Leash training a dog is teaching a dog to walk on a leash without pulling, lunging, or behaving in an unruly manner. Leash training a puppy involves introducing the puppy to the leash and harness, teaching them to walk calmly beside its owner, and responding to cues such as stopping, turning, and walking at the owner’s pace. 

Follow the steps below to leash train a dog.

  1. Begin indoors in a quiet space. Choose a familiar, safe, and quiet place so the dog concentrates on training.
  2. Present the leash and harness while offering treats. The dog associates the leash with a positive experience when given treats. 
  3. Proceed with small steps in any direction. Walk the dog with small steps and reward progress.
  4. Practice walking in various directions. Walk in multiple directions to maintain focus and pace.
  5. Give treats only on one side. Establish a preferred side for dog walking. 
  6. Vary treats frequency.  The dog learns that treats are occasionally given to reward obedient walking. 
  7. Practice in different places. Generalize the leash training skills by practicing in various environments.
  8. Go for a walk outside. Leash train the dog outdoors to show it different distractions and apply cues learned during the indoor training.

1. Begin indoors in a quiet space

Begin indoors in a quiet space to leash train a puppy. Indoor leash training means training occurs in a peaceful place with minimal distractions. Quiet spaces allow dogs to focus on the training without being overwhelmed. Ensure there are no distractions, such as other pets or loud noises, that divert its attention. Introduce the leash and harness to the dog in a controlled environment.

2. Present the Leash and harness while offering treats

Present the leash and harness while providing treats to the dog positively and rewardingly. Show the leash and harness to the dog, allowing it to sniff and investigate, and give treats and praise for their curiosity to train a dog to walk on a leash. Treats and praise helps dogs associate the leash and harness with positive experiences and associations.

3. Proceed with small steps in any direction

Proceed with small steps in any direction once the dog is comfortable with the leash and harness. Start by walking a few steps forward and reward the dog with treats and praise as they follow. Increasing the distance and duration of the walks and rewarding them for cooperating is part of leash training a puppy. 

4. Practice walking in various directions

Practice walking in multiple directions by walking forward, backward, and sideways while maintaining a relaxed and controlled pace. The practice helps train a puppy to walk on a leash without pulling or getting distracted. Use treats and verbal cues to guide and reward the dog for positive leash walking. 

5. Give treats only on one side

Give treats only on one side to establish a preferred side for the dog to walk. Choose the left or right side and consistently reward the dog with treats when it walks on the correct side. Giving treats only on one side encourages the dog to stay close and maintain the desired position during leash training.

6. Vary the treats frequency

Vary the treats frequency once the dog learns to walk politely on one side. Varying the treat frequency helps the dog transition from relying solely on treats to walking obediently without constant rewards. Varying the treatment frequency and rewarding the dog intermittently for good behavior reinforces the desired behavior. 

7. Practice in different places

Practice in different places to ensure the dog generalizes the leash training skills. Take the dog to parks, sidewalks, and quiet streets. Exposing it to different distractions helps teach a puppy to walk on a leash. Different places encourage the dog to walk calmly on a leash regardless of the surroundings. Be patient and consistent during practice sessions and reward the dog for cooperation.

8. Go for a walk outside

Go for a walk outside once the dog has mastered leash training indoors and in different environments. Start with short walks in a familiar area and gradually increase the duration and distance. Use the techniques and cues practiced during the sessions to train a puppy to walk on a leash. 

What is Leash Training for Dogs?

Leash training for dogs is how to train the dog to walk on a leash calmly and obediently. Leash training is essential for the dog’s safety and the owner’s convenience during walks. Leash training begins with a well-fitted collar or harness to ensure maximum comfort and protection for the dog. “Dogs tend to pull stronger and more steadily when wearing a back-connection harness compared to a neck collar to reach food treats, but not toys,” according to the study by Shih, H., et al., titled “Dog Pulling on the Leash: Effects of Restraint by a Neck Collar vs. a Chest Harness,” 2021. 

