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  • How to train your dog to walk on a leash

    by Andrew Borgschulte

    Training your dog to comfortably walk on a leash can be trickier than you might think. Often they will want to pull or may not want to walk at all. We will walk through a few basic steps as well as a few advanced techniques on how to train your dog to walk on a leash.

    A golden retriever walking on a leash with a woman.

    Getting started

    First things first, we recommend a front-attaching harness as it will generally reduce pulling and is more comfortable for your pup. Secondly, at least at the start, try to find a routine and stick with it: use the same leash, walk the same route, and keep other factors you can control the same. Dogs are creatures of habit, and the more something is repeated, the more likely that it will stick.

    One other quick tip with a new puppy is to try some rigorous playtime before the walk if possible. Tiring them out a little bit will help to reduce pulling.

    Finally, bring a handful of small treats along and reward them every few blocks. This is certainly not something you’ll need to do forever, but it helps to cement the good behavior early on.

    Time to go!

    Now comes the fun part, getting out of the house. Depending on how confident you are, it might be a good idea to practice in your yard. Walk in a small circle or other pattern and encourage your dog to stay close, using treats if needed. Learning how to train your dog to walk on a leash can be a long process, so be patient.

    The most common issue is of course pulling. Not only is it uncomfortable for you, it can be dangerous, especially if you are in a busy urban area with other pedestrians, bicycles and cars.

    Some quick advice for pulling:

    • When your dog begins to pull, simply stop dead in your tracks and wait
    • Call him or her back to you and reward them with a treat for returning
    • Start the walk back up and repeat as needed

    As you begin to find a rhythm, continue to encourage your dog with a positive tone and keep the leash firm without too much slack. When your pup inevitably stops to sniff, bark or any other distraction, start with a gentle pull on the leash and an upbeat “let’s go” or “come on”. Tone here is very important, so make sure to stay positive! This is another spot where a few well-timed treats may help the process go smoother.

    Potty time

    We mentioned the importance of routines earlier. Potty time is certainly no exception. Especially if you live in an urban area with little green space, creating a routine about where and when your dog relieves themselves is very important.

    Not only will this make life easier for both of you, it helps to build consistency and encourages your pup to create a habit.

    Running with your dog

    Jogging with your dog on a leash can be a great way for you both to get some exercise, but it is certainly more of an advanced level and should be handled with caution. Many of the same techniques can and should be used here, such as creating a routine and keeping your dog at a close but safe distance.

    A man running with his dog during a dog running event.

    Of course, the biggest concern here is keeping your dog on one side so that you don’t injure them or yourself. Make this a focus during your normal walks to instill this behavior. Additionally, normal walks are a good time to try short bursts of running to get your pup used to the different speed and how the harness and leash feel when running.

    Just like you, your dog needs a good warm up and cool down after a run, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time on either side to prevent injuries.

    Wrapping up

    Mastering how to train your dog to walk on a leash can be a tough process, but with the tips and tricks we provided and a lot of patience, you will come to enjoy every walk with your pup for years to come!

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