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How to leash train a puppy

These are the leash accessories that you should look for.

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. 

How to leash train a dog

Leash training a dog should be fun for both you and your pup. Jenkins shares some steps to get you started:

  • Start in an area with no distractions (like inside your home). 
  • Take one step forward and reward them with a treat. Keep adding a step plus reward and if your puppy gets distracted, start from the beginning. 
  • Once they’ve mastered leashed walking indoors, take them outside to a somewhat busier area and practice there. Eventually, you'll be able to walk your pup in public confidently.

“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. 

  • Don’t use a punishment collar, like a choke chain, prong collar or shock collar. These types of collars can not only hurt your pup but can cause psychological damage.
  • Avoid jerking the leash or pulling your puppy. These actions will likely make your dog fear walking on a leash.
  • Never leave your dog unsupervised while on a leash. There’s a risk that your pup can get tangled up in the leash and hurt themselves.

“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.

RELATED: A beginners guide to puppy training

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How to get a dog to stop pulling on a leash

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).

What is loose-leash training?

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.

What to do if your dog refuses to walk

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:

  • Pause and let them take in their environment, which can help them get used to new sounds and smells.
  • Pack their favorite toys and treats on the walk to make it more enjoyable.
  • Drive them a short distance from your home and walk back with them (this helps if they’re anxious about leaving your house).
  • Enjoy your time outside with your dog and let them walk at their own pace.

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. 

What kind of accessories help with leash training? 

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.”

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo. 

Photo by Paul Rivera on Unsplash

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