Start with short walks in a quiet environment and gradually introduce new distractions and environments when leash training a dog. Leash training includes rewards for walking calmly, ignoring distractions, and following commands. The dog learns to walk on a leash without pulling or lunging, making walks more enjoyable and safer over time. The leash “creates a bi-directional medium of communication between humans and dogs, rather than exclusive control over dogs’ movement and behavior,” according to the study by Sadetzki, Y., & Hirsch-Matsioulas, O., titled “Leashing the City: Dog-Leash-Human Entanglements and the Urban Space,” 2021.

What is the Importance of Leash Training for the Dog?

The importance of leash training for the dog is it allows the owner to maintain control over the dog’s movements, ensuring its safety and the safety of others around them. Leash training prevents dogs from darting into traffic or dangerous situations. Leash use reduces the likelihood of interactions between dogs, “making it important for preventing the spread of infectious diseases during outbreaks,” according to the study by Westgarth, C., et al., titled “Dog behaviour on walks and the effect of use of the leash,” 2010.

Leash training promotes good behavior by teaching the dog to walk politely without pulling, lunging, or behaving unruly. The training strengthens the bond between the owner and the dog, as it requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement.

Is Leash Training a Puppy Beneficial for Dog’s Development?

Yes, leash training a puppy is beneficial for a dog’s development. Owners who know how to train a puppy to walk on a leash teach puppies to behave appropriately from an early age, setting the foundation for a well-behaved adult dog. Leash training helps puppies learn self-control, impulse management, and proper socialization. Leash training a puppy as part of early socialization is able to  “make a dog more self-confident, secure, and predictable, potentially saving their lives and improving their bond with their owners,” according to the study by Ganley, D., titled “Puppy Socialization,” 2018.

Is Leash Training for Dogs with Separation Anxiety?

Yes, leash training is for dogs with separation anxiety. Training a puppy to walk on a leash is helpful in managing separation anxiety in dogs, although it’s not a standalone solution. Dog walking is “associated with improved psychological health, reduced stress, and increased energy, self-esteem, and overall life satisfaction,” according to the study by Antonacopoulos, N., & Pychyl, T. titled “An Examination of the Possible Physical Activity and Short-Term Health Benefits Associated With Dog Walking,” 2018. Separation anxiety in dogs is a complex issue that often requires a multifaceted approach to address effectively.

Dogs with separation anxiety need various strategies to manage the anxiety, such as desensitization and counterconditioning by gradually exposing the dog to being alone for short periods while providing positive reinforcement. Dogs with anxiety benefit from safe, comfortable, and secure areas to stay in while alone. Leash training dogs with separation anxiety help dogs manage separation anxiety and, in severe cases, is part of a comprehensive behavior modification plan that includes medication developed in conjunction with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

What are the Benefits of Leash Training a Dog?

The benefits of leash training a dog are listed below.

  • Improved control during walks: Leash training a dog teaches a dog to walk calmly beside its owner, reducing pulling and erratic behavior. A behaving dog on a leash allows the owner to control the dog’s movements, making walks more enjoyable and safer for both parties.
  • Enhanced safety for the dog and the owner: Dogs trained to walk on a leash are less likely to dart into traffic, chase after other animals, or engage in dangerous behavior. Training dogs to walk on a leash helps prevent accidents and injuries for the dog and the owner.
  • Better communication between the dog and owner: Leash training a dog fosters better communication between dogs and their owners. Consistent training and reinforcement means dogs learn to understand verbal cues and signals from owners.
  • Promotion of good behavior on the leash: Leash training a dog encourages dogs to exhibit good behavior. Good behavior includes walking politely on a loose leash, responding to commands promptly, and refraining from pulling or lunging.

What are the Challenges of Leash Training a Dog?

The challenges of leash training a dog are listed below.

