Is leash training your puppy essential? After all, you just put on the collar and start walking, right? Well, not really.

Like any other skill or trick, you should teach your dog how to perform it. If you want a polite pup that won’t pull on the leash or zig-zag your feet, you need to put some effort into it.

Daily walks are important for your doggie. They’re also good for you as walking keeps you active. 

So let’s dive right in and learn how to leash train a dog:

Why Walking Your Dog Is Important

Walking your dog provides mental stimulation and opportunities for socializing, improves health, and prevents obesity. Besides, you both get enough exercise out of it — one of the many advantages of having a dog.

So leash training your dog is a must if you want to have fun during your daily activities.

At What Age Should You Start Leash Training?

Leash training should begin as soon as you take your puppy home, so around 4–6 weeks old. At this age, puppies learn all the time. With the right amount of treats and encouragement, they’ll quickly become leash walking pros.

But remember that young puppies have a short attention span. They could easily get bored and tired during a training session. That’s why we recommend giving your puppy a break every 10–15 minutes.

Bear in mind that at this age, puppies aren’t fully vaccinated. Train only at home until all vaccines are administered.

How Long Does It Take to Leash Train a Dog?

If you start leash training your pup from a young age, it could learn proper walking etiquette in about 4–6 weeks. But how fast your dog will acquire this skill largely depends on your dedication to the process.

Older dogs might take longer to learn, especially if they already have developed bad habits like pulling on the leash. But don’t give up — even the most stubborn pooches can be leash trained with the right amount of treats and hugs.

A brown dog pulling on its leash in a park.

Why Is My Dog Pulling on the Leash?

Walking your pup every day is an essential part of dog maintenance. So if you want to learn how to walk a dog properly, you should first understand why your pup is causing you trouble. There’s always a reason behind a doggie’s behavior. Whether it’s uncontrollable barking, pulling on the leash, or toileting on your carpets — understand the trigger, and you can change the pattern.

It Works for Them

Pulling gets dogs where they want to go, and it’s faster than following your pace.

What’s more, it’s a natural behavior in the dog world. In the wild, if a dog is trapped, it’ll pull to try to escape. That’s why some dogs are trained to pull sleds. But long leash dog training is a complex task and requires lots of patience and dedication.

Excitement

Imagine you’ve spent the whole day at home and it’s finally time to go out. And you’ll see all your friends in the park. On top of that, your second favorite person will also be there. I’d want to go as fast as possible.

No wonder our puppies might pull on their leashes out of pure excitement.  

Reactivity

Walking a dog on a leash is challenging if you have a drama queen. Such dogs overreact to stimuli that shouldn’t normally cause an issue. It might be falling leaves, birds, or small children.

In time, overlooked reactivity can turn into aggression. In case you notice such behavior in your doggie, contact a dog specialist.  

Fear or Anxiety

If you’re leash training an older dog that hasn’t been appropriately trained at a young age, you might notice your pet getting anxious or fearful when it sees the leash. Older dogs learn harder. Anything new can cause them inconvenience.

In this case, you might want to slow down the training and look into calming dog supplements

Before You Start

You’ll need some tools for your leash training journey. Also, learning how to react in extreme situations can help you keep your pet safe outside. 

Can You Hurt Your Dog by Pulling on the Leash?

Constantly pulling on your dog’s leash to make it walk next to you can have negative consequences for your pet’s neck and overall health.

Regular pulling of the leash can lead to complications. Your dog might develop thyroid damage, epilepsy, eye and ear damage, and paralysis. And that’s only a small part of the possible issues. 

So if you notice you’re pulling your dog’s collar, consider switching to a harness.

How to Calm Down Your Dog

If your dog gets excited during a walk, it’ll need to calm down before proceeding with the leash training. Here’s how to do that:

  • Give your pup something to do. Tell it to sit or lay down to divert its attention from the trigger.
  • Hug and pet your dog. Physical interaction with your puppy’s closest friend will most likely help it calm down.
  • Massage your pup. It decreases stress. Hold your puppy with one hand and lightly massage its neck, shoulders, and legs with the other.
  • Give your dog calming supplements before a walk. They’ll keep your puppy stress-free and make learning easier.

Training Essentials

You can’t learn how to leash train a dog without proper equipment. Here’s a list of everything you’ll need:

  • Harness or Collar

You can’t start loose-leash training your dog without a good collar. There are hundreds of leash training collars, so the choice is yours.

Still, avoid choke, prong, or shock collars, as these are dangerous and inhumane. Your puppy shouldn’t suffer.

A great collar alternative is a harness. Also, it’s safer for dogs used to pulling on their leashes. 

  • Leash

There’s no one best dog training leash. Depending on your puppy’s breed, you might want to choose a lightweight one for smaller breeds or a sturdier option for heavy chewers.

For the purpose of leash training, you don’t want a retractable leash. These are a perfect option for dogs that already have established leash walking habits.

  • Treats

Positive reinforcement is critical in dog training. This is the practice of rewarding desired behavior with treats and praise instead of punishing unwanted behavior. It’s been proven as the most effective, humane, and enjoyable way of teaching your pup.

So the best way to leash train a dog is with lots of yummy treats. 

And why not let your puppy choose them? Go to the pet store with your dog to taste different treats and buy the ones your pup enjoyed the most.

  • Patience and Positivity

Training your dog to stay beside you instead of pulling on the leash or walking between your feet can be irritating. Your puppy won’t get it right the first time. But no matter how annoying it can be — it’s not impossible.

