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A GUIDE TO TEACHING YOUR PUPPY TO WALK ON A LEAD

 

Teaching a puppy to walk on a leash is essential for your puppy to learn and can be taught to your puppy when they’re as early as eight weeks old. Some puppies master leash training quickly, others take a little longer to grasp the concept. Either way, it’s important to remain consistent, positive and above all patient.

It’s a common misunderstanding that puppy’s instinctively know how to walk beside their owner on a leash, however, this isn’t the case. Leash training can be confusing for a puppy. They’re not used to the restriction of the collar/harness or the leash and will need to go through an adjustment period before they can be expected to calmly walk beside you, without pulling on their leash.

In this article, you’ll learn the fundamentals of training your puppy to walk on a leash, as well as the following:

  • Why is Leash Training Important?
  • When Should You Start Training Your Puppy To Walk On A Leash?
  • Leash Training Essentials For Your Puppy
  • The Step By Step Process For Puppy Leash Training
  • Common Leash Training Problems & Their Solution
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    Why is Leash Training Important?

    Leash training helps to build a puppy’s trust and boost their overall confidence. But it also allows dog owners to expose their puppy’s to new environments and helps to establish important boundaries that help to create positive behaviour around training sessions.

    Puppies who haven’t been taught how to walk on a leash often develop one of two habits. They either become quite anxious when taken for walks outside as they’re fearful of their new environments and the different noises and obstacles (people, other dogs) that they encounter along the way. Or they start to act out and can become aggressive and overexcited when taken for walks which makes it difficult for the owner to take back control.


    When Should You Start Training Your Puppy To Walk On A Leash?

    As we mentioned earlier, you can train your puppy to learn simple commands by the time they’re eight weeks old, this includes leash training. Essentially, you can introduce your puppy’s leash/harness to them as soon as you’ve brought them home and begin their training. But we strongly recommend fully vaccinating your puppy before taking them on a leash outside.

    We’re not trying to encourage the idea that your puppy should be taken for long walks as soon as they’re vaccinated – quite the opposite. Exercise will need to be introduced in short bursts and increased slowly over time, allowing them to properly develop and reduce the risk of injury.

    We’re merely saying it’s important for your puppy to get used to the idea of walking beside you, wearing a collar and learning that you’re the one in charge right from the beginning to avoid undesirable behaviour forming.

    Leash Training Essentials For Your Puppy

    It pays to be prepared (where puppies are concerned) - leash training is no different.

    We’ve listed a few leash training essentials you’ll need that will help to accelerate the learning process below:
    • Leash
    • Collar and harness
    • Treats
    • Barriers - Including crates, pet pens, and or playpens
    • longline leash
    • Patience (and a lot of positive reinforcement is key to successfully leash training a puppy)

     

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    The Step By Step Process For Puppy Leash Training

    Teaching a puppy to walk calmly by your side means there’s no need for pulling – on either end. Instead, your puppy will be trained to walk beside you within the length of the leash, which will be a much smoother and more enjoyable process for both of you.

    Keep reading to discover our step by step process for teaching a puppy to walk calmly beside you while on a leash.
    1. Introduce Your Puppy To Their New Leash or Harness
    2. Teach Your Puppy A New Command
    3. Encourage Your Puppy To Come To You
    4. Walk Your Puppy Around The Room On A Leash
    5. Take Your Training Session Outside

    (1) Introduce Your Puppy To Their New Leash/Harness

    The first step in leash training is allowing time for your puppy to get acquainted with their new collar/harness and lead - it’s best to start indoors where there are fewer stimulants.
    The best way to begin leash training your puppy is to allow them to sniff around their new leash/harness whilst giving them plenty of positive reinforcement in the process. Once their interest deters you can fasten the harness to their body and allow them to get used to that.

    (2) Teach Your Puppy A New Command

    Once your puppy feels comfortable with the harness fastened around their body, it’s important to introduce a command such as ‘come’ to encourage them to walk towards you with it on. As soon as they come towards you, reward them with a treat and plenty of positive reinforcement.

    (3) Encourage Your Puppy To Come To You

    Just as before, continue to move around the room beckoning for them to come towards you. Get ready to reward your puppy as soon as they’ve done what you’ve asked and get them to repeat this process a few more times before calling it quits for the day, just to be sure they fully understand what you’re asking of them.

    We know we’re making it seem like an easy enough process but remember puppies have a short attention span and will often lose interest during their training. When this happens it’s important to remain calm and to not lose your patience as this can often harm your puppy’s development.

    (4) Walk Your Puppy Around The Room On A Leash

    Once your puppy has mastered wearing a harness it’s time to introduce the leash to the process. To begin, gently attach your puppy’s lead to their collar while continuing to provide them with plenty of positive reinforcement and treats.