  • Resistance to restraint: Dogs initially resist being on a leash, mainly if they are not accustomed to the feeling of being restrained. Dogs pull against the leash, try to wriggle out of their collar or harness or display anxious behaviors such as whining or attempting to escape.
  • Pulling behaviors during walks: Pulling on the leash is a common challenge during walks, especially for dogs with high energy levels or a strong prey drive. Dogs pull towards exciting stimuli such as other animals, people, or attractive scents, making it difficult for the owner to maintain control and causing discomfort for the dog and the owner.
  • Distractions causing difficulty: Dogs become distracted by their surroundings while on walks, which disrupts their focus and obedience. Leash walking distractions include other dogs, squirrels, cyclists, cars, or unfamiliar sounds and smells. The distractions make it challenging for owners to keep their dogs engaged and responsive to commands.
  • Consistency in training efforts is required: Leash training a dog requires the owner’s patience, consistency, and dedication. Practice regularly and reinforce desired behaviors consistently for improved leash walking. Inconsistent leash training confuses the dog and slows down the learning process.

When should you Start to Train Dog to Walk on Leash?

You should start to train a dog to walk on leash as soon as it is old enough to go for walks, which is around eleven weeks of age. “Dogs can be trained to walk on a leash at 11 weeks of age,” according to the study by Frank, H., & Frank, M. titled “Inhibition training in wolves and dogs, 1983.

How Frequently should you walk the Dog for Leash Training?

You should walk daily with the dog for leash training. Daily sessions on how to get a dog to walk on a leash are recommended. “Daily long walks of at least one hour positively affect dogs’ behavior, reducing the tendency to pull on leashes, jump on people, and chase cats,” according to the study by Sergi, V., & Panizzolo, G. titled “Does walking the dog reduce behavioral problems,” 2019. 

How would you Leash Train the Dog if they Don’t Want to Go Outside?

You would leash train the dog if they don’t want to go outside through gradual leash training and positive reinforcement indoors. “Positive training methods, such as praise, food rewards, and play, are associated with increased obedience and reduced problematic behaviors in dogs,” according to the study by Hiby, E., Rooney, N., & Bradshaw, J. titled “Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness, and interaction with behavior and welfare,” 2004. 

Dogs trained once a day, during which they were desensitized to wearing a head halter, taught to come forward in the cage when approached, to walk on a leash, to sit on command and not jump up on people with environmental modification showed good behavior with other dogs,” according to the study by Luescher, A., & Medlock, R. titled “The effects of training and environmental alterations on adoption success of shelter dogs,” 2009. Training a dog to walk on a leash in a familiar place, indoors or in a quiet space, helps teach when a dog doesn’t want to walk outside

Can Leash training be Done During the Morning?

Yes, leash training can be done during the morning. Mornings are ideal for leash training because the dog has energy and is enthusiastic about training. Training a dog in the morning means the outdoor areas are less crowded and have fewer distractions and cooler weather.  The optimal environmental temperature for training a puppy to walk on a leash is“ within ranges of 17 to 28°C for rearing and 23 to 28°C for operation and recovery,” according to the study by Fujita, S., & Yamauchi, C., tilted “Optimal Environmental Temperature for Laboratory Dogs,” 1980. 

Is Leash Training Good for Dogs?

Yes, leash training is good for dogs. Start training a puppy to walk on a leash as soon as they are able to walk. Leash training provides bonding, exercise, socialization, safety, and control and “reduces the likelihood of interactions between dogs, making it beneficial for preventing the spread of infectious diseases during outbreaks,” according to the study by Westgarth, C., et al, titled “Dog behavior on walks and the effect of use of the leash,” 2010.  

Can you Leash Train a Dog with Anxiety?

Yes, you can leash train a dog with anxiety. Leash training a dog with anxiety requires patience, understanding, and a tailored approach. “New treatment modalities for separation anxiety and noise aversions in dogs include behavioral management, pharmacotherapy, and species-specific pheromone use,” according to the study by Sherman, B., & Mills, D., titled  “Canine anxieties and phobias: an update on separation anxiety and noise aversions,” 2008. 

Leash training dogs with anxiety include positive association with the leash and outdoor experiences, desensitization, and counterconditioning. Start slow when teaching a puppy to walk on a leash while staying calm and using distractions such as toys or treats. 

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Athena Angela Gaffud, DVM