. Plan ahead and set the stage so that each stage increases in difficulty in terms of distractions. Seek appropriate spaces such as areas with children on bikes or skateboards, cats, squirrels etc. You can also take him to busier dog parks where there are other dogs. If your dog pulls you, turn and walk back and try again. Keep repeating till your dog can comfortably and successfully walk in the park on lead.
Bonus tips for added success
Use a good set of tools
A harness and a sturdy walking leash that is long enough will help you in training. Also carry healthy dog training treats like cheese or meat pieces.
Decide which side you want your dog to walk on
Be consistent about keeping your pet on your right/left. You can always feed the reward on that side thigh so your dog will always walk on that side.
Walk around the yard
Walking around the yard is the best way to train your dog to walk without pulling. Each time he consistently walks by your side, praise and reward. If he shows no interest in food, stop the exercise. Repeat training later when the dog gets hungry. Practice this routine until your dog learns to stay by your side even when you do not reward him.
Your dog should not even get one inch closer to the object s/he is pulling you towards. Be consistent. Stop walking the moment your dog starts pulling you. Be a tree-it is an effective method of training your puppy polite leash walking. It is especially very effective for young pups that have just started training for on-leash walks. It is a simple trick, but you have to be very consistent. Whenever your pup puts even a slight amount of pressure on the leash, you stop walking and stand very still-like a tree. The moment he quits pulling, you walk ahead. Soon your dog will understand that when he quits pulling, he is ‘rewarded’ with loose leash for walking forward and that he doesn’t get any rewards for pulling. He also understands that it takes longer for him to get to wherever it is he is pulling you.
Use walking goals
There are always certain areas where your dog is bound to pull you. These are places that are attractive to the dog and when he nears them, the urge to pull gets stronger. Start walking towards an ‘attractive place’ such as a clump or a bush. As soon as your dog starts pulling you, stop for a few seconds and turn around and walk 5 paces farther from the clump. Remember this spot for the purpose of training as that will be your starting point to try again. Once you start walking to the bush, your dog will pull again. So again turn around and walk five paces. Your dog will soon understand how this game works-that the moment he stops pulling, he gets to go a few inches nearer to the attractive goal.
Continue walking practices
You can vary the length of the leash as well so that you can slowly train your dog to walk without leash. Always reward your pet when he walks by your side. You can also try varying the pace of walking. Increase or decrease your pace and make sure your pet does not lead or lag too much. Encourage it with rewards the moment he walks at your side.
Training a dog also means not giving in to your pet’s demands. Do not confuse love and attention with letting your pet have his way. Whether you are working with a 12 week old puppy or a 12 year old dog; consistency is key. You must gain the respect of your pet; you can do so by speaking in gentle tones but with firmness. Dogs need structured lives and they are more than willing to let their owners take charge. Keep training sessions short, especially when working with young pups having short attention spans.