    It’s common for a puppy to pull away when first introduced to the leash, if this happens don’t try and stop it. Keep your puppy in eyesight as you allow them to drag the lead around the room, this will allow them to get used to the feeling of a loose leash. It’s important to give your puppy an appropriate amount of time to get used to their leash and allow them to get comfortable with their new accessories.

    The real trick to teaching your puppy to walk on a leash is not to drag or force them into walking beside you, or where you want to go. Instead, allow them to get used to the feeling of the leash if they start to become over-excited and try to pull, stand still and wait for them to calm down before moving forward. They need to learn that no pressure on the leash means go, and slight pressure on the lead means stop.

    (5) Take Your Training Outside

    Mastered the above? It’s time to start training your puppy outside.

    There’s plenty of distractions for your puppy to get lost in when introduced to the outside world so it’s important to train in an area with fewer distractions, a backyard maybe? Practice walking forward just a few steps and asking for their attention as you move forward. The training process will remain fairly straightforward although there will be a couple more distractions for you to deal with as your puppy encounters the outside world.

     

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    3 Common Leash Training Problems & Their Solutions

    A walk with your puppy can either be an enjoyable time or it can be a bit of a battle gaining back control. The responsibility for nurturing a more relaxed, controlled walk rests solely on the human. Once you understand why your puppy is showing signs of undesirable behaviour you can redirect them to a more constructive behaviour that allows you to walk more freely.

    We’ve listed 3 common leash problems and solutions for how to overcome them below:

    Puppy Pulling On The Leash

    Pulling is a natural response for a puppy, it allows them to get to where they want to go at their pace. They’re not doing this behaviour to show dominance over you but simply because it works.

    When out walking with your puppy it’s important to be aware of your body position. If you’re idling a few steps behind your puppy, allowing them to take the lead then this will make them feel as though they’re in charge and will start to tug at the lead to pull you along during the walk.

    There are various methods for training a puppy to stop pulling on the leash, we’ve listed a few for you to reference.

    Play the reward game

    One of the easiest and most effective ways to teach a puppy to walk on a leash beside you is to reward them each time they pay attention to you and perform your desired action i.e walk on a leash by your side, at your pace.

    Encourage your puppy to follow you

    This process is simple, hold onto the leash and take several steps backward away from your puppy - this action encourages your puppy to follow you. As soon as your puppy approaches, reward them with a treat and plenty of encouragement.

    Create a short routine in your neighbourhood

    If you spend too long training your puppy it’s a good idea to create a short route in your neighbourhood that you stick to and walk repeatedly. A familiar walk helps your puppy be less distracted, it becomes considerably less stimulating for your puppy to walk the same route multiple times than to be introduced to a new route each time.

    Burn off extra energy in advance

    Puppies have a lot of excess energy to burn and they need to expend it somehow. If you take them for a walk without burning off this extra energy beforehand then it may cause your puppy to pull extra hard on their leash. Including an extra exercise session into their day before a walk helps to combat this problem.

    Important Note: Leash pulling often refers to older dogs, however is still common amongst puppies, be sure to provide solutions for both puppies and adult dogs.

     

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    Puppy Acting Aggressively When On The Leash

    Leash aggression is more often associated with older dogs, however, it’s important to train puppies to be calm from the onset to avoid this behaviour from occurring. Dogs acting aggressively when on a leash is often caused by them feeling restrained, frustrated and uncomfortable in a social situation while attached to a leash. If a puppy feels as though they can’t protect themselves from a potential threat while on a leash it may cause them to act out aggressively.

    The first step to teaching your dog to stop their leash aggression is to first identify the cause of their discomfort and then work to desensitise them to the stimulus. If your dog is demonstrating overexcited behaviour then it’s best to teach your puppy that lunging achieves nothing and calm behaviour results in them getting what they want. Give your puppy something to do in the moment instead of using punishment to redirect their behaviour.

    Positive reinforcement is the easiest and most effective way to change how your dog/puppy feels about a given situation. If your dog starts to feel anxious when being approached by another dog while on the lead the best thing for you to do is to distract them with their favourite toy. This will help to distract your dog and change the way they perceive the threat when in its presence, for example, another dog.

    Common Signs For Fear Aggression

    The easiest way to deal with aggression is by recognising the warning signs before anything can occur. As we mentioned earlier, aggression is often associated with your dog feeling fearful or stressed and likely feel trapped. Body language that may be displayed when your puppy’s feeling aggressive is as follows:
    • Lunging
    • Posturing
    • Direct eye contact
    • Pricked ears
    • Teeth exposed
    If you witness your puppy displaying any of these types of behaviours then it’s important to calmly remove them from the situation and focus on re-directing their attention to something else, as we explained before. You must stay calm in these scenarios, as your puppy will be able to pick up on your energy when you’re stressed which will cause further distress for them too.

    Training a puppy to walk on a leash is a valuable lesson that will create a new and fun way to bond with your pup, however if you have any doubts then book in a few training classes with your local animal behaviorist.