When you become a puppy parent, there are many exciting things to teach your new best friend. Whether it's encouraging them to love their safe space, teaching them good potty habits or training them not to bite your hands — instilling good pup behavior is a general must.
Another type of training to add to your list is leash training. Making sure your dog can walk on a leash will open up a world of adventures for you. Not only can leashes keep your pup safe while walking together, but leashed pups are sometimes allowed into restaurants or shops, too, Julia Jenkins of Pet Dog Training Today says.
You'll want to start leash training your puppy at around 8 weeks old, Jenkins shares. And if your pup hasn't gotten their complete set of vaccinations yet, be sure to practice inside the house to keep them safe. Here's what you need to know about leash training to set your pup up for success.
Leash training a dog should be fun for both you and your pup. Jenkins shares some steps to get you started:
“We want to teach our puppy that being by our side and moving along with us is the best game ever,” Jenkins says.
Leash training requires patience as it may take a couple of trials and errors. And there are some things you should never do while teaching your pup, Jenkins explains.
“If your dog is resistant to leash training, don't get discouraged. Just like with anything else in life, some dogs take to it more quickly than others,” Jenkins encourages.
You could also consider working with a professional dog trainer if your pup is having a hard time grasping leash training.
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It’s super common for dogs to try to pull you on their leash. “Dogs pull on leashes for a number of reasons. They naturally move at a quicker pace than us slow-coach humans,” Jenkins says. “If they're excited about something up ahead they might pull to get to it.”
However, pulling on the leash isn't the most desirable behavior. With the one-step plus a reward method, your pup will eventually learn that walking is not OK when the leash is taut (or extended).
Loose-leash walking means that your dog is walking near you (and the leash isn’t extended or taut), Jenkins shares. When you’re training your dog to walk on a leash, it’s OK if they walk a little bit in front of you — Jenkins says not to think of it as “competition-style heeling.”
“Sniffing is a calming activity and helps to keep your dog relaxed on a walk, so allow them as many sniffing opportunities as possible,” Jenkins adds.
First, figure out what's making your dog not want to walk. Sometimes dogs can be overwhelmed by their surroundings, Jenkins explains. Here's how to help your pup walk on their own:
Trying to lure your pup to walk with their favorite treat while they're sitting can be tempting, but Jenkins says you should avoid doing this. Instead, reward your dog with a treat while they're walking.
If you’re debating between getting your dog a harness or a collar, Jenkins recommends a Y-shaped harness while you’re leash training. “It evenly distributes the pressure of the leash around their body and prevents them from choking or getting injured. A collar should only be used once your puppy is bigger and more experienced with leash training as it can put a strain on their neck if they pull too hard,” Jenkins adds.
Avoid purchasing a retractable leash as they make it harder to control dogs and can snap back quickly, which might startle your pup, Julia explains. Instead, look for a 6-foot double-ended leash.
“With a double-ended leash, you can attach one clip to the front of the harness if you need to, as well as the standard clip to the back of the harness, which will give you more control if your pup is pulling,” Jenkins says.
Carrying a little pouch, like a fanny pack, can make it super easy and accessible to grab a treat or goodie for your pup.
It’s OK if your pup doesn’t get the hang of leash training immediately, as Jenkins mentioned before — this should be a game for both of you.
“Leash training is something that takes time, patience and consistency,” Jenkins explains. “Every dog is different and will learn at their own pace. Some dogs might be leash trained within a few weeks, while others might take months. Just keep up with the positive reinforcement, and eventually, they will get the hang of it.”
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