Training your dog to walk on leash is one of the more important and rewarding things about having dogs in your life. A relaxed walk or jog without having to struggle with your dog pulling you in tow needs to be top priority.
If you’re working with a puppy consider basic leash training as young as 2 months, keep the training fun and short. Your goal at this age is to allow the puppy to become accustomed to both the collar and leash. Sometimes just placing the collar with an attached leash and allowing the dog to see and smell it as well as feel the weight is a good introduction and a starting point for leash training.
With your supervision allow the dog to drag the leash around. This helps the dog to establish familiarity and eliminates any fear. Keep in mind that everything is new to this young dog, so don’t be surprised when he’s a little reluctant or scared. This is part of the training.
Training sessions should last no more than 10 or 15 minutes and within a fenced or indoors area; ideally away from other dogs and distractions. You want the dogs focus on you so it’s important to find a quiet area.
Treats are a great motivator and training times work well before the dog has eaten and after he’s been playing. You want as much focus from your dog and this helps to burn off some of the excitability in young dogs. Knowing he’s hungry is also an advantage; keep the treats for training small and tasty.
When teaching to walk on lead, a 6 foot training leash is best to start with. Make sure it has a swivel clip to prevent the puppy and leash from getting tangled.
When you decide that the dog is comfortable with a collar and leash, try getting the dog to follow you around while you have the leash in hand. Unless you have future plans for precision training, I would not stress over specific training technique. At this stage being consistent, patient, and fun with treats in hand will put you on the right course to teaching your dog to walk on lead.
Once you have your dog following it’s time for him to walk by your side. You still want to be within a fenced or otherwise safe area.
Start out with holding your dog leash so that your right hand is going through the loop of the leash. The leash continues over to your left hand hanging loose between your thumb and pointer finger at the same time allowing your left hand to grip both section of leash going out to your dog and the portion coming from your right hand. Your left hand will help guide the dog to walk on your left side as well as determine when your dog has too much tension on the leash.
With your right hand in the loop or handle of the leash, this allows you to still have control of your dog should he pull free from your left hand.
The biggest and surprisingly easiest problem to resolve when leash training, is teaching your dog not to pull. As a reminder, when training it’s helpful that your dog has had time to play so that his energy level is less likely to be a distraction with the training session. If you are feeling frustrated, stop and try again the next day. For the dog this is about having fun. If you’re stressed so is the dog.
With the dog comfortable with his collar and leash and learning to follow he is certain to start running ahead of you and pulling. I don’t recommend pulling or yanking on the leash in reaction to the dog pulling, especially when the dog is only several weeks of age. You can easily bruise or damage the dog’s trachea.
Instead, use a verbal command when the tension increases on the leash. Say “Easy” and immediately stop in place. Encourage the dog to come back to your left side. Use praise and a treat. If successful continue on your walk and repeat when needed.
This training tactic with praise and treats won’t always work. For the dog, all the new sites and smells are sometimes more interesting than all the praise and treats you have to offer. Don’t give up on this, just incorporate a new tactic.
When you feel tension on the leash immediately say “Easy” and stop in place. Turn and go in the opposite direction encouraging your dog to follow, guiding him to your left side. When you see that your dog is in position on your left side, praise and reward.
Repeat these steps and your dog is very likely to both learn to walk with you but more importantly not to pull. You will find the need to incorporate more training on your walks as your dogs is ready.
This is a good start and a great excuse to get out and explore the outdoors.
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