Brace yourself with tons of patience and positivity, and enjoy the time you spend with your best friend.

A woman walking two poodles on a leash on the side of a road.

How to Train a Dog to Walk Beside You

Training your pup to walk next to you is a multi-step process. Take it slow and give your puppy time to adjust and learn.

Step 1 — Introduce Your Dog to the Collar and Leash

You’re preparing for a nice walk with your favorite furry friend. The sun is shining, and the birds are singing. Meanwhile, you’re wrestling with your dog in a desperate attempt to put on the leash and collar. So you start wondering how to leash train a dog that is scared of the leash.

Before you start training your puppy, you’ll need to introduce it to the collar and leash.

Show your dog the leash. Give it treats every time the pup approaches it on its own. While putting on the collar and leash, pet and reward your dog with treats and praise for behaving well. If the dog starts whining, take it off and give it some time before trying again.

Make sure your puppy associates the leash with nice things like tasty food and walks.

Step 2 — Teach Your Dog to Heel

One of the basic dog obedience commands is training your dog to walk beside you. Not zig-zagging in front of your feet or pulling you toward every tree.

If you want to learn how to train a dog to walk on a leash without pulling, listen closely. It might sound annoying, but you’ll need to stop walking every time your pup starts pulling. And every time Pooch walks by your side, even for a second, reward him.

Over time, he’ll learn that pulling gets him nowhere, and walking next to you is delicious. Be patient. If your dog’s been pulling on the leash for a while, it’ll take time to break this habit.

Step 3 — Teach “Off-Duty” Walk can be challenging. But follow these simple steps, and you’ll make it in no time:

  • Fill your pockets with treats — you’ll need lots, so choose the ones your puppy cannot resist.
  • Call your dog’s name and tell it to come.
  • Choose the side where you want your puppy to walk.
  • Lure your dog to the chosen side with a treat and say “Heel.”
  • If your dog’s on the left, hold the leash with your right hand and give treats with the left one.
  • Start strolling, continuously giving treats to your puppy.
  • Every time you start walking, give the “Heel” cue.
  • Increase the walking distance between treats. 

Step 4 — Prevent Pulling

When walking your dog, you can’t expect it to heel all the time. After all, leash training is also about fun. Dogs love sniffing around, so not letting them do that might ruin the walks for your pup.

To teach your dog the “off-duty” walk, you’ll need to first decide how much leash length to give it. Too long a leash can interfere with other people’s walks. But if you don’t give your dog enough space, it won’t be able to enjoy the “off-duty” sniffari (the doggy version of a safari).

After you decide the leash length, proceed with the “Free time” cue. If your dog starts pulling, stop and call it back to you.

Step 5 — Change the Environment

To teach your dog not to pull on the leash and become a professional walker, you need to level up. After your dog has learned to heel and enjoy its free time without pulling, step out of your home and into the park.

Parks are full of distractions. Dogs, children, and strangers will make staying next to you harder for your pup. Expect lots of pulling and maybe even barking at first. But don’t give up. Proceed as before. Stop if your dog is pulling, and reward it for walking beside you.

Off-Leash Training

If you take off the leash of your untrained dog, it’ll most likely run around carelessly and ignore your calls. Letting your dog wander off-leash can be dangerous. Dogs get hit by cars, get stolen, and lost. So it’s vital to train your dog correctly before letting it run off-leash.

How to Teach Your Dog to Come Back When Off-Leash 

One of the best tricks to teach your dog is the “Come here” command.

  • Tell your dog to sit down.
  • Walk a few steps away and tell your pup to “Come here.”
  • When your dog comes, praise and reward it with treats.
  • Repeat several times a day, slowly increasing the distance between you.

Dog Leash Training Tips

Here are some additional tips to help you leash train your pet faster

  • Keep sessions short — if you’re training a young puppy, make sure to take frequent breaks between sessions.
  • Never punish your dog — punishment doesn’t work, and it’ll only ruin your friendship.
  • Be patient — lower your expectations and allow your dog to learn at its own pace.
  • Start early — the earlier, the better. Building new habits and breaking old ones get harder as your dog matures.

Training a Rescue Dog to Walk on a Leash

Every year 3.3 million dogs enter US shelters, and 670,000 are euthanized. Adopting is the best and most noble way to get a dog.

Taking care of an adopted pup can be challenging. They’re rarely leash trained — most have never even been on a walk. So how do you teach a rescue pup leash manners?

  • Let your dog get used to its new home.
  • Take it slow and start from the comfort of your home.
  • Give lots of treats and never use force.
  • Invest in a professional trainer if you can.

Wrap Up

Learning how to leash train a dog isn’t as easy as it seems. It takes dedication and lots of treats. But leash training is an essential part of the healthy and happy puppy routine.

Daily walks keep you and your pet active and delay the onset of many neurodegenerative disorders that come with age. That’s why you should start leash training your puppy as soon as you welcome it home.Take your time and enjoy the process. After all, few things are better than spending time with your bestie.

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Avatar for Meg Petrova
Miglena loves spending time with friends and talking about science over a glass of wine. Born and raised in a small town, she’s always been surrounded by animals. Cats, dogs, chickens, cows, and goats have all been her companions from an early age. Her passion for the animal kingdom became even stronger after she went to study microbiology in Scotland. Miglena’s love for writing, combined with her curiosity, makes her a valuable member of the pawsome advice team.